Are you wondering how the ACT company determines your composite score? Or maybe trying your hand at calculating your own scores on a practice test? Here’s a handy walkthrough to help you master every step of the process.
If you got a 26 on Math, a 32 on English, a 29 on Reading, and a 27 on Science, your composite score would be 29:
26+32+29+27 = 114
114 ÷ 4 = 28.5, rounded to the nearest whole number = 29
There’s also an optional Writing test, but it’s scored separately and doesn’t affect your composite score in any way.
So, how do you figure out those scaled Section Scores?
On each section of the ACT, the number of questions you get right equals your raw score. Give yourself one point for each correct answer. There’s no scoring penalty for wrong answers, which is why you should bubble in a response for every question, even if you have to take a wild guess.
What’s the highest possible raw score on each part of the ACT? That depends on how many questions each section contains. The English section has 75 questions, so the highest raw score on English is 75. ACT Math has 60 problems, so the highest possible raw Math score is 60. The Reading test has 40 questions, so 40 is the maximum raw score there. Science also includes 60 questions, so a perfect raw score on that section would be (you guessed it) 60.
Let’s say you count up your correct answers and see that you’ve achieved the following raw scores:
|Section||Your Raw Score|
What’s the next step?
Next, you’ll take each one of those four raw scores and transform it into a scaled score.
No matter how careful the test writers are, some versions of the ACT end up being slightly easier (or harder) than others. To compensate for those variations, the ACT company adjusts the significance of raw scores from one test to the next. They do that by converting them into scaled scores ranging from 1-36. If you took the test twice and earned a raw 54 on Math both times, you might end up with a scaled 31 in June and a 32 in September, because the September Math section was slightly more challenging than the one in June.
To convert your own scores, you’ll need to use an ACT raw/scaled score conversion table. The table varies a little from one test to the next, so you should try to use the one that comes with the practice test that you’re scoring. Otherwise, you can use any available table to get a fairly accurate idea of how your raw scores would translate into the 1-36 scale, not to mention being able to pinpoint the areas where you need to study.
Here’s the table that ACT Inc. released for use with the 2017-2018 official ACT practice test:
|Scaled Score||English (Raw)||Math (Raw)||Reading (Raw)||Science (Raw)|
First, locate your raw score in the “English” column, then look at the left-hand column to see what its scaled equivalent is. Do the same thing for all four multiple-choice sections.
Using our imaginary raw scores, we discover that we’ve achieved these scaled section scores:
|Section||Raw Score||Scaled Score|
Finally, you’ll take your four scaled section scores and average them to determine your ACT composite score. Round to the nearest whole number.
In our example, we earned a composite score of 29:
26+32+29+27 = 114
114 ÷ 4 = 28.5, rounded up = 29
The Writing test (should you choose to take it) is scored all by itself on a scale of 2-12. Your Writing score doesn’t affect your ACT composite in any way.
If you take the Writing test, the ACT will give you a combined English, Reading, and Writing score called an ELA score. Though I’ve never heard of an admissions committee that cared deeply about ELA scores.
The numbers that really matter are your composite score (above all), followed by your four multiple-choice section scores. However, certain schools, specific university departments, do care about your Writing score. If you’re applying to one of those, you’ll want to make sure that you do your best on that section.