Do Colleges Look at ACT Scores?

How would it be to get admission to your dream college with a test-optional or test-flexible policy? The covid-19 pandemic has made US colleges review their admission policies as its outbreak made them waive off standardized testing temporarily and permanently in some cases. But these standardized tests still can make your application stands out from the rest. Let’s find out Do Colleges Look at ACT Scores?

The Matter of ACT Scores for Colleges Entrance Policy:

American College Testing, just like any other standardized test has been used by many US colleges and universities as a part of their admission policies for decades. It is a way to assess an applicant’s readiness for the college along with other measures such as GPA, letters of recommendation, interviews, and personal essays. It’s been in practice until there was a breakthrough triggered by Covid-19 and since then a great number of colleges suspended the ACT and other tests and opted for test-optional or test-flexible policies. Some have suspended it for years, some for multiple years, and others have been suspended permanently. Amidst the growing number of test-optional admission policies, there are still some colleges that prefer to look for ACT scores because of their great importance. The test-optional policy does not mean test-blind, there is still a distinction and preference being given to applications with ACT scores, and it puts you at an advantage. To get into your dream college, a good ACT score ranging from 75th to 99th percentile will make your way to the next round of reviews instead of getting into the discard pile. So, it is beneficial to build a good ACT score to become a priority of your dream college admission officers. Before applying, you need to do your research on which colleges are test-optional, which prefers ACT score and what is the average ACT score they look for, and what are their requirements other than an ACT score. Let’s have a look at all the benefits your application with a good ACT score will have.  

Benefits of ACT Scores:

ACT score has numerous benefits for the students applying for their dream colleges as it increases the chances of admission even in the test-optional colleges. Test-optional colleges give liberty to students whether they want to submit the test scores or not and it surely gives an advantage to those who submit for so many other reasons stated below:

Showcase Academic Potential:

These tests are a way to showcase your academic potential and abilities which are unlikely to observe in other admission policy measures. Such as grades, GPA, and letters of recommendation will not reveal your strengths which these tests can do. So, these tests help you reveal your academic potential more effectively.

Increase Preference:

As the announcement of the test-optional policy is made around the state, there is an increase in application numbers which ultimately gives rise to competition. Since everyone has the option to apply anywhere they want, it increases the number of applications as compared to previous years. So, an application with an ACT score will make its way from the sea of applications and will be considered and given preference. 

Decrease Pressure:

The admission process used to be a very high-pressure task for an individual previously, however, now the tables have turned and it is a low-pressure task. If, for instance, you score low on the ACT, it is totally up to you if you don’t want to submit your ACT score. It is not going to hold you back from getting admission to a particular college but will increase your chances to stand out from the rest.

A Plus Point for Subject Specific Strength:

ACT allows students to score higher in the specific subject of their interest as the test consists of four subjects: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. For example, an applicant with command in science will be prioritized in medical colleges among other applicants.

Financial Aid / Scholarship:

Many colleges provide financial assistance and merit-based scholarship to outstanding students. From the list of their requirements, one is a good ACT score. So, again a good ACT score can help you waive off your expenses and makes you eligible for the scholarship.

What is the Format of ACT?

ACT is a college entrance exam test that has four subject-specific sections for multiple-choice questions for English, Mathematics, Science, and Reading, and the Writing section is optional. The duration for the test without a writing section is of 2 hours and 55 minutes and with writing is of 3 hours and 35 minutes.  

What is the best ACT Score?

The best score depends upon the college you want to take admission and it varies from college to college as per their admission policy. A good ACT score considered by one college may not be a good score for other colleges. As per recent data by the ACT organization, the average composite ACT score is 20.6. You have to score above the 50th percentile.

How to Ace Your ACT score?

Here are a few tips to ace your ACT score:

  1. Schedule your time to prepare for each section of the test.
  2. Identify your weaknesses and make extra efforts for overcoming them.
  3. Go through the strategies, guides, and practice tests from the “Preparing for the ACT” booklet published by the ACT official testing body.
  4. Be extra cautious while attempting the answers on the bubble answer sheet.
  5. Attempt the easy questions first leading to complex ones. 


To conclude it all, though the colleges have gone for test-optional and test-flexible policies, ACT still is a way forward and a plus point that adds benefits to your admission and makes you stand out from the rest of your competitors. It is a complete and effective way to evaluate one’s aptitude and academic potential along with other admission protocols. You should first determine which college you intend to attend and what ACT percentile they prefer and if it requires the ACT then there is no harm in giving it an attempt. 

Frequently Asked Questions:
  1. Is ACT the only option to get admission to US colleges?

Answer. No, ACT is one of the measures, the other admission protocols include your high school GPA, letter of recommendation, co-curricular activities, and your personal essays.

  1. Is scoring below the 50th percentile considered a bad score?

Answer. No, it varies from college to college, if it is a test-optional college then it is up to you if you want to submit your score or not. 

  1. Is test-optional means a test-blind policy?

Answer. No, the test-optional policy only gives the freedom to the applicant if they want to submit their score or not. If you submit your score, it will be considered. 

  1. Will the ACT score benefit your application over others?

Answer. Yes, it will likely raise your chances to be in the preference over others.