It's approximately one month after your ACT test date. You get your ACT score report and see your ACT Writing score. But what does that number actually mean? Did you do better than average? Worse? Exactly average? Learn what an average ACT Writing score is in this article.
Feature image credit: meet average! by Maria Ly, used under CC BY 2.0/Cropped and modified from original.
What Is the ACT Writing Score Range?
ACT Writing scoring differs from the other test sections in three important ways. Unlike your scores for English, Math, Reading, and Science, your ACT Writing score...
- is on a scale of 2-12, rather than 1-36.
- is optional. You can take the ACT with or without Writing.
- is not included when calculating your composite score.
On your ACT score report, you'll see subscores in each of four domains (scored from 1-6). Because two graders score your essay, you'll receive a total score out of 12 in each domain. Your four domain scores are then averaged to get your total ACT Writing score, also out of 12. The four domains your essay is scored across are as follows:
#1: Ideas and Analysis
What's your perspective on the topic? [How] Do you compare your perspective to at least one other perspective?
#2: Development and Support
Do you use logical reasoning or employ detailed examples to support and explain your ideas?
Is your essay organized? Are ideas separated into their own paragraphs? Is your writing organized within each paragraph as well?
#4: Language Use and Conventions
Do you use standard English written grammar? Are your sentences clear and varied in structure? Do you use appropriate vocabulary?
For more about what goes into each domain score, read our article on the ACT Writing Rubric.
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What's an Average ACT Writing Score?
The average ACT Writing score is 6/12 (based on the most recent data from ACT, Inc). The following table has a more detailed breakdown of Writing test percentiles:
|2-12 Score (2020-2021)||Cumulative Percent|
Because your total ACT Writing score is the average of your four domain scores, the average domain scores (Ideas & Analysis, Development & Support, Organization, and Language Use) are also likely around 6/12, although ACT, Inc. doesn't provide specific information about the cumulative percentiles of the domain scores.
How Much Does My Essay Score Matter?
Does your essay score even matter? While there are many colleges that require or recommend ACT Writing scores, most don't give an ACT Writing score range they want to see.
For students applying to humanities programs, colleges might consider the English-Language Arts subscore, which combines scaled English, Reading, and Writing performance. At a few colleges (like the University of Montana), your ACT Writing score might be used for freshman writing class placement purposes. If that's the case for you, you might want your Writing score percentile to be close to (or higher than) your English and Reading score percentiles.
In general, though, my best advice is to make sure your ACT Writing score percentile isn't drastically (>25 percentile points) lower than your other ACT section scores—that kind of discrepancy might raise a red flag for admissions staff. Otherwise, colleges just don't care that much about the ACT essay (especially compared to other parts of your application like your personal statement).
Now that you know what an average ACT essay score is, what's a good essay score for you? Read our article on how to calculate your target ACT Writing score.
What strategies can you use to make sure your ACT Writing score is better than average? Take a look at our full analysis of the ACT Writing scoring rubric.
How long does your ACT essay need to be? Find out how essay length affects your score here.
Confused about the domain scores? Get the inside story on ACT Writing scoring with our complete guide.
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Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and earned a Master's degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel in high school.