The ACT is scored on a scale of 1-36. But how exactly do you end up with a composite score on this scale when you answer a lot more than 36 total questions? In this article, we'll walk through the steps needed to calculate your ACT composite score, including how to calculate your raw scores and convert these into scaled scores.
How to Calculate Your ACT Score: 3-Step Guide
Calculating your ACT score based on what you answer is a cinch with our step-by-step guide. Keep reading to see what you have to do!
Step 1: Calculate Your Raw Scores for Each ACT Section
Your raw score for each ACT section is simply the number of questions you answered correctly. In other words, you'll get 1 point for each correct answer (and zero points for any blank or wrong answers—like the SAT, the ACT does not penalize you for wrong answers).
The highest possible raw score for each of the four sections—English, Math, Reading, and Science—depends on the total number of questions it asks.
This chart shows the total number of questions and highest number of raw points you could earn on each ACT section:
|ACT Section||Total # of Questions||Highest # of Raw Points|
For example, on Reading, you'll get four passages and 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.
For the optional Writing section, you write one essay, which is graded on a scale of 2-12. Your ACT Essay score does not count toward your composite ACT score, so I won't be talking about it any more here. If you want to learn more about ACT Writing, you can check out our complete guide.
Step 2: Convert Your Raw Scores Into Scaled Scores
Your raw scores are converted into scaled scores (on the 1-36 scale for each section) using a table, which changes for every ACT test date. The reason that the table changes is to ensure each test is standardized; in other words, it accounts for differences in content difficulty.
The table is used to equate easier ACT tests to harder ACT tests. For this reason, on one test date, if you got a raw score of 39 in Science (either by answering a question incorrectly or skipping one), your scaled score in Science could drop to 34. However, on another day, the conversion from raw to scaled score might be more lenient, and a raw score of 39 in Science could be a perfect 36 scaled score.
You won't know what the raw to scaled score conversion will be in advance. While the exact conversion varies by test date, ACT, Inc. has shared the below sample table in its Preparing for the ACT Test guide for 2019-20:
|Scale Score||English||Math||Reading||Science||Scale Score|
You can use this table as a rough guide to see how your raw scores on each ACT section convert into scaled scores (1-36). Again, though, remember that the exact conversion will vary by test date.
Step 3: Average Your Scaled Section Scores to Get Your Composite Score
Once you've got your scaled scores for the individual sections, you can then calculate the average of them. To do this, simply add the four scaled scores together and divide by 4. This average will be your overall ACT composite score, also on a scale of 1-36.
For example, if you scored 31 in English, 33 in Math, 35 in Reading, and 30 in Science, your overall ACT score would be (31 + 33 + 35 + 30) / 4 = 32.25, which rounds down to 32.
Note that with ACT scoring, a composite score with a decimal will either round up or down to the nearest whole number. If your score ends in a decimal that's less than .5, round it down. If it ends in a decimal that's .5 or higher, round it up.
How to Understand Your ACT Score Report
Your online ACT score report doesn't go into detail about your raw points, but it does show you your composite score and scaled section scores, as well as whether your scores meet the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks:
Those numbers you see below each section score are your subscores. For example, the subscores for the English section are Usage/Mechanics and Rhetorical Skills. Each subscore uses a scale of 1-18. There is no direct relationship between your subscores and your final scaled ACT scores.
For more information on ACT subscores, refer to our complete guide to ACT scoring.
ACT Scoring and What It Means for Your Prep
Once you figure out what your target raw ACT score should be, you can use that number to come up with an effective ACT test strategy. In other words, you can use your target raw score to figure out how many questions you can afford to answer incorrectly (remember that there is no penalty for wrong answers, so you should always put down something!).
If you're struggling to finish each ACT section in the designated time limit, consider spending more time on other questions and bubbling in a random letter for the questions you can't answer within a reasonable amount of time.
Below are some more resources you can use to help you develop a foolproof ACT prep plan.
If You Need Help Creating an ACT Study Plan
- Exactly How Long Should You Study for the ACT?
- How to Build an ACT Study Plan: 4 Sample Schedules
- 1-Month ACT Study Plan
- How to Cram for the ACT: 10-Day, 4-Point Prep Plan
If You Need More ACT Study Materials
- Complete Official ACT Practice Tests, Free Links
- Best ACT Prep Books
- The Best ACT Prep Websites You Should Be Using
- The 4 Best ACT Apps
If You Want to Raise Your ACT Score
- The Best Way to Review Your Mistakes for the ACT
- How to Get 36 on ACT English
- How to Get 36 on ACT Math
- How to Get 36 on ACT Reading
- How to Get 36 on ACT Science
- How to Get a Perfect ACT Score, by a 36 Full Scorer
Still looking for more ACT practice materials and tips? Then check out our complete (and free!) ACT guide. We've compiled our very best resources and advice to help you ace the exam!
Not sure which colleges you have a good chance at getting into? Read our guide to finding your match schools. Also, figure out your target ACT score.
Thinking about getting a job while in high school? Then look at our guide to the eight 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.
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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.