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What is a Good ACT Aspire Score For a Freshman?

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | Nov 8, 2015 11:45:00 AM

ACT General Info

 

It’s tempting to compare the ACT Aspire test to the PSAT, but in reality they are quite different in their goals and purpose. The PSAT is meant to be practice for the real SAT, and doing well on it can qualify you for the National Merit Scholarship.

On the other hand, the ACT Aspire is a test for 3rd to 10th graders that is meant to determine whether students are measuring up to Common Core standards. Just like the real ACT, the ACT Aspire covers English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing. But the format of this test, the structure of the questions, and the way the test is scored are all very different from the ACT.

So how do you know what ACT Aspire score you should aim for in your freshman year of high school? Or if you already got your results, how can you tell where you stand compared to your peers? In this article, I’ll talk about how the ACT Aspire is scored, give you some different ways to think about what a good ACT Aspire score is for a 9th grader, and demonstrate several tools to use when thinking about your specific score.

 

How is the ACT Aspire Test Scored?

Scoring is slightly different for the different grades that take this test, so I will speak specifically about how ACT Aspire is scored when you take in high school.

Right now, scores can range between 400 and 460 for each subject, depending on your grade level. This means that while the lowest possible score is 400 no matter what grade you're in, the maximum possible score goes up with each year that you take the test. In 10th grade, the last year the ACT Aspire is given, the maximum score is 460.

In grades 8–10, your results will include a composite score, which is just the average of the scores you got on the English, Math, Reading, and Science sections of the test. Meanwhile, the Writing section is scored separately.

Your results will also come with a few other measurements: one for language arts, one for STEM, and one that evaluations your reading comprehension. To get a sense of what all of this will look like, you can check out a sample score report.

 

What’s a Good Freshman Score on ACT Aspire?

What you consider a good score depends very much on what your goal for that score is. I will go through some possibilities of what the ACT Aspire score can show you, and discuss what constitutes a good score in each of those cases.

 

Comparing Yourself to Yourself

Because ACT Aspire is given to everyone from 3rd graders to 10th graders, after a few years, you will be able to see how well you’re doing on this test compared to all the other times you’ve taken it.

The idea is that in each subject area, your scores should increase from year to year. So part of figuring out a good freshman score is tracking your progress to make sure that you are improving from one year to the next.

At the same time, your scores should also be hitting the benchmarks set out by ACT. The benchmarks are basically the minimum scores that you need to get to show that you are performing at grade level. The point of these minimum scores is to show you, your teachers, and your parents whether you are on track for college readiness, and whether there are specific subjects where you could benefit from academic support. Here is a table of the ACT Aspire benchmarks for each subject:

So for example, this table shows that on the math portion of the ACT Aspire, you can get a score anywhere between 400 and 460. If you get at least 428 as a freshman, you’re considered to be learning at grade level.

 

Comparing Yourself to Your Peers

Another thing that nation-wide tests like the ACT Aspire are supposed to do is give you a sense of where how your level of academic preparation compares to your peers.

ACT Aspire publishes data about how students taking the test scored, so we can go through the data to see how you can tell where you stand when compared to other 9th graders who took the test at the same time as you.

 

Some have it easier than others when comparing themselves to their peers.

 

Using Composite Scores for Comparison

One way to see how you stack up is through your composite score – the average of your individual subject scores (minus Writing). This number is a very quick way to see your relative ranking overall, without taking into consideration whether you are better or worse that some subjects than others.

Here is the range of composite scores for 8th, 9th, and 10th graders from the last year the ACT Aspire was administered:

Grade Min 25% Rank 50% Rank 75% Rank 90% Rank 95% Rank Max
8 406 414 418 423 428 432 435
9 408 414 418 423 430 435 438
10 409 415 419 426 433 438 440

 

This table gives us a breakdown of how students scored on the test. The "Min" and "Max" columns show the lowest and highest scores earned on this test. The "% Rank" 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.

So, for example, 9th graders earned composite scores anywhere between 408 and 438 (that’s the minimum and maximum score columns). If you got at least 414, you did better than 25% of the 9th graders taking the test, which would put you in the 25th percentile of scorers. Meanwhile, if you got a 435, you fall into the top 5%, since you scored better than 95% of students.

What can we learn from this table? For 9th graders, 418 was the median score - 49% of students did better, and 50% did worse. 

What's a good freshman composite score for ACT Aspire? Let’s assume that a good score is roughly at or above the 75th percentile – meaning, scoring higher than 75% of your peers. This means that a good composite score for the ACT Aspire for freshmen is 423 or higher.

