One of the most common questions we get asked at Testive typically happens during the very first coaching session, and it has a few different iterations:
“is my baseline practice test score good?”
“Is my score good enough for submission?”
“what score do I need to get in to [insert first choice school here]?”
The central theme in each of these versions (and several others I’ve heard) is a certain standard of success, a certain level of “good”—which brings us to our pivotal question today:
What is a “good” ACT score?
As I’m sure you can tell by my quotation marks, “good” is an incredibly varied term. The first thing that a student must recognize when starting their work in standardized testing is that, in fact, there is no singular level of oh-my-Goodness-Gracious-you’ve-got-the-Goods! good that is going to make or break your standardized testing experience. Every student has a different level of both proficiency and test-taking strategy on each subject on the test, and this plays a huge role in determining what might be a “good” score.
When it comes to a time-intensive, quickly-paced exam like the ACT, I prefer to think of improvement not from bad-to-good, but rather from initial-to-improved. Not quite as clear cut, but nothing about test prep truly is; the only thing a student can rely on is increased dedication and effort leading to greater confidence and consistency on the test. With some students, 20-25 questions a night for two months straight can lead to an 8 point improvement overall, while others may gain a less massive (but still rewarding!) 1-3 point improvement. The common ground between these different test takers becomes not the score, but rather the concepts mastered, individual goals reached, and confidence gained through the process of dedicated preparation.
Now, some of you may be reading this and crying “Malarky! There IS such a thing as a good test score and I want one!” To which I say okay, Veruca Salt, let’s get into some specifics then:
Colleges let you know the median ACT score from the previous round of admitted students on their websites.
As an extreme oversimplification of 2017’s stats: Sun Belt* colleges hover around a 23-point average, Pac-12* universities hang out at a 27-point average, Big 10* universities hold a 28- point average. NESCAC* schools chill near a 31-point average, and Ivy League* universities lie at a 33-point average. This means that, depending on what schools, honors programs, and merit scholarships you are seeking, the “good score” that is required at an Ivy will be totally irrelevant. In fact, last year, merit scholarships were offered from several public and private universities based on ACT scores that ranged from 22 up to 36—quite the variety!