Comparison of ACT Scores for the University of California Campuses

A Table Comparing the Middle 50% ACT Scores for Composite, Math and English

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The University of California system includes some of the best public universities in the country. Admissions criteria vary widely. The Merced campus admits students with middling standardized test scores whereas UCLA and Berkeley tend to admit students who score well above average. The table below presents the middle 50% of ACT scores for enrolled students at the 10 University of California campuses. If your ACT scores fall within or above the ranges listed below, you are on track for admission to one of these great schools.

Comparison of ACT Scores Needed for Admission to University of California System

University of California ACT Score Comparison (mid 50%)
(Learn what these numbers mean)

Composite 25% Composite 75% English 25% English 75% Math 25% Math 75%
Berkeley 30 34 29 35 28 35
Davis 25 32 23 31 25 31
Irvine 25 32 23 30 25 31
Los Angeles 29 34 28 35 27 34
Merced 20 27 17 23 19 24
Riverside 23 29 22 29 22 28
San Diego 27 33 25 33 27 33
Santa Barbara 28 33 26 34 26 32
Santa Cruz 26 31 24 31 25 30

View the SAT version of this table

*Note: The San Francisco campus is not included in this table because it only offers graduate programs.

Keep in mind that the University of California will use ACT or SAT scores during the application process, so if your SAT scores are stronger than your ACT scores, you don't need to worry about the ACT. Also remember that 25% of enrolled students scored below the lower numbers in the table above. You'll be fighting more of an uphill battle with sub-par ACT scores, but don't give up on being admitted if your test scores fall slightly below the 25% numbers.

Other Factors That Affect Admission

Realize that ACT scores are just one part of the application, and your high school record carries even more weight. The University of California admissions officers will want to see that you challenged yourself with a strong college preparatory curriculum. Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, Honors, and Dual Enrollment classes can all play an important role in demonstrating that you are ready for the challenges of college.

Also realize that the University of California system uses a holistic admissions process. Admissions decisions are based on more than numerical data. You'll want to put time and care into the Personal Insight Questions, and you'll want to be able to demonstrate meaningful extracurricular involvement in high school. Work or volunteer experience can also strengthen an application. 

To get a visual sense of holistic admissions, click on the "see graph" link to the right of each row in the table above. There, you'll see how other students fared at each school--how many were accepted, rejected, or waitlisted, and how they scored on the SAT/ACT, and their grades. You might find that some students with low grades/scores were accepted, and some with higher grades/scores were rejected or waitlisted. A student with low ACT scores (lower than the ranges listed here) can still be accepted to any of these schools, provided the rest of the application is strong.

Related ACT Articles

If your ACT scores are a bit low for most of the UC schools, be sure to check out this ACT comparison data for the California State University system. The admissions standards for Cal State are generally (with exceptions) lower than the UC system.

If you want to see how the UC system measure up to other top public universities, take a look at this ACT score comparison for top public universities in the nation. You'll see that no public universities are more selective than Berkeley.

If we throw private California colleges and universities into the mix, you'll see that Stanford, Pomona, and a couple other institutions have a higher admissions bar than even the most selective of the University of California schools.

Data from the National Center for Educational Statistics

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Grove, Allen. "Comparison of ACT Scores for the University of California Campuses." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Grove, Allen. (2020, August 27). Comparison of ACT Scores for the University of California Campuses. Retrieved from Grove, Allen. "Comparison of ACT Scores for the University of California Campuses." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 30, 2023).