 

The mix everything together approach: great for paella, less useful for test scores.

 

Using Individual Test Sections for Comparison

The composite score is a good tool for very quick analysis. But another, probably more useful, way of comparing yourself to your peers is to dive into each section of the test individually. Not only is this a more precise ranking system, but it also helps you figure out which subjects are your strengths, and which you need to work on more, or maybe even get some outside help.

Now, let's investigate the test sections one by one.  We can look at exactly what percentile you fall into depending on your score.

ACT Aspire 9th Grade English Percentiles

Score % Rank   Score % Rank   Score % Rank   Score % Rank
400 1   415 13   430 57   445 96
401 1   416 15   431 61   446 97
402 1   417 16   432 65   447 98
403 1   418 19   433 68   448 99
404 1   419 22   434 71   449 99
405 1   420 25   435 74   450 99
406 1   421 28   436 77   451 99
407 2   422 30   437 80   452 99
408 2   423 33   438 82   453 99
409 3   424 37   439 84   454 99
410 4   425 40   440 87   455 99
411 5   426 43   441 89   456 100
412 7   427 47   442 91      
413 8   428 50   443 93      
414 10   429 54   444 94      

 

One thing to look at right away is 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 anyone who got above 448 on the English section did better than 99% of test takers.

The benchmark English section score of 426 would put you at the 43rd percentile, meaning you scored better than 43% of your peers.

Keeping our assumption that a good score on this test is on or above the 75th percentile, we can see that getting 435 or higher puts you in at least the 74th percentile, making this a good score.

 

ACT Aspire 9th Grade Reading Percentiles

Score % Rank   Score % Rank   Score % Rank   Score % Rank
400 1   411 11   422 57   433 95
401 1   412 15   423 61   434 97
402 1   413 16   424 62   435 99
403 1   414 21   425 66   436 99
404 1   415 26   426 71   437 99
405 1   416 30   427 75   438 99
406 1   417 34   428 80   439 99
407 2   418 39   429 84   440 99
408 4   419 43   430 89   441 99
409 4   420 47   431 89   442 100
410 8   421 52   432 92      

 

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 428, you are in the top 20%, but if you earned 429, you are in the top 16%.

The Reading benchmark that ACT, Inc. determined is 425, or better than 66% of test takers. A good score on the Reading section – a score around the 75th percentile – is 427.

 

ACT Aspire 9th Grade Math Percentiles 

Score % Rank   Score % Rank   Score % Rank   Score % Rank
400 1   416 18   432 82   448 99
401 1   417 23   433 84   449 99
402 1   418 28   434 88   450 99
403 1   419 32   435 90   451 99
404 1   420 37   436 92   452 99
405 1   421 39   437 93   453 99
406 1   422 44   438 95   454 99
407 1   423 49   439 96   455 99
408 1   424 53   440 97   456 99
409 2   425 58   441 98   457 99
410 2   426 61   442 98   458 99
411 4   427 65   443 99   459 99
412 6   428 69   444 99   460 100
413 8   429 72   445 99      
414 11   430 75   446 99      
415 14   431 79   447 99      

 

The math section yielded a really very big spread people in the top percentile – anyone who scored above 443 did better than 99% of their peers. The ACT Aspire benchmark for this section is 428, or the 69th percentile. Meanwhile, a good score in the 75th percentile is 430.

 

ACT Aspire 9th Grade Science Percentiles 

Score % Rank   Score % Rank   Score % Rank   Score % Rank
400 1   413 7   426 59   439 97
401 1   414 11   427 63   440 98
402 1   415 16   428 67   441 99
403 1   416 17   429 70   442 99
404 1   417 22   430 76   443 99
405 1   418 24   431 79   444 99
406 1   419 29   432 82   445 99
407 1   420 35   433 84   446 99
408 2   421 40   434 87   447 99
409 2   422 45   435 91   448 99
410 4   423 46   436 92   449 100
411 4   424 50   437 94      
412 7   425 54   438 96      

 

The benchmark for ACT Aspire Science is 430, which the same as the good score we’ve been discussing, since it falls into the 76th percentile of test takers

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

 

ACT Aspire 9th Grade WritingPercentiles 

Score % Rank   Score % Rank   Score % Rank   Score % Rank
408 1   419 26   430 76   441 99
409 1   420 31   431 76   442 99
410 5   421 31   432 88   443 99
411 5   422 35   433 88   444 99
412 7   423 35   434 95   445 99
413 7   424 47   435 95   446 99
414 9   425 47   436 96   447 99
415 9   426 65   437 96   448 100
416 13   427 65   438 97      
417 13   428 71   439 97      
418 26   429 71   440 99      

 

The Writing section is scored separately and a little bit differently from the rest of the ACT Aspire sections. For one thing, you can see here that the lowest score on this section isn’t 400 like it is for all the other sections, but 408.

