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The Complete Guide to ACT Test Scores:
Do you feel like you know everything there is to know about ACT test scores?
No? Good - that’s why we wrote this complete guide to ACT test scores.
By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know everything you need to know about ACT scores.
We’ll start with some basic background info. Then we’ll break down the specific scores and sub-scores of the ACT. Finally we’ll cover important details about sending and cancelling ACT test scores.
Let’s get to it! Keep reading…
What are ACT test scores?
The ACT test is given to high schoolers - usually in Junior and Senior year.
ACT test scores are used so colleges can compare high school students from around the world - and ACT test scores are accepted by all colleges in the United States.
Want to know what ACT test scores mean? Keep reading…
What do ACT test scores mean?
Your ACT test scores give colleges and scholarships a good idea of your strengths and weaknesses in high school.
High ACT test scores typically show that a student has done well in high school, and is ready for college.
Low ACT test scores can hurt your chances of getting into college. Low scores show that you may not be ready yet to handle college-level schoolwork.
Although the ACT test is not perfect, it is very useful for comparing students from different high schools.
So what kind of scores can you get on the ACT test? Read on…
What is the ACT test score range?
The ACT test score ranges from a low score of “1” to a perfect score of “36.”
Your total score, or “ACT composite score,” is the average of the four main sections of the ACT test. You’ll learn more about those sections later in this article.
So, you want to get a ACT score that’s as high as possible. Shoot for the “36” side of the ACT test score range.
Next, a common question about ACT scores…
What are average ACT test scores?
The average ACT test score is a 26 out of 36.
The middle 50% of students get ACT test scores between 24 and 28.
So, a score lower than 24 would be considered “below average.” A score above 28 would be considered “above average.”
What is a good ACT test score?
A perfect ACT test score is a “36.” So, the closer you can get to a 36, the better.
However, a good ACT test score is whatever you need to get into college.
Every student will have a different personal goal for what they consider a “good” ACT test score.
By statistics, scores of 29 to 36 are “above average” ACT scores.
So if you’re comparing yourself to other students, you could consider a score of 30 or higher a “good ACT score.”
What is a bad ACT test score?
The lowest ACT test score is a “1.” So, the farther your ACT score falls, the worse it is.
Statistically, ACT scores of 23 or lower are “below average.” So, if your ACT score is 20 or below, you want to do whatever it takes to improve your score.
Putting statistics aside, a “bad ACT score” is just an ACT score too low for your favorite colleges and scholarships.
If you think you have a bad ACT score, compare it to the requirements to be accepted at your top colleges. If you’re below the requirements, you may have a “bad” ACT score.
Think you’ve got a bad ACT test score? Contact us for personal help improving it!
Learn more about ACT test scoring! Read on…
What is the breakdown for ACT test scores?
Your ACT test scores break down into five main categories:
- ACT English Test scores
- ACT Math Test scores
- ACT Reading Test scores
- ACT Science Test scores
- ACT Writing / Essay scores
Each section has a score range of 1 (lowest) to 36 (perfect score).
Also, each of these ACT test sections breaks down further into sub-scores.
Your “composite score” or “total score” is the average of the first four ACT test sections.
Your ACT Writing / Essay score is optional. So, the ACT essay is a completely separate score, and is not included in your ACT composite or overall average score.
What are ACT sub-scores, exactly? Keep reading…
What are ACT test sub-scores?
Each major ACT test section breaks down into sub-scores.
These sub-scores provide extra insight into your strengths and weaknesses.
Your ACT test sub-scores can be used by colleges to pinpoint your strong and weak points in school.
Also, you (or your ACT tutor) can use ACT sub-scores to identify areas of study. The sub-scores show where you need improvement to get a higher ACT score next time you take the test.
ACT English Test scores and sub-scores:
The ACT English Test gives you a score of 1-36 on English grammar, usage, writing skills and related topics.
You will be given 75 multiple-choice questions.
