The one facet of the ACT exam that seems to stress kids out the very most is the ACT scoring system. Of course, it's easy to understand why! ACT scoring is very important because money and scholarships can be tied to your composite score and people tend to tie prestige to the score you manage to earn, too. The higher the score, the more bragging rights you get. So, just how does it work? And how do colleges get your scores and use them? Sit tight. You're about to find out the ins and outs of the ACT scoring system and all the hoopla that goes with it.
ACT Scoring Changes
The ACT announced in June 2016, that it will be revising the score reporting for the 2016 - 2017 test administrations. What does this mean for you? When you get your score report back after registering, preparing and taking the ACT, you'll see a number of different things on your scoring sheet. The ACT changed how it reports scoring. Instead of receiving subscores based on the subcategories under each section, students now receive percentages on a comprehensive set of reporting categories. These reporting categories make it easier for parents and students to determine exactly what types of skills testers need to brush up on the most. Here's what your current score report will contain.
- Composite Score: Your composite score will be between a 1 (really low) and 36 (genius). This is an average of each multiple choice section.
- Section Scores: Each multiple-choice test section (English, Math, Reading, and Science) will get a raw score, based on the total number of questions you answer correctly. That score will then be converted to a scaled score, between 1 and 36.
- STEM Score: In September 2015, the ACT began reporting a STEM score that was the rounded average of Math and Science.
- ELA Score: At that time, they also began reporting the rounded average of English, Reading, and Writing scores as a general English Language Arts score.
- Reporting Categories: Although you will not get scores for these areas, per se, you will receive percentages correct out of the categories along with the total possible and total correct.
- ACT Plus Writing: If you take the Writing test, you'll get an overall score between 2 and 12 because although the ACT changed the Writing score to 1-36 like the other multiple choice test section scores in 2015, it is changing it back for the 2016 - 2017 administrations. You'll also get four writing competency scores on a scale of 2 - 12 in these domains: Ideas and Analysis, Development and Support, Organization, and Language Use and Conventions.
The ACT Reporting Categories
Below, you'll find the multiple choice sections of the test, along with the reporting categories you'll find on your score report. The numbers in parentheses are the total number of questions for a sample score report*. On the score report, you'll find the correct number you answered out of that total number, what that number looks like as a percentage, and the ACT Readiness Range, which shows you how your performance on each reporting category compares to students who have met the ACT College Readiness Benchmark on that section.
*Please note that the number of each type of question could change, depending on the test.
- Preparing for Higher Math (~35 total questions)
- Number and Quantity (5)
- Algebra (8)
- Functions (8)
- Statistics and Probability (6)
- Geometry (8)
- Integrating Essentail Skills (~25)
- Modeling (~22)
- Preparing for Higher Math (~35 total questions)
- Interpretation of Data (~16)
- Scientific Investigation (~10)
- Evaluation of Models, Inferences, and Scientific Results (~14)
- Production of Writing (~23)
- Knowledge of Language (~12)
- Conventions of Standard English (~40)
- Key Ideas and Details (~24)
- Craft and Structure (~11)
- Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (~5)
- Understanding Complex Texts reported as "Below, Proficient, or Above"
How the ACT Scoring Works on the Essay
The 2-12 score range for 2016-2017 is very quite than the one used in 2014-2015. The old Writing score was simply the sum of two readers' grades between 1 - 6. The new score range, however, is an average domain score, rounded up to the nearest number at .5. Take the following example:
A student scoring these domain numbers:
- Grader A's scores: 4, 6, 4, 5
- Grader B's scores: 4, 5, 4, 6
- Total scores: 8, 11, 8, 11 = 38
- Writing score is a 10 because 38/4 = 9.5
ACT Raw to Scaled Scoring
When you're finished with your test and it heads off to be graded, the graders first count the number of questions that you answered correctly in each test section and in each subscore area. The number of correct answers is your raw score. The reporting categories will show you those raw scores - how many questions you actually answered correctly in each category.
Then, those raw scores are converted to the scaled scores. Scaled scores are the scores that you'll get back and the scores that are sent to your high school and the colleges to which you're applying. The exact raw to scale tables that are used are not published, as they differ depending on the test questions used per test. Having a scaled score allows the ACT to be as fair as possible, considering different test questions and versions are used.
The good news is that you don't have to worry about your raw score except when you're actually taking the test - you want to answer as many questions correctly as possible and attempt every one. You aren't penalized for guessing like you are on the SAT. But on your score report, you won't see your raw score, so you don't need to sweat it!
ACT Scoring Compared To Other Students
On your score report, you'll also see a score percentile, which compares you to the rest of the nation. The national average tends to hover right around a 20 or 21, but many scholarships start at around a 27 composite score and go up from there depending on the school and program to which you're applying. Here are some ACT scoring averages and percentiles for you to check out:
- The best of the best ACT scores
- Average national ACT scores
- Average ACT scores for top private universities
- Average ACT scores for top public universities
If I Retake the ACT, Do Colleges See All My ACT Scoring?
If you take the ACT more than once, you get to choose which set of scores to send to colleges. So, the schools will not see all of your ACT scores unless you choose to send them all. This is a very big deal especially if you do not perform very well during one testing session and ace another!