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75 questions, the essay is now graded independently.

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60 questions.

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40 questions.

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Science Calculator

40 questions.

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Writing Calculator

Raw score: 8-48 points.

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How Your ACT Scores Are Calculated

When your high school days are coming to a close, and you’re feeling the push for acceptance letters and scholarships, you must make your college entrance exam scores a top priority. Most seniors choose to sit for both the SAT and ACT so that they will have the best possible shot at success. Part of the challenge is knowing how these standardized tests are graded and how to read your results.

Students who are well-versed in science and have a relatively wide range of mathematical skills tend to score higher on the ACT than the SAT. The test includes four sections rather than the three core subjects of the SAT. With each area earning a scaled score ranging from 1 to 36, all four exam parts (English, Math, Reading, and Science) count equally toward your final mark. The average of the scaled scores becomes your composite score.

Scaled Scores Are Calculated From Raw Scores

Before your completed test can be evaluated, your answers naturally must be deemed right or wrong. No point reduction is taken for incorrect responses on the ACT, so your raw score for each section is simply the total number of questions that you’ve answered correctly. Various editions of the ACT exam are used, however, and the organization must ensure that the differences in test structure do not affect the accuracy of the scoring process. Therefore, every raw score must be converted into a scaled score for comparison.

In the Preparing for the ACT guide, a table is shown that estimates the conversion of specific raw scores into scaled scores. The change in numbers is sometimes mistakenly interpreted as a grade curve. The calculation actually does nothing more than make sure that the grading procedure is standard. Regardless of which test version, you take or when you sit for it, your scaled score reflects your real performance level.

Composite Score Is Calculated From Scaled Scores

At this point, you’ve been given a separate score for each of the test’s four subjects with every score being a number between 1 and 36. Your composite score is the average of these four scores. For easy computation, you can use a composite score calculator. Otherwise, remember to round the final score. If the remainder is a half point or more, then the score is rounded up. For less than a half point, round it down.

As an example of how to calculate your ACT composite score, suppose that your results are as follows:

English Section – 25
Reading Section – 23
Math Section – 22
Science Section – 23

The averaging process:

(Rounded to 23)

When college administrators review your ACT scores, they care almost exclusively about the composite score and your work in the four academic areas. This information gives them an overall picture of your scholastic abilities including your strengths and weaknesses.

Subscores Help You To Prepare

A little more detail about your performance on the English, Math, and Reading portions of the test can be found in the subscores. These numbers fall between 1 and 18. Like your composite score, subscores are figured from your raw scores. They are not, however, used to calculate more important scores and are not related in any way to your final scaled score. The reason that you are given subscores is simply to let you know where you need improvement.

Each of the four academic subjects is broken down into categories and assigned subscores. You are able to see a somewhat in-depth overview of your high and low scores. If you plan to take the ACT exam again, then you will benefit from studying the areas with the lowest points.

What To Know About Each Subject Area

The four subject areas differ from one another in length, and each one is divided into distinct question types. A general knowledge of the ACT’s layout and focus can help you to prepare ahead of time for the challenge. Here are some basic guidelines.

English Portion of the ACT

This part of the exam is always proctored first. You’ll have 45 minutes to answer 75 multiple choice questions with each one categorized under either Usage and Mechanics or Rhetorical Skills. Since incorrect and blank answers are not counted for the ACT, the highest raw score that you can achieve is 75.

Five essays are printed in the English section followed by several questions about each one; the inquiries can cover either specific sentences and phrases within the article or broad aspects of the entire text. Although grammar is included in the questions that are classified as Usage and Mechanics, it is presented in relation to the paragraphs rather than through technical rules. You may benefit from a review of proper sentence structure and punctuation. Your reading comprehension along with your understanding of style and organization will be analyzed by questions that pertain to Rhetorical Skills.

Your answers under the English portion of the ACT are categorized as follows:


Punctuation 10-15%
Grammar/Usage 15-20%
Sentence Structure 20-25%

Rhetorical Skills:

Strategy 15-20%
Organization 10-15%
Style 15-20%

Be sure to read every sentence or passage in its entirety. Likewise, review each question carefully to avoid unnecessary mistakes. You have an average of only 36 seconds to answer a single English question.

Math Portion of the ACT

Sixty questions make up the math section of the exam, and you have one hour to complete it. You need to work at a brisk pace without sacrificing accuracy, so you must know how to approach each problem with a quick, effective strategy to find a solution. Since no formulas are provided on the test, you should memorize the basic ones. You need not worry about material beyond the difficulty level of Algebra II.

Your most important asset during the math portion of the ACT is your reasoning ability. An approved calculator is allowed, but make sure that you don’t let it slow you down. Technically, all problems can be solved without it. The breakdown of the math test section is as follows:

Pre-Algebra – 20-25%
Elementary Algebra – 15-20%
Intermediate Algebra – 15-20%
Coordinate Geometry – 15-20%
Plane Geometry – 20-25%
Trigonometry – 5-10%

Test questions are listed in no particular order, so you must be able to shift from one level to another easily. Your results will be divided into three subscores: Pre-Algebra/Elementary (24 problems), Intermediate Algebra/Coordinate Geometry (18 problems), and Plane Geometry/Trigonometry (18 problems). These scores are significant when you are preparing to take the ACT again, but they are not as crucial as your overall composite score.

Reading Portion of the ACT

The Reading area features five passages that are taken from four subjects: natural sciences, social studies, humanities, and literary fiction. The test is solely focused on your reading ability and requires no prior knowledge of the subjects. With 40 questions and a 35-minute limit, you must be fast and deliberate in your work. Ten multiple choice questions follow each of three single passage plus a set of paired passages.

Science Portion of the ACT

This exam portion does not have subscores. It is, however, divided into three categories: data representation, conflicting viewpoints, and research summaries. Once again, you have 40 questions to answer in 35 minutes. It contains seven passages with several questions about each one. For the best possible score, practice reading and interpreting scientific data.

ACT Plus Writing

Some colleges require a standardized test with a writing component. Although this added section, in which you simply write an essay, does not affect your composite score, it may be necessary in order to compete for admission to a top-tier school. The essay is graded by two individual readers who each give you a score between 1 and 6 for separate domains. You end up with four different subscores ranging from 2 to 12.

After the subscores have been combined and scaled, you are awarded a score that can be as high as 36. This writing score is also used, along with your English and Reading scores, to get an overall English/Language Arts score between 1 and 36.

How To Succeed

Your best bet is to answer every question even if you have to guess. Since no points are taken off for incorrect answers, you can’t go wrong. The scoring of your performance on the college entrance exam is a relatively simple process; the ACT score calculator just takes the mean from your scaled scores to establish your composite score. Conversion tables help you to scale raw scores.