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What Is a Good ACT Aspire Score for a Sophomore?

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | Nov 8, 2015 11:50:00 AM

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Being in 10th grade is a little like walking over a bridge. You're crossing from the less consequential testing of early high school to the world of high-stakes tests, like the SAT and the ACT – tests that can affect your future. One of the ways you get from one side of this metaphorical divide to the other is by getting the chance to practice. For example, some students take the PSAT, which is meant to be a precursor to the SAT that they will take in their junior or senior year.

Others take the ACT Aspire, a national achievement test that assesses how well students from 3rd to 10th grade are measuring up to Common Core standards. The format, structure, and scoring of the ACT Aspire are all very different from the ACT. But, because it is designed by the same organization that creates the ACT, it can feel like a precursor to the real thing.

So what’s a good score on the ACT Aspire for a sophomore? In this article, I’ll talk about different ways to think about what makes a good score, and how to tell where you rank based on the score you got. I’ll also discuss whether your 10th grade ACT Aspire score means for your future ACT score.


How is the ACT Aspire Test Scored?

Since the ACT Aspire is given in elementary, middle, and high schools, it stands to reason that scoring is a little different depending on your class year. I’ll talk specifically about how the test is scored for the 8th-10th graders who take it.

ACT Aspire scores for each subject (English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing) currently fall between 400 and 460.

When you take this test in high school, here's what you’ll get in your score report:

  • Your 5 individual section scores. These are your scores for each subject section of the test.
  • A composite score. This is an unweighted average of your English, Mathematics, Reading and Science sections scores. Note that this composite score doesn't include your ACT Aspire Writing section, which is only scored individually.

The report may also include reports about the PSI pressure of your various organs. It's not really vital information, but you can't accuse them of not being thorough.


What’s a Good Sophomore Score on ACT Aspire?

My assumption is that sophomore year, you’re curious about what a good score is for 2 reasons. First, you’re concerned about how you stack up against your peers. And second, you’re wondering how you’ll do when you take the ACT for real junior year.

Luckily, ACT provides a pretty thorough data for the one year that this test has been administered. This makes comparing yourself to your peers and finding any academic areas where you are lagging behind very easy. However, this data also shows that the ACT Aspire is not necessarily a great prediction model for your future ACT scores.

Now, let’s examine in detail what your ACT Aspire score can show you.


Comparing Yourself to the Baseline

One of the goals of the ACT Aspire is to give you, your teachers, and your parents a sense of whether you are as prepared for college as you should be at this point in high school.

To answer this question, you can compare your ACT Aspire score to your scores from previous years, to make sure you are consistently getting higher scores in each subject. 

ACT Aspire also provides minimum benchmarks scores for each test section. Each benchmark is the lowest score you need to get to demonstrate that you are on the right track in terms of your on-grade-level learning.

Here is a table that shows the ACT Aspire benchmark scores for each subject for the year 2015 for grades 8-10.

This table shows that, for example, if you get at least 432 on the ACT Aspire Science section as a sophomore, you’re considered to be on track to have a high probability of future success in first-year college courses.

On the other hand, if your score is below the 10th grade numbers on any of the test sections, then this means that you may need outside help to catch up in these academic areas.


The important thing is to just keep growing every year. (Image: Steven Depolo/Flickr)


Comparing Yourself to Your Peers

Another goal of national tests like the ACT Aspire is to examine how everyone who is taking the test at the same time compares to each other. 

Since ACT Aspire publishes data about how students taking the test scored, we can go through the data to see how you can tell where you stand when compared to your peers.


Using Your Composite Score for Peer Comparisons

The composite score that you receive from ACT is a very quick snapshot of how you did on the test. This average of your individual subject scores can give you fast information about how you did relative to your peers overall.

One way to evaluate your composite score is to use this table of the composite scores for 9th and 10th graders in the past year:

Grade Min 25% Rank 50% Rank 75% Rank 90% Rank 95% Rank Max
9 408 414 418 423 430 435 438
10 409 415 419 426 433 438 440


This table shows range of students' scores. The "Min" and "Max" columns show the lowest and highest composite scores. The percentile columns show the score you'd need to reach the given percentile, i.e. the score at which you'd be scoring higher than that percent of other students.

