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ACT Score Percentages

August 3, 2023
By AdmissionSight
Students taking an exam in a desk.

ACT Score Percentages

Similar to the SAT, the American College Testing (ACT) is a standardized examination that prospective college students take. You will almost certainly be required to take one of these exams if you plan to apply to college in the United States; however, even if you intend to attend school outside of the United States, it is possible that you will still be required to do so. It’s important that you know more about ACT score percentages.

The American College Testing (ACT) is a standardized test that is designed to show colleges how well prepared you are for higher education. It does this by measuring your reading comprehension, your knowledge of writing conventions, and your computational skills, and then comparing you to the other high school students who take the test.

The majority of schools with a four-year degree program require applicants to submit either their ACT or SAT scores, which can then make up as much as half of the admission decision.

Male student looking up at the camera while taking a test.

Your application will benefit greatly from having solid scores on standardized tests.

In addition, there are a lot of students whose high schools make them take the ACT even though they don’t want to. Because the ACT is used as a statewide assessment test in a number of states, it is required of all juniors attending public schools in those states.

The ranking of ACT score percentages or percentiles is important because it enables colleges to compare your performance on the ACT with that of other individuals who took the test. Your overall percentile ranking is not nearly as important as the score ranges for the ACT that is required by the colleges to which you are reapplying.

When making admissions decisions, colleges and universities frequently rely on the average ACT score ranges for accepted students, which do not typically undergo significant shifts from one academic year to the next. This range represents the middle fifty percent, or the scores between the 25th and 75th ACT score percentages, of applicants who were admitted.

How to Calculate the ACT Score?

Calculating your ACT score is a crucial step in the college admissions process. By understanding the ACT scoring system and how your performance is evaluated in each section, you can gain valuable insights into your academic strengths and weaknesses, ultimately aiding you in achieving your desired educational goals.

1. Grasping the Basics of ACT Scoring

The ACT is divided into four main sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science. Each section is scored on a scale from 1 to 36. Additionally, there’s a fifth optional Writing section, scored separately on a 2 to 12 scale. Understanding the scoring scale is fundamental as it forms the foundation of evaluating your performance accurately.

Using a laptop for Common app essay.

2. Raw Score Calculation

Your raw score in each section represents the number of questions you answered correctly. Unlike some standardized tests, the ACT does not penalize for wrong answers, so it is essential to attempt every question, even if you’re unsure. To calculate your raw score, simply count the number of correct answers in each section.

3. Scaling and Equating

Once you have your raw scores, they are converted into scaled scores using a conversion chart. Scaling ensures that scores from different test forms are standardized and comparable. Scaled scores range from 1 to 36 for each section.

Additionally, the ACT uses a process called equating, which adjusts for variations in test difficulty across different administrations. This ensures fairness and accuracy in the final scores.

Here is an example of the ACT score chart (from 10-36 scale score). Take note that each test administration uses a different score chart.

Scale Score English Raw Score Math Raw Score Reading Raw Score Science Raw Score
36 75 59—60 40 40
35 73–74 57–58 39 39
34 71–72 55–56 38 38
33 70 54 37
32 69 53 37
31 68 52 36 36
30 67 50–51 35 35
29 66 49 34 34
28 64–65 47–48 33 33
27 62–63 45–46 32 31–21
26 60–61 43–44 31 30
25 58–59 41–42 30 28–29
24 56–57 38-40 29 26-27
23 53–55 36–37 27–28 24–25
22 51–52 34–35 26 23
21 48–50 33 25 21–22
20 45–47 31–32 23–24 19–20
19 42–44 29–30 22 17–18
18 40–41 27–28 20–21 16
17 38–39 24–26 19 14–15
16 35–37 19–23 18 13
15 33–34 15–18 16–17 12
14 30–32 12–14 14–15 11
13 29 10–11 13 10
12 27–28 8–9 11–12 9
11 25–26 6–7 9–10 8
10 23–24 5 8 7

4. The Composite Score

Your composite score is the average of your scaled scores in the four mandatory sections (English, Math, Reading, and Science). The composite score is the most critical score considered by colleges during the admissions process. It provides a comprehensive view of your academic abilities and serves as a benchmark for evaluating your candidacy.

When reviewing your official score report, college admissions counselors look at this score first. The average of your four scale scores can be computed with the help of a calculator at your disposal. To determine your average, first add up the scores on each of the four scales you used, and then divide that total by 4.

Your result may include a decimal point. Round up to the nearest whole number if the decimal is 0.5 or higher, and round down to the nearest whole number if the decimal is less than 0.5.

5. The Optional Writing Section

If you choose to take the optional Writing section, you will be given five scores, including a single subject-level writing score and four domain scores. The subject-level score, ranging from 2 to 12, will be the rounded average of the four domain scores. The four domain scores are based on an analytic scoring rubric and include Ideas and Analysis, Development and Support, Organization, and Language Use and Conventions.

