All About the ACT Scores

ACT Scores Explained

The ACT scores are computed through a fairly complicated procedure. We begin with raw scores. Though these are not mentioned in the  report, they form the basis on which the test scores are computed.

Raw Scores

The raw score is simply the total number of questions you have answered correctly in a subject test. Thus, if you have answered 35 questions correctly, your raw score is 35.

You also have raw sub-scores for the sub-sections of a subject test. For example, in the Mathematics test, Intermediate Algebra/Coordinate Geometry is a sub-section comprising 18 questions. Assuming that you have answered 15 of these correctly, your raw sub-score for this sub-section is 15.

Scaled Scores

These raw scores and sub-scores are scaled according to a formula which is not shared with the public, and which is applied through inaccessible computer programs.

This conversion varies from section to section. Thus, while in the English section you may require to get all your 75 answers correct to get the maximum score of 36, in the Mathematics section 59 correct answers out of the 60 asked might fetch you the same score (of 36).

These changes in the conversion chart depend on an examination's level of difficulty.

Intriguingly, the scaling pattern for a sub-score differs from that for the entire subject test itself of which it is a component. This means that adding all the sub-scores of a subject does not automatically give you the subject test's scaled score. It is for this very reason that it is impossible to score a practice test at home with perfect precision. Instead, you have to remain satisfied, at best, with a close approximation.

It is your scaled subject scores and scaled sub-scores that your test report will show. While it is the former that colleges mostly take cognizance of, the scaled sub-scores are indicative of individual strengths and weaknesses. An awareness of this is especially helpful if you later choose to take a re-test. The optional Writing Test is scored on a range of 1-6. Two trained graders rate your essay for a final sub-score between 2 and 12. This sub-score is joined to the English score on a 1-36 scale to constitute a Combined English/Writing Score which is mentioned separately in the report.

The Composite Score

We next come to the Composite Score, which ranges from 1-36, and is the average of the four test (scaled) scores. In the event of a fractional score, this average is rounded to the nearest whole number.

The Composite Score appears at the bottom of the report, and is actually 'the real thing' --- the score will tell others how you have done in ACT.

Percentile Rankings

Another feature of the report is the percentile rankings. These show the percentage of test-takers who scored lower than you. If your percentile ranking is 80, it indicates that 80% of the candidates appearing for ACT scored less than you, while 20% surpassed your performance. Percentile rankings are given both subject-wise and for the Composite Score.

While, as has been mentioned above, the maximum Composite Score is 36, the average is 21.

The National Ranks

Finally, the report compares your performance with those of other students appearing for the ACT through the national ranks. If your Composite Score is 28 and your national rank is 65, it means that 65% of the test candidates have scored the same as or lower than you. It also means that 35% of them have scored higher than you.

The report is sent directly to up to six colleges of your choice. However, should it so happen that your performance in the ACT has been below your expectations, you have the option of canceling your score report by calling ACT at any time during working hours until noon on the first Thursday after your test date.