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Is 21 A Good ACT Score? Colleges that Accept 21 ACT.

Apr 1, 2022

Having a good ACT increases your chances of getting into your dream University. But most of you feel confused about a good ACT score. Many students have a 21 on the ACT scale and want to know ‘if 21 is a good ACT score or not?’ This article provides detailed information about all the factors that make an ACT score good or bad.

Is a 21 on the ACT good or not completely depends on the college of your choice. But many other things need to be considered.


How do we calculate ACT scores?

The ACT scores range between 1-36. Moreover, these scores are a combination of two different sections. These sections are:

  • Section score
  • Composite score

Section scores

The ACT consists of 4 different sections – 

  • Math 
  • English 
  • Science
  • Reading 

Your section score is calculated by converting the raw score of each section into a scaled score. A raw score is equal to the number of questions you answered correctly in each area. After getting the raw scores of each section, they are scaled and converted as per the difficulty level of the questions. All four sections have different scaled scores.

Composite score

For your composite score, the test makers calculate the average of section scores. This is done by calculating the total of all the sections and dividing it by the number of sections, i.e., 4.


Therefore, a 21 on ACT score means your composite ACT score is 21. You will get a better answer to your question – ‘is 21 a good ACT score‘ below.

Percentile: Is a 21 on the ACT good

The percentile is very helpful in comparing your ACT score to your competitors. In addition, the ACT scorecard provides clear information about your composite score and percentile. If you have secured a 21 on the ACT scorecard and are wondering if 21 is a good ACT score, the percentile table can provide you with an efficient answer.


Composite ACT score Vs. ACT percentile score


Composite ACT score  Composite ACT score 
Above 34 99%
31-33 98%
26-29 90%
24-25 75%
19-22 50%
15-16 25%
12-13 10%
Below 10 Below 1%

The table above shows that 21 on ACT percentile puts students in the top 50% of the test takers. This means that students are in the middle of all the candidates. 


This score is just around the national average ACT score. However, most elite universities have their average ACT way above this score. Thus, if you think ‘is a 21 on the ACT good‘, you need to score higher for admission in extremely selective universities. But if you aim at getting into less-selective colleges, 21 on the ACT scorecard can be sufficient for you.

Is 21 a good ACT score: Highest ACT score

As the scores of ACT range between 1 to 36, the highest score that a candidate can receive is 36. Below are some facts about scoring the highest marks in the ACT:

  • Students can miss answering five questions in the ACT and still secure a 36 composite score. However, these questions depend on the section of the test.
  • In 2020 around 1.67 million students took the ACT. Of these test-takers, 5,579 scored a perfect 36.
  • Students who earn a 34 or 35 are included in the 99th percentile of the test takers.

Having a perfect 36 undoubtedly makes your application stand out among your competitors. Moreover, the admission officers also look at the applicant’s ACT score for making an unbiased comparison. Thus, applicants with the highest ACT score have a better chance of convincing them about their high school knowledge and competence for college.

However, with each passing year, more and more candidates are securing a perfect ACT score. Therefore, it’s becoming tough to compare students on ACT score criteria. Students who are thinking if 21 is a good ACT score to get into competitive schools need to understand that colleges consider various other factors while selecting students.


What is considered a good ACT score?

Like SAT, ACT is a standardized test that examines your knowledge gained in high school and your capability to transition to college. If you have a higher ACT score, there is more chance of your selection to most elite universities.

However, as discussed earlier, the answer to ‘is a 21 on the ACT good score or not’ completely depends on your college preference. Moreover, to get success in the admission process, you need to focus on other factors such as:

  • Your high school GPA
  • SAT score
  • Supplemental essay
  • Letters of recommendation
  • High school transcript
  • Extracurricular involvement

In addition, some colleges would be interested to know your specific section scores rather than the composite ACT score. Thus, there is no concise answer to ‘is 21 a good ACT score‘. Moreover, an ACT score that seems good to others might not be good for you or vise-versa.

What is a good section score?

Having a good composite ACT score might not work for you. Sometimes colleges you apply to might ask for your section score. Therefore, you must consider scoring good marks in all the sections to meet the application requirements.


If you are applying to extremely competitive colleges, aim at securing scores that convert in the 90th percentile or higher. The 90th percentile for each section translates as follows:

Section  Scaled score 
Math 20.4
Science 20.6
English 20.1
Reading 21.2

 What is the ACT score of the top 10 US universities?

Although ACT score is not the only factor colleges consider for offering admission, it is certainly the first thing that the admission officers notice. If your score is not around or above the average ACT score of the college, it will be difficult for you to get admission. 

The table below shows the 25th and 75th percentile of the top 10 universities in the US.

University 25th Percentile 75th Percentile
Princeton University 32 35
Harvard University 33 35
Yale University 33 35
University of Chicago 34 36
California Institute of Technology (Caltech) 35 36
Columbia University 33 35
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 34 36
Stanford University 31 35
University of Pennsylvania 33 35
Duke University 34 35

Steps to Improve your ACT score

As there is no concise answer to the question- ‘is a 21 on the ACT good‘, it is better to take another test to improve your scores. Following are some ways of enhancing your grades:

  • If you feel you have underperformed in the current test, don’t wait for the perfect time to start your preparation for a re-test. Instead, begin immediately after taking the test.
  • Prepare a study plan and follow it religiously. An efficient study plan helps keep you on track throughout the preparation.
  • List down your priority colleges and their average ACT score. It will help set your target score.
  • Improve your time management skills to perform better in the test. As there are numerous questions you need to answer in a limited time, better time management can work wonders for you.
  • Use your ACT scorecard to determine your weak areas and work towards improving them.

Advantages of increasing your ACT score by 4 points

The 21 ACT score is just around the national average ACT score. With this score, applicants can get admission to many low, competitive colleges. However, as a freshman, students still have enough time to improve their scores before starting the college application process. Therefore, students must consider taking a re-test to improve their scores.

If students can improve their ACT score by just 4 points, they can get the following benefits:

  • They can be competitive for 687 more universities.
  • Their chances of getting into the most preferred universities increases from 24.80% to 61.13%.

Highly selective colleges for applicants with a 21 ACT score 

Following colleges can be highly competitive for students with a 21 ACT score:

University  Location  Average ACT Average SAT
Ohio University Athens  24 1170
Florida Gulf Coast University Fort Myers 23 1135
Washington State University Pullman 23 1125
University of Texas at Arlington Arlington 23 1160
Pace University New York 25 1140
California State University Long Beach Long Beach 23 1145
University of North Texas Denton 23 1160

Moderately selective colleges for applicants with a 21 ACT score

Following colleges can be moderately competitive for students with a 21 ACT score:

University  Location  Average ACT Average SAT
Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis Indianapolis 22 1100
Hampton University Hampton 22 1130
Kean University Union 20 990
University of Texas at San Antonio San Antonio 22 1125
East Carolina University Greenville 22 1105
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Tallahassee 21 1105
University of Texas at El Paso El Paso 20 1040

We hope now you know all about ACT scores and your chances of getting admission with an ACT score of 21. Although it is slightly more than the national average, you should consider taking a re-test to improve your selection chances in top-ranked universities.


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