When you get your child’s ACT score back, it can be hard to tell whether it’s a good ACT score or not. There’s so much information included on the ACT score report that it quickly become overwhelming. And, to be honest, whether your child’s ACT score is considered good is going to vary depending on your child, what his or her academic strengths are, and the colleges he or she is interested in attending.
If you’ve listened to my podcast, The College Checklist, watched my videos, or read any of my blog posts, you know that my philosophy on testing and ACT prep and testing is never one-size-fits all. We have to take each student’s unique situation into account.
Since good is a relative term, here are a few questions you can answer to determine if your child’s ACT score is strong enough that you can feel comfortable putting the #2 pencil down and moving on with your lives.
1. Based on his or her academic performance, what ACT scores would you expect your student to achieve?
ACT scores are an important part of a student’s college application. While ACT scores aren’t the sole determinant of admission, one of their important functions is to verify that a student has actually acquired the knowledge that has helped them earn their grades in school.
Please don’t misunderstand me. The ACT is not a perfect measure. There are many factors that can impact a students score beyond simple acquisition of knowledge.
But, within some wide parameters, there are certain scores we would reasonably expect a student to achieve based on his or her performance in school
First, though, here’s a quick review of how the ACT is scored.
How the ACT Is Scored
The ACT is composed of 4 main multiple-choice sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science. These 4 sections are scored on a scale of 1-36.
Those 4 scores are then averaged to create an ACT composite score that falls between 1 and 36. (In the event that there is a decimal, the average will be rounded to the nearest whole number.)
Using the percentiles from an ACT, Inc. publication, we can see that the average section scores are as follows:
English | 20
Math | 19
Reading | 20
Science | 20
Therefore, the average ACT composite score is 20.
So here are 2 ways to determine if your student is in the ballpark of his or her expected scores…
Anticipated Score Using GPA
Based on a student’s GPA, I would expect the following ACT composite score after ACT prep…
GPA | ACT Composite
Over 4.0 | 30 – 36
3.5 – 4.0 | 26 – 30
3.0 – 3.5 | 22 – 26
2.5 – 3.0 | 18 – 22
Anticipated Score Using Grades
Using a student’s English class performance as a guide, here’s what I would expect from the English and Reading sections…
Strong (A’s and high B’s) Honors/AP Students + Strong Readers | 28 – 36
Strong (A’s and high B’s) Students in Regular English/B-Level Honors/AP Students | 26 – 32
B Students in Regular English/C-Level Honors/AP Students | 22 – 26
All Others | 18 – 22
On the Math and Science side, once a student has taken Algebra 2, I would expect the scores to come out as follows…
Strong (A’s and high B’s) Honors/AP Students | 28 – 36
Strong (A’s and high B’s) Students in Regular Level Math /B-Level Honors/AP Students | 26 – 32
B Students in Regular Level Math/C-Level Honors/AP Students | 22 – 26
All Others | 18 – 22
These are, of course, guidelines. I use them to get a sense of how far off the mark a student may be from what she can achieve.
Are you disheartened by where your student’s first testing efforts have landed him? While that can be hard to accept at first, I can tell you that it is incredibly common and it’s something I help students of all ability levels with all the time.
The other good news is that it doesn’t take thousands of practice questions or hours and hours of tutoring to fix.
In the last decade of teaching the ACT, I’ve found that just a little bit of strategy-focused prep can help students uncover crucial points that positively impact their admissions and financial aid prospects.
About 4 hours of prep (with – added bonus – no homework) is often all it takes to nudge those previously lackluster ACT scores toward much stronger, better representative numbers.
2. What are the average scores for accepted students at 3-6 of your child’s favorite prospective colleges?
Once you’ve consider the scores listed above, you then should check in with prospective colleges regarding both their average ACT scores for admission and for merit aid (sometimes called scholarships on college websites).
While getting in is important (obviously), many families overlook the financial aid component of their ACT scores at the time of testing.
That’s a serious mistake – one that can cost you lots of money down the line.
Your student’s ACT scores are a key that can unlock thousands of dollars in cash for college.
The link between higher scores and tuition dollars is the reason that all of my online ACT prep courses include my 1-hour Cash for College workshop ($97 value) as a bonus.
It’s not enough to get into college. We need to pay for it too. So I help families understand what to do with those higher ACT scores once they have them to turn them into cash for college as a part of each and every one of my test prep program.
3. How are you going to achieve your ACT score goals?
Once you’ve done the research and determined the difference between your student’s current ACT score and the ACT score he or she needs to be a strong applicant and contender for scholarships, your student will fall into one of two camps: Happy Camp or Still-Have-Work-To-Do Camp
Which Camp Are You In?
If your student’s scores are in range to help her get into the colleges on her list and pay for them with scholarships too, your family is among the lucky few for whom the testing journey is over. (YAY! Congrats!)
I’ll be honest, though, this outcome is rare.
Most families are hanging out in the Still-Have-Work-To-Do Camp.
Once you’ve named your score goals and assessed the gap between current performance and where you’d like the scores to be, it’s time to come up with a game plan for preparing for success.
There are some free prep materials available on the ACT website that can help your child prepare.
There are low-cost, on-demand options, like my online ACT prep courses, that teach students ACT-specific testing strategies and, in the case of my ACT Complete Package program, review the academics they’ll need to really move the needle on their scores.
Or there are costly ACT tutors out there who can come to your home and help.
No matter the path you choose, be sure you research your options well to make sure that the time and money you invest in ACT test prep is well worth the effort and price.
As someone who has taught ACT and SAT prep for over a decade, who has built each of the Higher Scores Test Prep courses from the ground up, and who still takes the ACT as an adult to make sure that what I’m teaching is indicative of what my students see on test day, I can tell you that not all test prep teachers or companies are created equally.
You can click here to learn a little more about the Higher Scores Test Prep difference or check out my reviews on Facebook or here on the website.
And, if you have any questions about my SAT prep courses, please don’t hesitate to contact me by sending me a message or giving me a call at (760) 814-9655.
I would be happy to help answer any questions you have about how my online ACT prep courses can help your student improve his or her score quickly and effectively so your child can put the #2 pencil down and focus on the next big step – applying to college.