In other words, for 10th grade, the lowest composite score anyone got was 409. 25% of students scored below 415. This means that if your score was 415, you did better than 25% of the students taking the test. Likewise, 95% of students got below a 438. This means that if your composite score was 438 or higher, you fall into the top 5% of test takers (since you did better than 95% of everyone taking the test).

So what do we learn from this table? If your composite score was 419, you would fall into the middle scoring range, the 50th percentile. This means that 50% of 10th graders did worse, and 49% did better, so everyone who scored 419 falls right in the middle.

What does this mean for calculating a good ACT Aspire score for a sophomore? Let’s assume that a good score is roughly at or above the 75th percentile, in other words, scoring higher than 75% of your peers. In that case, a good composite score for the ACT Aspire for sophomores is 426 or higher.


Many people climb, but not everyone can reach the top. 


Using Your Individual Test Sections for Peer Comparisons

The composite score is a useful way to eyeball your status. But to figure out where you’re strong and where you're weak academically, you need to look at the scores you got on individual test sections. This much more zoomed-in approach will give you a better clue about the subjects you are learning well and the ones you need to work on more.

Now, I’ll go through each ACT Aspire test subject individually to see what a good score on it would be.

ACT Aspire English Percentile Rankings

Score % Rank   Score % Rank   Score % Rank   Score % Rank
400 1   415 9   430 47   445 92
401 1   416 10   431 50   446 94
402 1   417 12   432 53   447 95
403 1   418 14   433 57   448 96
404 1   419 16   434 60   449 98
405 1   420 19   435 63   450 98
406 1   421 21   436 67   451 99
407 1   422 22   437 70   452 99
408 2   423 25   438 72   453 99
409 2   424 28   439 75   454 99
410 3   425 31   440 79   455 99
411 4   426 33   441 81   456 100
412 5   427 37   442 84      
413 6   428 40   443 87      
414 7   429 43   444 90      


You can see that you don’t need to get all the questions right in order to fall into the top 1% of students. Although the exact number will change slightly from year to year, on this version of the ACT Aspire any sophomore who got 451 or above did better than 99% of the other test takers on the English section.

The benchmark English section score of 428 would put you in the 40th percentile, which would mean you scored better than 40% of your peers.

If we hang on to our assumption that a good score is around the 75th percentile, we can see that a score of 439 is what you need to reach that ranking.


ACT Aspire Reading Percentile Rankings

Score % Rank   Score % Rank   Score % Rank   Score % Rank
400 1   411 10   422 47   433 92
401 1   412 13   423 51   434 95
402 1   413 14   424 52   435 98
403 1   414 17   425 57   436 98
404 1   415 21   426 62   437 99
405 1   416 24   427 66   438 99
406 1   417 28   428 72   439 99
407 2   418 31   429 77   440 99
408 3   419 35   430 82   441 99
409 4   420 39   431 83   442 100
410 6   421 43   432 87      


You can see a similar thing about the Reading section results – quite a few of the top scores would put you in the top 1% of people taking the test.

Also, notice how big a difference in the percentile rankings just one point makes. If you earned 424, you scored better than 52% of other sophomores, but if you got 425, you jump 5 percentage points to end up doing better than 57%.

The Reading benchmark that ACT determined is 428, in the 72nd percentile of test takers, which would also be a good score on this part of the test.


ACT Aspire Math Percentile Rankings

Score % Rank   Score % Rank   Score % Rank   Score % Rank
400 1   416 15   432 72   448 99
401 1   417 19   433 75   449 99
402 1   418 23   434 79   450 99
403 1   419 26   435 82   451 99
404 1   420 30   436 85   452 99
405 1   421 32   437 87   453 99
406 1   422 36   438 89   454 99
407 1   423 40   439 91   455 99
408 1   424 44   440 93   456 99
409 2   425 48   441 95   457 100
410 2   426 51   442 97   458 100
411 4   427 54   443 98   459 100
412 6   428 58   444 99   460 100
413 6   429 61   445 99      
414 9   430 65   446 99      
415 12   431 68   447 99      

The math section has a huge spread of scores that fall into the top percentile – anyone who scored above 445 did better than 99% of their peers.

The ACT Aspire benchmark for this section is 432, or the 72nd percentile. Meanwhile, a good score in the 75th percentile is 433.