The two sub-scores on the ACT English test are:
- Usage / Mechanics
- Rhetorical Skills
Your ACT English test scores mainly show your ability to use proper grammar. It also tests your ability to improve sentences and paragraphs for clearer writing.
ACT Math Test scores and sub-scores:
The ACT Mathematics Test gives you a score of 1-36 in high school math skills.
You will be given 60 multiple-choice questions.
The three sub-scores on the ACT Mathematics test are:
- Pre-Algebra / Elementary Algebra
- Intermediate Algebra / Coordinate Geometry
- Plane Geometry / Trigonometry
Your ACT Mathematics test scores mainly show your ability to handle high-school level math courses.
ACT Reading Test scores and sub-scores
The ACT Reading Test gives you a score of 1-36 in high school reading, comprehension, and analysis skills.
You will be given 40 multiple-choice questions.
The two sub-scores on the ACT Reading test are:
- Social Studies / Natural Sciences
- Arts / Literature
Your ACT Reading test scores mainly show your ability in high school reading assignments.
You must read and comprehend quickly. You are given a variety of passages and questions, and very little time to finish.
ACT Science Test scores and sub-scores:
The ACT Science Test gives you a score of 1-36 in high school science and experimental data analysis.
You will be given 40 multiple-choice questions.
The ACT Science test does not have sub-scores. However, there are three distinct types of questions:
- Data Representation
- Research Summaries
- Conflicting Viewpoints
Your ACT Science test scores mainly show your ability to understand and analyze data. You do not to be a science expert to do well in this section of the ACT.
You must be able to read charts and locate information rapidly. There are seven science passages to analyze, and your time limit passes quickly.
That’s not all… there’s one final ACT section score. Keep reading!
ACT Writing Test scores and sub-scores
Your ACT Writing test score is based on your ability to write a good essay in a time limit.
Your ACT essay is read by two separate graders. Each grader gives you scores of 1-6 in the following four areas:
- Ideas and Analysis
- Development and Support
- Language Use and Conventions.
Your final ACT Writing score is on the 1-36 scale. Your ACT Writing score does not affect your overall ACT test score. It is a completely separate score.
Many high-level colleges require you to include an ACT essay score with your overall ACT test scores.
You can’t take the ACT essay without taking the rest of the test. So, for most students, it’s probably a good idea to take the ACT Writing Test with each full ACT test they take.
Want higher ACT test scores? Let me share a useful tactic…
How do wrong answers affect your ACT test scores?
Wrong answers on the ACT test do not cause a penalty to your score.
That’s right, you do not lose any points for wrong answers on the ACT test.
To maximize your ACT test scores, you should guess whenever you are unsure of the best answer.
How do skipped questions affect your ACT test scores?
If you skip a question on the ACT test, you will not lose any points.
That’s right, skipped questions on the ACT test do not penalize your score.
However, you should guess on the ACT whenever you are uncertain of the best answer.
It’s not smart to skip questions on the ACT test.
It’s much better to make your best guess. You won’t lose any points for being wrong, and you may get lucky and win some free points on your ACT score.
So, you’re probably excited to get your ACT scores back… read more!
When do you get ACT test scores back?
ACT test scores usually start coming back within 2-3 weeks of test date.
ACT Writing test scores take an additional 1-3 weeks to return. This is because the ACT essays must be hand-graded by human graders, while the multiple-choice can be quickly graded by the Scan-tron machine.
However, there are many reasons for ACT test scores to be delayed.
ACT test scores can be delayed a few days or even longer.
If it has taken more than 4 weeks to get your ACT test scores back, you should contact the ACT directly to find out what’s going on.
How can you check your ACT test scores?
The fastest way to check your ACT test scores is to view them online.
From there you can view, download, or print your recent (or past) ACT test scores.
Of course, you’ll have to wait till the tests are scored, which can take 2-3 weeks.
If you’re not happy with your recent ACT test scores, contact us for ACT prep help!
How do you read ACT test score reports?
When you check your ACT test score, you’ll see your total “ACT composite score” as well as each individual section score.
