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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE ACT


ACT Scores

How is the ACT Scored?

This isn’t the evil empire or anything. None of the ACT graders are plotting your downfall, fingers tented Mr. Burns' style. No, the folks over at ACT are good people. They will count every answer that you get right on each of the four tests. They will then convert that number of right answers into “raw scores” on a scale of 1 to 36. Next, they average these four scores to come up with an overall composite score between 1 to 36. 36 is the highest possible score a person can receive on the ACT. Colleges are probably going to pay the most attention to this composite score. The average composite score of the more than one million students who took the ACT in 2010 was 21.

The good people at ACT will also calculate seven subscores on a scale of 1 to 18 for each of these tests:


  • English: Usage / Mechanics
  • Math: Pre-Algebra / Elementary Algebra
  • Math Plane Geometry / Trigonometry
  • Reading: Arts / Literature reading skills
  • English: Rhetorical Skills
  • Math: Intermediate Algebra / Coordinate Geometry
  • Reading: Social Science / Natural Science reading skills

Subscores have nothing to do with your overall ACT composite score. In other words, adding up your subscores won’t give you your composite score. Instead, these subscores provide other ways of understanding how you did on a given section of a test.

The ACT Writing Test is scored on a scale of 2-12. What happened to 1, you ask? Wish we knew. If you choose to take this optional exam, the score you receive will be rolled into the English Test raw score. The Writing Test gives you a prompt and asks you to write an essay responding to the prompt with an opinion or perspective on the topic involved. You will be evaluated on how well you argue your opinion or perspective.

Later on, we’ll talk about the kinds of questions that get asked in each section of the ACT and the best strategies to use when attacking them.

But, for now, we want to give you some really good news:

You will NOT be penalized for wrong answers!!! Guessing is great. Celebrate.

Free excerpts from Shmoop's online ACT subject material:



* ACT is a federally registered trademark of ACT, Inc. Shmoop University is not affiliated with or endorsed by ACT, Inc.