SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

How Do You Calculate ACT Score? Raw and Scaled

Posted by Dora Seigel | Mar 30, 2017 12:00:00 PM

ACT Logistics

 

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The ACT is scored on a scale of 36. How do you end up with a composite score from 0-36 when you answer a lot more than 36 questions? In this article, I'll walk you through the three steps to calculate your ACT composite score:

  1. Calculate section raw scores
  2. Convert raw scores to scaled scores
  3. Average section scores to determine composite

 

First, Calculate Your Raw Scores for Each Section

To calculate the raw score, you simply need the number of questions answered correctly and the number of questions answered incorrectly.

  • You get 1 point for each question answered correctly.
  • You receive 0 points for each question answered incorrectly or each question that you skipped. 

The highest possible raw score for each section depends on the total number of questions asked. Unlike the SAT, the ACT does not penalize you for wrong answers

For example, in the Reading sections, there are always 4 passages with a total of 40 multiple-choice questions, so the highest possible raw score is 40. If you got all 40 questions right, your raw score would be 40. If you got 19 questions wrong and 21 questions right, your raw score would be 21. In the Math sections, there are 60 multiple-choice questions, so the highest possible raw score is 60. In English, there are 75 multiple-choice questions, so the highest possible raw score is 75. In Science, there are 40 multiple-choice questions, so the highest possible raw score is 40.

For Writing, you write one essay, which is graded on a scale of 1-36. Your ACT Essay score does not count towards your composite ACT score, so I will not be talking about it further in this article. If you want more information, then read ACT Writing Rubric: Full Analysis and Essay Strategies.

 

Then, Convert Your Raw Scores to Scaled Scores

Your section raw scores are converted into scaled scores (on the 0 to 36 scale for each section) using a table. This table changes for every ACT test date. The reason the table changes is to ensure each test is “standardized.”

The table is used to equate “easier” ACT tests to the “harder” ACT tests. For this reason, on one test date, if you get a raw score of 39 in Science (by answering one question incorrectly or skipping one question), your scaled score in Science may drop to a 34. However, on another day, the conversion from raw to scaled score may be more lenient, and a raw score of 39 in Science may be a perfect 36 scaled Science score.

You will not know what the raw to scaled score conversion will be in advance. While the exact raw to scaled score conversion will vary by testing date, the ACT shared the below table in the Preparing for the ACT guide as an example:

 

Scale Score

English

Math

Reading

Science

Scale Score

36

75

60

40

40

36

35

72-74

58-59

39

39

35

34

71

57

38

38

34

33

70

55-56

37

37

33

32

68-69

54

35-36

32

31

67

52-53

34

36

31

30

66

50-51

33

35

30

29

65

48-49

32

34

29

28

63-64

45-47

31

33

28

27

62

43-44

30

32

27

26

60-61

40-42

29

30-31

26

25

58-59

38-39

28

28-29

25

24

56-57

36-37

27

26-27

24

23

53-55

34-35

25-26

24-25

23

22

51-52

32-33

24

22-23

22

21

48-50

30-31

22-23

21

21

20

45-47

29

21

19-20

20

19

43-44

27-28

19-20

17-18

19

18

41-42

24-26

18

16

18

17

39-40

21-23

17

14-15

17

16

36-38

17-20

15-16

13

16

15

32-35

13-16

14

12

15

14

29-31

11-12

12-13

11

14

13

27-28

8-10

11

10

13

12

25-26

7

9-10

9

12

11

23-24

5-6

8

8

11

10

20-22

4

6-7

7

10

9

18-19

5-6

9

8

15-17

3

5

8

7

12-14

4

4

7

6

10-11

2

3

3

6

5

8-9

2

5

4

6-7

1

2

-

4

3

4-5

1

3

2

2-3

1

-

2

1

0-1

0

0

0

1

 

 Again, however, remember that the exact conversion varies by test date.

 

Finally, Take the Scaled Scores for Each Section and Average Them to Get Your ACT Composite Score

Once you have your scaled scores for the individual sections, you just add them together and divide by 4 to get your overall SAT composite score. For example, if you scored a 33 in Math, 35 in Critical Reading, 31 in English, and 30 in Science, your composite score would simply be (33+35+31+30)/4=32.25, which rounds to 32. 

NOTE: Currently, the English score (NOT the English/Language Arts score) is used to calculate your composite ACT score.

 

What This Means for You

Once you figure out what your target raw ACT score should be, you can use that number to determine your ACT test strategy. You can use your target raw score to figure out how many questions you can skip or answer incorrectly

If you are struggling to finish each section on time, consider spending more time on other questions and bubbling in random letters for the questions you couldn't answer. Always try to bubble in an answer for every question since there is no penalty for guessing! 

 

What’s Next?

Need help raising your ACT score? Check out guides to the ACT Reading, Math, English, and Science sections. Taking the ACT very soon? Read our guide to cramming for the test. 

Not sure where you want to go to college? Check out our guide to finding your target school. Also, figure out your target ACT score

Thinking about getting a job while in high school? Check out our guide to the 8 best jobs for teens and learn how to find yours!

 

Disappointed with your ACT scores? 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.

Raise Your ACT Score by 4 Points (Free Download)

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Dora Seigel
About the Author

As an SAT/ACT tutor, Dora has guided many students to test prep success. She loves watching students succeed and is committed to helping you get there. Dora received a full-tuition merit based scholarship to University of Southern California. She graduated magna cum laude and scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. She is also passionate about acting, writing, and photography.



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