How is the ACT Scored?

The ACT consists of an overall result – the Composite score – and individual marks for four sections: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. Writing, which is not required by all colleges and universities, is assessed separately. These are some great tips on how to improve your ACT score that you may find useful.

For the above multiple-choice sections and the composite score, the ACT utilizes a four-step process:

1. The number of correct questions is determined. There is no penalty for incorrect answers or unanswered questions.

2. A raw score is calculated. For example, if 48 of 60 answers are correct on the Mathematics section, your raw score is 48. This raw score is then converted to a scale score. Scale scores range from 1 to 36 (with 36 being the highest score). A raw score of 48 equates to a scale score of 29. Scale scores guarantee that results across multiple tests are comparable. You may also want to check out this information on changing ACT scores in 2015.

3. The composite score is generated by averaging all multiple-choice test results (English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science), and it is also a value from 1 to 36.

4. Each subscore is also reported. Subscores are smaller portions within the four sections, including Usage/Mechanics and Rhetorical Skills for English, as well as Social Studies/Natural Sciences and Arts/Literature for Reading. Subscores range from 1 to 18 (with 18 being the highest score).

For the Writing section, two readers score the essay on a scale of 1 to 6. These two scores are added to one another, so the total range is 2 to 12 (2 representing a score of 1 from both readers, and 12 representing a perfect score of 6). On the ACT, the Writing result is combined with the English mark to form a Combined English/Writing score, with the written essay worth ? and the English section composing the remaining ?. The English/Writing score is reported separately and has no effect on the total composite score.

Not only does the ACT provide you with these numbers, it also informs you of how well you did in relation to other test-takers. This is called your national rank, and it is presented as a percentage. For example, if your composite score is 21 and your national rank is in the 55th percentile, you surpassed 55% of the students who sat for the ACT. On the ACT score report, each section result and subscore will be ranked. If you are struggling with any section of the ACT you may want to consider taking a few ACT practice tests, reading a prep book, or hiring an ACT tutor to help you.

Is this level of detail necessary? Absolutely! While scale scores allow you an idea of how well you performed on the ACT, rankings demonstrate to colleges and universities how competent you are in various subjects. They are thus a partial predictor of success in higher education. However, note that your score report reminds you that these marks are only estimates. Institutions will also consider your grades, extra-curricular activities, and personal statements when assessing your admissions application. 

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