The Writing score does not contribute to your composite score but can influence college admissions decisions. This section assesses your ability to express ideas coherently and present a well-structured argument. A strong Writing score can showcase your communication skills, making a positive impact on your application.

What is a Good ACT Score in 2023?

As you embark on your college application journey, the question, “What is a good ACT score in 2023?” is likely at the forefront of your mind. While the ideal score is one that gains you admission to your dream schools, understanding how your scores compare to those of other test-takers can provide valuable insights.

Let’s explore the two main ways to evaluate your ACT scores: by examining ACT score averages and ACT score percentages or percentiles.

Students taking a test in their arm chairs.

Determining what is considered a good ACT score involves comparing your performance to the average scores of other test-takers. Generally, a good ACT score places you in the top half of test-takers, showcasing your academic proficiency. The higher you score above the average, the more impressive your performance is for college admissions.

Conversely, scores falling below the average may not carry the same weight in your college applications. The further your scores dip below the middle marker, the less competitive they might appear to admissions officers.

According to the most recent data from ACT Inc., the average composite score for the 2022 ACT was 20.3 out of 36. Here are the average scores for each individual section of the ACT:

  • English: 19.5
  • Math: 19.9
  • Reading: 20.9
  • Science: 20.3

An alternative way to understand how your ACT scores compare with those of other test-takers is through percentiles. Percentiles indicate the percentage of test-takers who scored at or below a specific score.

The following chart displays current ACT score percentages:

Percentile English Math Reading Science Composite
99th 35 34-35 35-36 34-35 34-35
90th 29 27 31 27 28
75th 23 22-23 24-25 23-24 23-24
50th 17-18 16-17 19-20 18-19 18-19
25th 13 14-15 14 14-15 14-15
10th 09-Oct 13 11-Dec 12 Dec-13
1st 7 and below 10 and below 8 and below 8 and below 10 and below

When it comes to the ACT, aiming for greatness doesn’t necessarily mean reaching a perfect score of 36. Recent data reveals that achieving a composite score of 28 places you in the top 10% of test-takers, indicating that you can attain an impressive ACT score without perfection.

In contrast, scoring 13 or lower lands you in the bottom 10% of test-takers, the 10th percentile. Scores in these lower percentiles may not have the desired impact on your college applications.

Even a slight increase, from a 13 to a 14, would still place you in the bottom quarter, or 25th percentile, of test-takers. Thus, it becomes evident that any ACT score below the 25th percentile is objectively not considered good.

Bear in mind that test-optional policies adopted by some colleges can influence the average ACT scores for admitted classes. Many students gain acceptance without submitting test scores as it is optional.

Consequently, the average ACT scores and ACT score percentages released by these test-optional schools may not present a comprehensive picture of the entire body of admitted students’ scores for that year.

Having explored how to define good ACT scores through averages and percentiles, we must emphasize the most crucial way to determine a good ACT score tailored to you: by examining the ACT scores of students admitted to your dream schools.

As you prepare for the ACT, research the average ACT scores of students admitted to the colleges and universities you aspire to attend. This personalized approach will provide invaluable insights into what score range aligns with your desired institutions’ expectations.

What ACT Score is Needed for College?

The American College Testing Program (ACT) is a standardized test that, like its more well-known relative, the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), is designed to evaluate a candidate’s potential for academic achievement in a college setting as well as their prior academic knowledge.

Male student taking an exam in a table with a woman next to him.

However, there is no definitive answer to the question of what constitutes a good or bad score; rather, it is entirely dependent on the individual, their goals, their grades, their extracurricular activities, the schools to which they wish to apply, and a variety of other factors.

On the ACT, a passing score for one person may not be considered to be a passing score for you, and vice versa.

If you get a score of 30 or higher, you are immediately placed in the 90th percentile, which places you above the majority of the students who take the test. This may lead you to having a good chance of being awarded financial support from a scholarship.

Now, what ACT score is needed for college scholarships? Surprisingly, there are opportunities for students with ACT scores in the twenties or even lower to qualify for scholarships. It is important to keep in mind that in order to qualify for some scholarships, specific ACT subsection scores are required.

For instance, scholarships in the fields of engineering and other sciences will naturally require high scores in those respective sections. It is essential that you carefully read over all of the scholarship applications you submit.

It’s also important to take note to research their admitted student profiles to determine what ACT score is needed for your desired colleges. Visit college websites, attend information sessions, and connect with admissions representatives. Understanding the average ACT scores of admitted students at your target institutions will provide a clearer picture of their expectations.

Moreover, as you build your college list, consider including a mix of competitive and safety schools. Competitive schools have higher ACT score expectations, and admission may be more challenging. Safety schools, on the other hand, have lower score expectations, providing a backup option if acceptance to your top choices becomes uncertain.