ACT Aspire Science Percentile Rankings

Score % Rank   Score % Rank   Score % Rank   Score % Rank
400 1   413 7   426 50   439 94
401 1   414 9   427 53   440 95
402 1   415 14   428 57   441 97
403 1   416 15   429 61   442 98
404 1   417 19   430 66   443 99
405 1   418 21   431 69   444 99
406 1   419 25   432 73   445 99
407 1   420 29   433 76   446 99
408 2   421 34   434 79   447 99
409 2   422 38   435 83   448 99
410 4   423 39   436 86   449 100
411 4   424 42   437 88      
412 6   425 46   438 91      


The benchmark for ACT Aspire Science is 432, and this is basically the same as the good score we’ve been discussing, since it falls into the 73rd percentile of test takers.


ACT Aspire Writing Percentile Rankings

Score % Rank   Score % Rank   Score % Rank   Score % Rank
408 1   419 20   430 66   441 98
409 1   420 24   431 66   442 99
410 4   421 24   432 81   443 99
411 4   422 27   433 81   444 99
412 6   423 27   434 90   445 99
413 6   424 37   435 90   446 99
414 7   425 37   436 92   447 99
415 7   426 55   437 92   448 100
416 10   427 55   438 94      
417 10   428 61   439 94      
418 20   429 61   440 98      


You can immediately see how differently the Writing section is scored from this table. First of all, the lowest score on this section isn’t 400 like it is for all the other sections, but 408. Also, pairs of scores get the same percentile ranking, so for example, both 410 and 411 correlate to doing better than 4% of other sophomores.

Here, the benchmark score from ACT is 428, or better than 61% of everyone taking the test at the same time.

Meanwhile, a good 10th grade score on Writing is somewhere between 430 and 433, which falls between the 66th and 81st percentiles.


Predicting Future Success 

Now that you’ve seen how your score compares to the scores of all the 10th-graders who took the ACT Aspire last year, you’re probably itching to figure out whether your score on ACT Aspire means anything for the real ACT that you’ll take in your junior year.

The truth is that ACT Aspire is not a particularly great predictor of your future accomplishments, though it does give you a very general sense of what you can hope to achieve. But this is fantastic news! It means that the ACT Aspire really does what it’s supposed to do – it shows you where you are now and where you need to improve. And the other great news is that dramatic improvement is clearly possible because as a sophomore, you have 1 or even 2 years in which to do it!


Ok, but will the next one tell me my future ACT score?


The Relationship Between ACT Aspire and ACT Scores

ACT published data on 50 10th grade students – their scores on each ACT Aspire section, and their scores on the actual ACT when they took it in 11th grade. The problem is that this data is just an unwieldy Excel spreadsheet (you can check it out here: Demonstrating the Student Growth Percentile model for grade 10 ACT Aspire to grade 11 ACT)

I used the data to create some scatterplot graphs to show the what students got on each ACT Aspire section and what they ended up getting on the same ACT section.

The way each graph works is this:

  • Each blue diamond point stands for one student
  • If you trace straight down from each point, you can see what that student got on ACT Aspire (in this case the Math section)
  • If you trace straight left, you can see what that same student got when taking the ACT for real

So what this graph is showing us that in general as scores from ACT Aspire Math increase (x-axis), the scores on ACT Math also tend to get somewhat higher as a group (y-axis). In other words, the swarm of diamonds goes slightly upward as we go from left to right.

On a case-by-case basis, we can see that there is significant room to grow, no matter where in the score range students fall. For example, the 3 students who got 432 on ACT Aspire Math (our good, 72nd percentile score), ranged in ACT scores from 16 (approximately in the bottom 25%) to 26 (approximately in the top 15%). 


In the graph of English scores, we can see that your ACT Aspire score is by no means destiny.
For example, look at all the students who ended up with good ACT English scores in the mid-20s. Their ACT Aspire scores ranged from 425 (below benchmark) to 447 (well above the good 75% score of 439). 


This same general trend of higher ACT Aspire scores leading to higher ACT scores continues when we look at the scatterplot graph for the Reading section.

But the relationship is not exact. For example, the two highest scorers on the Aspire Reading section were not the top ACT scorers. Similarly, the person who scored lowest on the ACT did not get the bottom score on the Aspire.


The Science section of ACT Aspire probably shows a slightly weaker correlation between high 10th grade ACT Aspire scores and subsequent high 11th grade ACT scores. 