Here, the benchmark score from ACT is 428, or better than 71% of everyone taking the test in that year. Meanwhile, a good score on Writing is at least 430, which is in the 76th percentile.

 

Does the ACT Aspire Predict Your Future ACT Score?

One of the reasons you may be wondering how well you did on the ACT Aspire is that you want some kind of assurance or prediction that you’ll do well on the real ACT when you take it junior or senior year.

The truth is that ACT Aspire is not a particularly great predictor of your future accomplishments  at least as far as your ACT scores are concerned. But this is actually fantastic news! First of all, 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 second, it means that dramatic improvement is possible because, as a freshman, you have 2 or even 3 years in which to do it!

 

The ACT Aspire is the weathervane of tests: it's really good at telling you what's happening now, but not really able to predict the future.

 

How ACT Aspire and ACT Scores Compare

ACT published a spreadsheet with score data on 50 10th grade students – what they got on each ACT Aspire section, and what they went on to get on the actual ACT when they took it in 11th grade. While it's true that this data is about sophomores rather than freshman, it's still useful to check out what it can tell us. The spreadsheet itself is rather unwieldy, so I've created a couple of graphs to more easily point out the salient bits of information.

First, let's talk about the overall trends that the ACT's data shows. In general, the higher your score on the ACT Aspire, the more likely you are to get a higher score on the real ACT itself. Here is a graph that shows this tendency by taking individual scores and smoothing them out into trendlines:

However, this is only part of the story. Another way to parse this data is to look more closely at an individual subject. For example, here is a scatterplot graph of a piece of the same data, comparing how 10th graders did on Aspire Math and how they ended up doing on ACT Math.

The way the scatterplot graph works is this:

  • Each blue diamond point represents one student
  • If you go straight down from the diamond, you can see what this student got on ACT Aspire Math
  • If you go straight left, you can see what this same student got on ACT Math:

 

What can we learn from this more zoomed-in approach?

On the one hand, as the scores from 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 upward as we go from left to right. This what accounts for the way the Math trendline appears on the graph above this one.

On the other hand, we can see that your Aspire score is by no means destiny, no matter where in the score range students fall. For example, the 3 students who got 434 on ACT Aspire Math (just above the sophomore "good" score in the 72nd percentile), ended up getting ACT scores between 17 (approximately in the bottom 30%) to 26 (approximately in the top 15%).



What Does This Mean in Terms of a Good Score?

I think the best way to think about your scores if you’re worried about eventually taking the ACT is to:

  • First, make sure you’re meeting your 9th grade benchmarks. That’s a pretty good indicator that you’re on track with your learning.
  • Next, think about your ACT Aspire section scores. If there is one section (or several sections) that you are scoring significantly worse in, then this is the time to get extra help with these academic subjects. 

 

Should You Study For the ACT Aspire?

It’s certainly a very good idea to get some exposure to the test itself. In order for any test to be an accurate reflection of your knowledge and abilities, you shouldn’t be penalized just for being unfamiliar with the test’s format and structure.

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.

But honestly, beyond getting a basic sense of what you’ll see on test day, I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to study for the ACT Aspire.

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. If you study specifically for the test, you could throw off these results – which would be a problem if you actually need help in a specific test area.

Finally, 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 Writing section. This will tell your teacher and school administrators that they really need to beef up the school’s writing program. And this in turn will benefit you down the road, when you learn how to write college-level work.

If you are really very worried about your future testing results, you’re better off just taking a practice ACT instead. It’ll more accurately show you how you’d score if you took the ACT now.

 

One possible thing to do instead of studying for the ACT Aspire.

 

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.
  • What is a good ACT Aspire score depends on what you are trying to determine.
    • A good score for personal progress is a score that’s higher than your previous score and one that meets ACT Aspire benchmarks.
    • A good score when comparing yourself to your peers is around the 75th percentile – the actual number is different for each ACT Aspire section.
    • ACT Aspire is not very good at predicting ACT scores. Instead, it shows 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 their sample questions.

 

What’s Next?

Should you start preparing for the ACT as a 9th grader? We have some advice.

Did you take me up on my suggestion to try out a practice ACT test? Now, read about what your score 9th grade ACT score means.

Thinking about taking the PSAT as a 9th grader as well? Check out our guide to the pros and cons of this decision and our discussion on what is a good PSAT score for a freshman.

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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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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