Most importantly, remember that an increasing number of colleges are adopting test-optional policies, allowing students to decide whether to submit ACT scores. Test-optional schools assess applicants holistically, placing greater emphasis on other application components. However, submitting strong ACT scores can still positively impact your application, especially in cases where they enhance your overall profile.

While ACT scores are significant, remember that they are just one aspect of your college application. Admissions officers seek well-rounded individuals with diverse talents and experiences. Engaging in extracurricular activities, showcasing leadership skills, and contributing to your community can make you a more compelling applicant.

How to Improve the ACT Score?

A strong performance on the ACT can improve your chances of getting into certain colleges and universities, and it can even make you eligible for certain scholarships.

Getting ready for the ACT at least a few months in advance by going over the content of the test, taking practice exams, and figuring out where your weak spots are highly encouraged to make sure to get into high ACT score percentages.

Writing a college letter on a table.

The following are some of the most helpful tips and tricks on how to improve the ACT score. These have been informed by test-prep experts to assist you in raising your ACT score and feeling more confident on the day of the test.

1.Get experience using high-quality learning resources.

To get into high ACT score percentages, taking full-length practice tests and reviewing study guides is highly recommended. When preparing for the ACT, you should make sure that the resources you use to do so are dependable and accurate with regard to what the actual test will be like.

The ACT offers official resources, including practice tests and question explanations, which can help you become familiar with the exam’s style and content.

There are also reliable online resources and practice tests that provide valuable practice questions and strategies to help you navigate the exam effectively.

2. Hone your time management skills.

Students need to practice taking the ACT under the same time constraints that they will face on test day. The pressure of a limited amount of time can result in a lower score. There is a direct correlation between your familiarity with the time limits on the ACT and your ability to achieve satisfactory results on the test.

Finding a sense of approximately how much time you can spend on each question on the ACT is the most effective way to manage your time while taking the test. There are some parts of the test that give you more time to answer each question than others.

On the English portion of the test, for instance, you will have only about 36 seconds per question, but on the math portion, you will have an entire minute per question

ACT Section on Timing and Pacing

Section Time Limit Number of Questions Time per Question
English 45 minutes 75 36 seconds
Math 60 minutes 60 60 seconds
Reading 35 minutes 40 53 seconds
Science 35 minutes 40 53 seconds

3. Select the same option as your previous answer.

Since there is no penalty for giving an incorrect answer on the ACT, students should make every effort to avoid leaving many questions unanswered.

Having said that, you should be prepared to answer some questions based on your best-educated guess. In circumstances like these, the process of elimination is the method that should be utilized. However, in the event that you have run out of time, it is recommended by specialists that you stick with the same answer for your guessing.

4. Give the questions that you already know the answers to the highest priority.

Even if you have to skip around, you should make it a priority to answer the questions to which you already know the answers.

If you are able to answer questions about which you are certain first, you will have more time to figure out answers to questions about which you are less certain. Make sure you leave enough time to revisit any questions that you may have missed. Making an educated guess is preferable to leaving the space unfilled, even if you are unsure of the correct response.

5. Commit to memory the most common mathematical formulas.

The mathematics portion of the ACT test covers topics such as algebra and geometry.

To find the answers to many of the questions, you will need to be familiar with the relevant formulas. Research the equations and formulas that you might be asked to use on the ACT, and do your best to commit them to memory before taking the test.

6. Create a customized study plan.

Creating a customized study plan is a crucial step in your ACT preparation. Take the time to assess your strengths and weaknesses in each ACT section and identify areas that require more attention.

Develop a well-structured study schedule that fits your daily routine, allocating focused study time for each subject. Break down your study plan into manageable tasks, set realistic goals, and track your progress regularly to ensure consistent improvement.

A personalized study plan will keep you organized, motivated, and on track to reach your target ACT score.

7. Analyze and learn from mistakes.

Analyzing and learning from mistakes is a fundamental aspect of ACT preparation. After completing practice tests and exercises, thoroughly review the questions you answered incorrectly. Identify patterns and common errors to understand your weaknesses better.

By recognizing your mistakes and understanding the underlying concepts, you can focus on targeted practice in those areas, ultimately improving your performance and preventing the same errors on the actual test day. Embrace mistakes as valuable learning opportunities, as they guide you towards a more effective and successful ACT preparation journey.

8. Work with educators or tutors.

Working with educators or tutors can be a game-changer in your ACT preparation. These professionals bring a wealth of expertise and experience to the table, guiding you through the complexities of the test. They provide personalized instruction tailored to your unique needs, identifying areas for improvement and focusing on your strengths.

With their subject knowledge and test-taking strategies, educators and tutors can instill confidence, boost motivation, and help you excel in each ACT section.

Their support not only enhances your academic skills but also fosters a positive and growth-oriented mindset, setting you up for success on test day and beyond.

Furthermore, you can contact us at AdmissionSight if you would like to know more about the ACT score percentages and how to improve your test strategies. AdmissionSight also provides assistance in college admission preparations, so book a consultation now.

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