Is 21 a Good ACT Score?

Is 21 a Good ACT Score

When you’re applying to universities and further education in general you need to be as prepared as possible, and you should know what you might be up against when it comes to the admissions tests. If you’re practicing or trying to set a target then you may be asking yourself, is 21 a good ACT score?

An ACT score of 21 out of the total of 36 is above average but it is not particularly high, which may make it difficult to apply to the more prestigious institutions. In general, this score would place somewhere around the 60th percentile in the country.

Read on to find out how a 21 compares to the scores of other test takers, what a score like this could mean for your further education opportunities, and more besides.

What Percentile Does a 21 Fall In?

It’s not always easy to understand how good a score is based solely on the number. You are not expected to achieve 100%, and admissions tests are not graded with a letter in the same way that other assessments you might have taken will have been.

Probably the easiest way to understand a score is by comparing it with the scores that other people have achieved, and this is essentially how schools will judge your results when you apply. In any given year, the percentiles will change slightly, but they tend to be relatively similar.

If you are in the 95th percentile, that means that 95% of all the people who took the test scored lower than you, putting your score within the top 5% for that year.

In the chart below, we’ve used the 2022 data for the ACT to show you the percentiles that ACT scores fell within, so that you can see where you might be compared to the rest of the test takers for that year.

PercentileACT Scores
7 – 3212 – 16
32 – 5616 – 20
56 – 76 20 – 24
76 – 8924 – 28
89 – 9628 – 32
96 to 10032 – 36

According to the 2022 data, a 21 would have placed you within the 62nd percentile.

That means that you would have been in the top half of all test takers, but not by a lot. Around 38% of all the people who took the test would have scored just as highly or achieved even more.

What Does a 21 ACT Look Like For The SAT?

Another great way to understand the numbers that you are looking at is by comparing them to the other big admissions tests that institutions use to grade potential applicants: the SAT.

While both of these tests are very different in a lot of ways, you can look at the average scores that test takers achieve to compare what a score on one test may look like on the other.

Take a look at the chart below to see the SAT score equivalents for those for the ACT to see what you might expect to get if you performed just as well on the other test.

ACT ScoreSAT Score Equivalent
16 – 20860 – 1020
20 – 22 1020 – 1100
22 – 261100 – 1240
24 – 281160 – 1310
28 – 321310 – 1450
32 – 361450 – 1600

For a composite score of 21, you would expect to get between a 1060 and a 1090 for the SAT. Out of everyone who sat the 2022 test, that would put you between the 53rd and 58th percentile.  

What Schools Can You Apply To With a 21?

While a 21 is not the highest ACT score that you could get, it is certainly enough to give you a great chance at applying to a number of excellent schools. There are many institutions that will always consider candidates that have a score this high, and a number of places that do not have a minimum ACT score requirement of any kind.

Here are several of the popular higher education establishments with an intake that has an average ACT score that is 21 or below:

  • California State University – Fullerton
  • The University of Texas at San Antonio
  • Indiana University – Purdue University – Indianapolis
  • Portland State University
  • San Francisco State University
  • Radford University
  • Clark Atlanta University
  • Montclair State University
  • University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee
  • The Evergreen State College

What Schools Might Be Difficult To Apply To With a 21?

Of course, the other side of the coin is that there will be a lot of applicants with higher ACT scores who are also looking at schools, and quite a few institutions that expect more than a 21 if you are going to be successful.

Here are some schools that have an intake with an average ACT of between 22 and 25, that you may find more difficult to apply to:

  • Arizona State University Campus Immersion
  • University of Arizona
  • San Diego State University
  • Howard University
  • University of Oregon
  • Washington State University
  • University of Houston
  • Central Michigan University
  • Ohio University – Main Campus
  • Texas State University

The most prestigious schools in the country will be asking for even more. If you want to apply to the Ivy League, for example, then it is recommended that you aim for at least a 33 on your ACT to compete with the other applicants.

Also read:

What  ACT Score Should You Be Aiming For?

With all of that being said, the answer to whether a 21 is good or not is far from simple, because it really is up to the individual. According to the course that you are looking at, the type of school you are hoping to apply for, and what you are looking for from your further education then your goals may be very different from someone else’s.

It’s also worth noting that ACT and SAT scores aren’t everything. Many institutions do not have a minimum expected score for your to apply, and some do not require you to take the test at all. It might be that your interview, portfolio, essay, and references are more important that admissions tests.

Even so, it is still important for you to try and achieve your best, whatever that might be. If you can score higher than 21, then you should work hard to do that, so that the schools you apply to know what you are capable of.

Summary: Is 21 a Good ACT Score?

So, is 21 a good ACT score? It’s above average, but it is still lower than what a large percentage of test takers will achieve, on average. In 2022, this composite score would have placed you just about in the top 40% of the pool for the year, which might make it hard to stand out from the crowd.

There are other ways to increase your chances when applying, outside of great test scores, but it might be worth aiming a little higher so that you can really demonstrate your value.

Josh Hutcheson

E-Learning Specialist in Online Programs & Courses Linkedin

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