ACT Scoring Chart: Understanding & Calculating Your Score

December 13, 2023
5 min read

Looking to write the ACT but confused about how scoring works? Keep reading, and we’ll tell you everything you need to know about ACT scoring charts!

A comprehensive discussion about college applications includes a few things: campus life, GPA, and standardized tests. Most students are familiar with the SAT, but what about the ACT? Many students find the ACT score chart somewhat confusing, but it’s pretty straightforward once you understand it. 

Without further delay, let's get into the ins and outs of ACT scores!

How the ACT Is Scored

The ACT is scored by taking the average score from the four test sections, English, math, reading, and science for a final composite score out of 36.

ACT scoring can seem a bit complex at first glance. The process of how your answers are converted to your final score is a multi-step process. Below, we’ll go over things like score methodology, raw vs scale scores, and superscores. 

Step 1: Scoring Methodology

Although your final ACT score is only out of 36, each of the four sections has 40 or more questions. There are far more questions to answer than your final score would suggest. 

The English sections contain 75 questions, and the math section contains 60 questions. Both the reading and science sections have 40 questions each. What’s more, there are categories within each of the sections to give a fair balance of the kinds of questions you’ll encounter.

Step 2: Raw Scores vs. Scale Scores

Your raw scores are the total scores from each section of the ACT before they are converted to a 36-point scale.

Source: ACT

Let’s say you answer 52 out of 75 questions correctly on the English portion of the test. This is your raw English score. Using a conversion chart, this is converted to a score out of 36, which is referred to as your scaled English score. 

You’ll find that the chart doesn’t represent a one-to-one correspondence of your raw score to scale score. That is to say, your raw score isn’t converted into a percentage but simply applied to a 36 total. What this means is that you can actually get a perfect 36 score without actually answering everything correctly.

Step 3: Composite Score

After you’ve converted each of your raw scores to scale scores, you simply take the average between the four sections to get your final composite score. This is the baseline measurement in which ACT tests are compared.

Average ACT Score

The average ACT composite score is 19.9. The ACT collects considerable data on how students are performing on their tests every year. The national ranks allow you to compare your score to fresh high school grads who have taken the ACT.

If we take a look at recent figures, the mean scores were as follows: 

  • English: 19.0
  • Math: 19.4
  • Reading: 20.5
  • Science: 20.0
  • Composite score: 19.9

What’s more, the standard deviation is also provided, with composite scores ranging by around six points. This means that about seven out of ten students score within a range of six points above or below the mean, which is about 20. So, scoring between 14 to 26 would put you in line with your peers

When Will You Get Your ACT Score?

As a general rule of thumb, expect to wait around two weeks, but be prepared for a wait as long as eight weeks. Looking at the ACT’s score reporting dates will tell you when you can expect to see your results. 

Superscoring Explained

ACT super scoring lets you average your best test sections from any previous attempts. This new ACT scoring methodology is called superscoring. Now, you can combine the best scores from all previous attempts, so you don’t have to worry if you tanked a certain subject despite an otherwise stellar performance. 

Keep in mind that not all colleges accept superscores. Although the number is increasing, your target school may only accept traditional scoring methods such as your average or highest total score. What’s more, ACT research shows that superscores are better at predicting college success.

Improving Your ACT Score

You can boost your ACT score by doing practice tests, focusing on weak areas, and by triaging your time.

  • Use practice tests: Practice tests help gauge your real understanding of the content you’re learning. Having a grasp of theoretical knowledge is less valuable than being able to apply it in a real-world scenario.
  • Target weak areas: Making sure you’re addressing weaknesses in your learning helps you adapt to new material. If you’re simply repeating questions you’re already familiar with, you’re depriving yourself of learning.
  • Triaging time: Writing the ACT successfully means understanding which questions are worth spending extra time on. You should roughly parcel out how long each section will take so you have an idea of how you’re doing while you’re writing the test.

Dominique, a former Dartmouth admissions expert, highlights the knowledge and time aspect of the ACT:

“There's kind of those two components of prep: there's the 'do I know what I'm doing' and then 'can I do it and execute it in the amount of time that's allotted for me'. So, definitely make sure that you really understand that and and have a clear plan for getting to both outcomes.”

After writing the ACT, you may find your score lower than that on previous practice tests. In this case, ACT tips and strategies are worth thinking about. Although there isn’t a single best-proven method, having a firm study plan can get you on track to where you need to be.

The ACT does a pretty thorough job of breaking down the ACT score chart to show exactly where you performed well and where you missed the mark. It’s advisable to study this feedback and work on areas that need improvement opposed to going over all of the material again.