The “composite score” is your total ACT score. It’s the most important score overall. When people talk about your “ACT score,” they’re really talking about your ACT composite score.
Look underneath your composite score. Each of your ACT test sections will have its own score and sub-scores. Use your ACT section scores and sub-scores to find your weak spots and areas for improvement.
By reading your ACT test score you can find ways to improve your score on the next test.
If you want personal help reading your ACT test score, just contact us!
What about that other famous test, the SAT? Keep reading to find out…
How to compare ACT test scores to SAT test scores:
Since the ACT and SAT tests have similar purposes (college and scholarship admissions), it’s natural to try to compare scores between the two tests.
Comparing ACT scores to SAT scores is an imperfect science, since both tests change over time. But, check out this conversion chart to get an idea.
You can also learn more about the differences between the ACT and SAT tests.
You might also be wondering if it’s worth it to take both the SAT and ACT tests.
What if there’s a mistake in your ACT test score?
What if you think there’s a mistake in your ACT test score?
It’s very rare, but mistakes do happen. You can always contact the ACT directly for help if you believe there’s been a mistake in your ACT test scoring.
Options range from a more-detailed ACT score report, to hand-grading. However, these services do include additional fees.
Keep in mind - ACT grading mistakes are rare. Most of the time, students are just a little disappointed by lower ACT scores than they expected.
Can you cancel your ACT test scores?
If you don’t feel good about your ACT test, can cancel your scores - but only if you let the proctor know during the test. Once you walk out of the testing room, you can’t prevent your ACT test from being scored.
This is typically not your best option. It’s usually better to finish the grading process - but prevent colleges from seeing your scores. Then you can decide later what you want to do with your ACT scores.
Once you’ve finished the test, you can also remove colleges from receiving your ACT test scores. You can do this by logging on to your ACT student account. Make sure you act fast - you only have a few days after the test to make this choice.
This is not the same as cancelling your ACT scores completely. Instead, you will choose not to send ACT test scores to a certain college. You can always choose to send your ACT test scores to individual colleges later.
But, once ACT scores are in the mail to colleges, it’s too late to cancel them.
There is also the option to permanently delete ACT test scores from your record. You’ll need to contact the ACT directly to delete scores permanently.
By the way, cancelling your ACT scores does not come with a refund.
Who sees your ACT scores if you don’t cancel? Keep reading to learn more…
Who sees your ACT test scores?
When you register for each ACT test, you choose up to four colleges who will automatically receive your ACT test scores.
These four colleges will receive your ACT test scores unless you choose to cancel them (see above).
For an additional per-college fee, you can send your ACT test scores to additional colleges. This is important for students applying to five or more different colleges.
If you’ve taken the ACT Writing (essay) section, colleges will usually be able to see your ACT essay as well.
You can also print off your ACT test scores from your ACT student account. You can show these ACT score print-offs to whoever you want!
But, only official score reports sent directly by the ACT can usually be used for college and scholarship applications.
How do you send ACT test scores?
Each time you take the ACT test, you get to send your score to up for four colleges at no charge.
But, many students apply to five colleges or more.
Luckily, it’s easy to send your ACT test scores to additional colleges.
Just log in to your ACT student account. From there you can quickly send ACT test scores to more colleges.
There will be an additional fee to send ACT test scores to each extra college.
Almost done. Let’s review…
Review of ACT test scores:
We’ve covered just about everything you could want to know about ACT test scores.
Now you know everything from the breakdown of ACT test scores and sub-sections… all the way to how to check and send your ACT scores to colleges.
We want to make sure all your questions about ACT scores have been answered!
Please contact us with any additional questions you have about ACT test scores, or leave your questions in the comment section below.
Don’t go yet! I’ve got a final question and I need your help… keep reading!
Wait! A Question For You:
One more question for you! What else do you want to know about ACT test scores?
We want to make this a complete guide to ACT test scores, so let us know in the comments below if there is anything we didn’t answer in this article!
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