About the ACT Scoring System

ACT Scoring Overview

ACT score reports provide test-takers with a great deal of information about their performance. Students receive separate scores for each multiple-choice section of the ACT, a composite ACT score, writing scores, reporting category scores, percentile rankings at the state and national levels, and College Readiness Benchmark indicators. Let's take a closer look at each of these areas.

ACT Section and Composite Scores; Raw Scores and Composite Scores

Scores for all four multiple-choice sections of the exam (English, Reading, Math, and Science) are reported on a scale of 1 to 36 in whole numbers only. This is what is known as a "scaled score," which is calculated from the total number of correct answers (or "raw scores"). ACT scales sectional scores to account for slight differences in the difficulty level of a given ACT administration. This means that the same number of correct answers can result in different scaled scores on different versions of the ACT. For example, on some ACTs, a student must answer all 60 Math questions correctly to receive a perfect scaled section score of 36, while on others, 57 correct answers will earn the same scaled score. The ACT composite score, sometimes referred to as a "total score," is the average of the four multiple-choice ACT sections (the four scores are added together and the sum is divided by four), rounded up or down to the nearest whole number. Because all of the questions on these sections are multiple choice, grading can be and is done by computer.

ACT Writing Scores

The ACT Writing section has its own scoring system, which does not count toward the ACT composite score. ACT essays are graded by two human readers, who evaluate four areas on a scale of 1 to 6 each (the four areas are Ideas & Analysis, Development & Support, Organization, and Language Use & Convention). Students receive scores of 2 to 12 in each of these areas, which are averaged to calculate the total writing score (also from 2-12). If the two readers' assessments of any one area differ by more than one point, ACT consults a third reader.

ACT Reporting Category Scores

All four multiple-choice ACT sections also involve scores for various reporting categories that assess specific skills within those assessments. For example, the English section has three reporting categories: Production of Writing, Knowledge of Language, and Conventions of Standard English. Reporting category scores are given purely in terms of the number of correct answers out of the total number of questions in each category, which is also presented as a percentage (e.g. 6 correct out of 12 Production of Writing questions for 50%). The Math, Science, and Reading sections have a total of eight, four, and four reporting categories respectively, all of which are seen on score reports in the format indicated above, except for the Understanding Complex Texts category in the Reading section (on this category only, students are rated either "Below," "Proficient," or "Above"). Adding all reporting category scores together allows test-takers to calculate their raw scores on all ACT multiple-choice sections.

ACT Percentile Rankings and College Readiness Benchmarks

Through the percentile rankings, students can easily compare their performance to that of their peers, both in their home states and throughout the country. Percentile rankings are given at the state and national levels for ACT composite scores as well as the following skill areas: Math, Science, STEM, English, Reading, Writing, and ELA. The STEM ranking is based on a given student's ACT Math and Science scores, while the ELA ranking is calculated from his or her English, Reading, and Writing Scores. ACT's College Readiness Benchmarks are defined as ACT scores associated with a 50% chance or higher of receiving at least a C in a related college course or a 75% chance or higher of receiving at least a B. The current ACT benchmarks are 18 (English), 22 (Math), 22 (Reading), 23 (Science), 20 (ELA), and 26 (STEM). There is no benchmark for composite scores. Student score reports include graphic representations that compare their performance to all of these benchmarks. Reporting category scores also show the "ACT Readiness Range," which is the range of scores typically received by students who have met the benchmark for that section. Test-takers should note that these benchmarks are broadly calculated averages, and they will not necessarily reflect the actual difficulty of a course at a given postsecondary institution.

ACT Score Reporting Procedures

ACT posts scores to students' online accounts between 2 and 10 weeks after the test. ACT Reading, Math, English, and Science scores are typically available within two weeks, and writing scores within four weeks. Standard mail is the only other way for test-takers to receive their score reports (ACT will not provide reports by email, fax, or phone).