Here’s How 12 Celebrities Scored on the ACT

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The ACT, or the American College Test, is a standardized test administered to high school students as part of the college admissions process. Most colleges and universities require applicants to take one of two tests –either the ACT or the SAT— in order to qualify for admission. As a high school student, however, this likely isn’t news to you. In fact, over one million college hopefuls take the ACT each year, often investing countless hours ahead of their test date in order to achieve a good score. 

 

The ACT was first introduced in 1959 at the University of Iowa as a response to the perceived flaws in the SAT, invented in 1926. There have been a few large changes to the test in the years since its inception. Notable alterations include replacing the Social Studies and Natural Sciences with Reading and Science Reasoning Sections. Other than this, the test has remained remarkably similar. Choosing which test to take is a deeply personal choice. However, the testing experience can be unpleasant for students in an increasingly competitive college admissions landscape, regardless of whether it’s the SAT or ACT. 

 

If you’re gearing up to take the ACT, you’re likely wondering how others tend to score–maybe your classmates, relatives or the incoming class at your top school. You might even be wondering how your favorite celebrity fared on their own testing journey. Whether you’ve seen every one of Natalie Portman’s films or dreamed of dinner with Amy Tan, you won’t want to miss this post!

 

How is the ACT scored?

 

The ACT is made up of four main sections with an optional fifth section for students brave enough to stay seated for an extra 40 minutes. The sections are English, Math, Reading, and Science Reasoning, with an optional Writing section as an addendum. Each of these sections is timed, so the test-taker will need to prioritize which questions to linger on and which to skip. 

 

The sections are all scored based on accuracy. While each section can have over 60 questions, the four main sections are scored on a 1-36 point scale. These scores are then averaged and rounded to the nearest integer to form a composite score of 1-36. 

 

The average student scores around 20-21; with proper studying, many students can meet or even exceed this score! This does not mean that all scores above 21 will get you into Harvard or that all scores below will leave you locked out however as the ACT is simply one component of your college application. Many schools take a holistic admissions process where they consider not just your test scores but also all your high school activities and academic accomplishments. Regardless, understanding your score is an important part of identifying areas of improvement (if you’re considering a retake) and building a strong college list. 

 

How did your favorite celebrity do on the ACT?

 

If you’re ever feeling alone or thinking that your test scores don’t measure up, it’s important to remember that your test scores don’t define your future. While an impressive score can certainly open up more opportunities, young hopefuls have gone on to get incredible college educations and lead successful careers at all score levels–even some of your favorite celebrities!

 

The below table outlines ACT scores from celebrities in many different fields. Because the ACT is primarily used in the Midwest and the SAT is primarily used on the coasts, most celebrities have actually taken the SAT. However, the scores we’ve rounded up have been self-reported through interviews or investigative research so take each with a grain of salt. 

 

Celebrity

Profession / Field

ACT Score

College

Sonia Sotomayor

Supreme Court Justice

35

Princeton 

Waka Flocka Flame

Rapper

35

None

Ke$ha

Singer

34

None

William Faulkner

Author

18

University of Mississippi

Barack Obama

US president

30

Harvard

Marilyn Monroe

Actress

21

None

Lyndon B. Johnson

US President

26

Texas State University

Steve Jobs

Entrepreneur

36

Reed College

Natalie Portman

Actress

33* (converted from SAT score of 1400+)

Harvard

Amy Tan

Author

25* (converted from SAT score of 1100+)

San Jose State University

Kobe Bryant

Basketball Player

23* (converted from SAT score of 1080)

None

Meredith Vieira

Broadcast Journalist

30* (converted from SAT score of 1300+)

Tufts University

 

What is a Good ACT Score?

 

Getting a perfect ACT score is not the only way to get into the college of your dreams and you certainly don’t need to get a 36 to change the world. It’s never worth comparing your scores to anyone else’s– the only score that should matter to you is yours!