Incidentally, if you’ve been following along with the visual data presentation in this article’s tables, charts, and graphs, then you’re actually getting in some good practice for both the ACT Aspire Science section and the real ACT Science section as well!


Now that you’ve seen how scatterplot graphs that show correlations look, you can be just as befuddled as I am by what happened to these 50 students on the writing section of these 2 tests.

This kind of data may be a part of the reason why ACT Aspire Writing is not factored into the composite score that you get when you take the test in high school. 


What Does This Mean for What's a Good Score?

I think the best way to think about your scores if you’re worried about what they will eventually for the real ACT is this.

First, make sure you’re scoring at least at the 10th grade benchmarks. That’s a pretty good indicator that you’re on track with your learning. If you’re below benchmark on any of the sections, that is a warning sign that you need help in that subject, not just to do better on ACT Aspire test but to succeed in your school year as well.

Next, compare your ACT Aspire section scores to each other. Are you scoring in the same percentile range on all 5 subjects? If there is a section (or several) that you are scoring significantly worse in, even if you’re still meeting the benchmark in that area, then this is the time to get extra help with this subject. Talk to your parents and teachers about what resources to improve your learning there are at your school, or maybe even outside of it.


Should You Study for the ACT Aspire?

For any test to accurately assess what you know and how well you understand when and where to apply that knowledge, the test can't simply throw you off by its format, question style, or by the way it's administered. So in order for the ACT Aspire to actually measure how you are doing in school, it’s a great idea for you to familiarize yourself with how the test looks and feels.
To that end, you should definitely read our detailed breakdown of what the ACT Aspire is like and the kinds of questions you’ll face on it.

You should also get a sense of what taking the ACT Aspire will be like from their sample questions and computer test simulator. Go to the ACT Aspire exemplar page, where you’ll find a link to the simulator and login information for all test sections and grade levels.

However, other than getting a general sense of what you will see on test today, I would argue that it goes against the purpose and the benefits of ACT Aspire to study specifically for it.

For one thing, this isn’t like the PSAT – no scholarships or awards are resting on the score you get.
Also, the point of the test is to see whether you are where you should be in your learning. Spending a lot of effort studying for this test would easily create results that are meaningless as an indicator of whether you have academic weaknesses that need to be worked on.

Finally, there’s the matter of the rest of your class, and the rest of your grade in your school. The ACT Aspire isn’t just a diagnostic test for individual students. It’s also supposed to measure how each classroom is doing as a whole.

Imagine, for example, that the ACT Aspire results come back and every single kid in your class bombed the Science section. This is no longer something that an individual student is having trouble with. Instead, this kind of result tells your teacher and school administrators that they really need to beef up how your curriculum addresses science education. And a better grounding in the foundations of science in turn will benefit you down the road when you learn how to do college-level work.

Honestly, if you are really very worried about your future testing results, I think you should just take a practice ACT instead. It’ll more accurately show you how you’d score if you took the ACT now.


The one time napping is a better way to prepare for a test than studying.


The Bottom Line

  • The ACT Aspire tests the same 5 sections as the ACT, but is structured, formatted, and scored very differently. You’ll get scores for each of the sections individually, as well as a composite score that averages English, Reading, Math, and Science.
  • If you aren’t meeting ACT score benchmarks, that’s a serious indicator that you need extra academic help.
  • A good 10th grade ACT Aspire score is one that puts you in the upper 25% of your peers, and is different depending on each ACT Aspire test section.
  • Even if you got a good 10th grade ACT Aspire score, this doesn’t necessarily mean anything in terms of predicting your real ACT score. ACT Aspire is not very good at predicting the ACT because its real purpose is to show you subject areas where you need extra help.
  • There is no need to study for the ACT Aspire, though it would be a good idea to get familiar with the test format by checking out some sample questions.


What’s Next?

Thinking of jumping into the ACT world early? We have some guidance on whether you should start preparing for the ACT as a 10th grader and what a good sophomore ACT score would look like.

Thinking about taking the PSAT as a 10th grader as well? Check out our discussion on what is a good PSAT score for a sophomore.

Planning the rest of your high school academics? Read our articles about why it’s important to create a rigorous course load for yourself and whether AP classes are really worth taking.


Want to improve your ACT score by 4+ points? Download our free guide to the top 5 strategies you need in your prep to improve your ACT score dramatically.

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Dr. Anna Wulick
About the Author

Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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