If you’re ever feeling confused about ACT-related subject matter, don’t hesitate to reach out to book a free session with our expert tutors. We’re here to help and make streamlining success as easy as possible.

Consider our partner's success stories like Xuan’s, who increased his ACT score by eight points:

Practical Tips to Increase Your ACT Score

Some practical tips to increase your ACT score are to memorize formulas, skim passages, and budget your time.

Asking yourself questions when planning your study sessions can be an effective way to gauge your preparedness for the ACT. For instance, say for the math section, you performed fairly well, and it was only geometry that tripped you up. Mastering concepts in this focused manner is better than going over everything.

Take a look at Dominique’s top tip for improving your ACT score:

“Don't waste your time doing things you already know how to do. It's just so important to really just identify that and focus in because then you just won't burn out and again it's it's a waste of time and it just won't feel good and it won't be it won't be effective for you. So really just make sure that you're you're focusing in the right spots.”

Try measuring your preparedness with mock tests; it’s been proven that the context in which we learn something plays a crucial role in how well we remember and apply that knowledge. So, try pretending it’s a real test without interruptions to see where you stand.

Sample ACT Scoring Chart

ACT provides a convenient scoring chart for you to convert raw scores into scaled scores. You’ll notice each of the four categories is slightly different in their conversion methodology. At any rate, the table on page six has the raw scores for each section and their respective scaled scores.

This sample SAT/ACT tutoring session shows the importance of deep learning and a guided approach to testing success:


Still have questions about ACT test score charts? Read our facts for more details!

1. What Is The ACT?

The ACT is one of two standardized tests that colleges use to assess students’ potential to succeed in a postsecondary environment. Typically, the test is taken towards the end of junior year or the beginning of senior year, with some students opting to take the test more than once.

2. How Is the ACT Structured?

The key to understanding the ACT is by being familiar with how the test is structured. The test lasts approximately three hours and consists of four sections with an additional writing test, which is optional. The four required sections are English, math, reading, and science.

3. What Is the ACT Score for 2024?

The ACT is scored from 1-36 (36 being the best). Your composite score, the average of your section scores, is your official ACT result. Colleges may also look at individual section scores or your STEM score (the average of your Math and Science scores).

4. Is a 26 on the ACT Good?

A score of 26 on the ACT can be considered a good score, depending on your personal goals and the median scores of the colleges or universities you are interested in. A score of 26 falls well above the national average, which was 19.5 in 2023.

However, certain competitive colleges and universities may have higher average ACT scores for their admitted students. 

5. Is the ACT Hard?

No, the ACT in itself isn’t necessarily a hard test. That being said, coming unprepared for any standardized evaluation is bound to be cumbersome. The key to having an easy time with the ACT is making sure you’ve studied the material beforehand. That way, you’re not caught off guard by any surprises.

6. How Is the ACT Writing Section Scored, and Is It Required By All Colleges?

The ACT Writing section is scored separately from the other sections, and it is optional. It's scored on a scale of 2 to 12, with scores based on the quality of your essay and your ability to address the given prompt. 

Not all colleges require the ACT Writing section, so it's important to check the admission requirements of the colleges you're interested in to determine if it's necessary for your application.

7. Can I Take the Act Multiple Times, and Do Colleges Consider My Best Scores?

Yes, you can take the ACT multiple times. Most colleges and universities consider your best scores when evaluating your application. They often use a process called "score choice," allowing you to select which set of scores to send. It's essential to check the policies of the specific colleges you're applying to regarding score reporting.

Final Thoughts

The ACT scoring chart can be a bit counterintuitive if you’re not familiar with it. However, the actual scoring methodology not only gives students opportunities to perform to the best of their abilities but also to receive targeted feedback in areas they may be lacking.

Having a deeper understanding of the way standardized tests are scored can lift some anxieties you may have about writing them. When we’re faced with unknowns, there’s a tendency to feel anxious about how things will turn out. The good news is that the ACT is a fairly forgiving test, especially with their new superscoring. 

If you ever need help planning or understanding things during your academic journey, speaking to the right people can get you on track to performing your best. This way, you can spend time on things that matter to you, like career planning and professional success. At any rate, the ACT can prove to be a useful tool to show colleges what you’re capable of when it comes time for admission.

If you’re wondering if you’re ready for the ACT, consider trying out our ACT Readiness Quiz. It can assess your student background and profile to see what your chances are of succeeding on the ACT!

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