 

The worst thing a student can do is conflate their ACT score with their self-worth as any number of factors can impact your score on this ever-changing standardized test. In recent years, The College Board, the organization behind the ACT, has made strides to better accommodate students and ease the transition from high school into college. Most notably, they announced that students will be able to retake specific sections of the ACT instead of retaking the entire test in order to improve their superscore

 

Ultimately, the best ACT score is the one that will get you into the college that you want. What’s more, you can still have a shot at your dream school if your ACT score is below their listed middle 50% range. Admissions officials know that you’re a full person, so balancing your scores with great extracurriculars, a strong GPA, volunteerism, and / or personal essays can round out your application. However, this balance will look a little different for each university and student.

 

How Does the ACT Impact Your College Chances?

 

Few people know what happens behind the closed doors of a university admissions office. The fact of the college admissions process is that a higher score will increase your acceptance odds. Higher scores can also help you to get scholarships and other forms of financial aid. Furthermore, many selective colleges use a metric called the Academic Index to preclude applications with low test scores and academic achievement from getting through the process. That said, colleges do not prefer the ACT over the SAT or vice versa so taking one test over the other won’t limit your prospects. Hopefully that alleviates some stress!

 

At CollegeVine, we’re making it easier to understand exactly how much your ACT score will affect your chances at getting into your dream school. Our Admissions Chances Calculator can give you a breakdown of your personal odds based on your admissions profile and how you stack up against your peers.

Discover your chances at hundreds of schools

Our free chancing engine takes into account your history, background, test scores, and extracurricular activities to show you your real chances of admission—and how to improve them.

The below chart shows the middle 50th percentile for ACT scores at top colleges around the country. It is paramount to keep in mind that not all schools have requirements this rigorous. 

 

Take MIT’s statistics for example: 25% of applicants scored below a 33-35 and 25% scored above 33-35, while 50% scored inside this range.While an extremely competitive applicant will need to score in the upper end of the range, scoring below the middle 50% isn’t the end all be all.

 

Middle 50% ACT Scores at Top 20 National Universities

 

School Name

US News Ranking

Middle 50% ACT Score

Princeton University

1

33-35

Harvard University

2

33-35

Columbia University

3

33-35

MIT

4

33-35

Yale University

5

34-36

Stanford University

6

31-35

UChicago

7

34-35

UPenn

8

33-35

Northwestern University

9

33-35

Duke University

10

33-35

Johns Hopkins University

11

33-35

Caltech

12

35-36

Dartmouth College

13

32-35

Brown University

14

33-35

University of Notre Dame

15

32-35

Vanderbilt University

16

33-35

Cornell University

17

32-35

Rice University

18

33-35

Washington University in St. Louis

19

33-35

UCLA

20

29-34

 

Middle 50% ACT Scores at Top 5 National Liberal Arts Colleges

 

University

US News Ranking

Middle 50% ACT Score

Williams College

1

32-35

Amherst College

2

31-34

Swarthmore College

3

31-35

Wellesley College

4

31-34

Pomona College

5

32-35

 

Tips to Improve Your ACT Score

 

If you’re feeling bad about your ACT score, fear not! There are a myriad of ways to improve your score, such as taking practice tests, hiring a tutor, and making a foolproof study plan.

 

If you can afford them, the ACT practice books are a huge boon to test taking experience. Students can understand the rigor of the exam while not feeling the tension of typical testing environments. Even better, testers can check their scores to see how well they’ve scored, which sections are top notch, and which could use another night of studying. 

 

If this is not an option, there are many online resources, both free and paid, that can help you up that number. By making a study plan, you can outline what topics you need to study and when you will do that work. Although the ACT is only one part of your application, landing on a score that you feel comfortable with is still key to maximize your odds of admission at your target schools. 

 

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Ally Merrett
Design Researcher at Siebel Center for Design at Illinois
Short bio
Ally Merrett is a senior at the University of Illinois double majoring in Urban Planning and Sustainable Design, triple minoring in Sociology, Art & Design, and Informatics, and pursuing a certificate in Technology Entrepreneurship. When he's not studying, he can be found playing music, skateboarding, or eating an egg sandwich. Maybe all at the same time!