The test is done. Your sharpened pencils are dull (or broken), and your granola bar has long been eaten. Now the wait begins until you get your ACT scores.

But once you get your scores back, what do they mean?

We all know the importance of a high ACT score, but it can be helpful to understand how the scoring works so you can prepare your best and increase your overall score. 

How is the ACT scored? 

On a basic level, the ACT scores range from 1-36. You receive a score based on the number of correct answers on each section. Those section scores are averaged to determine your composite score, rounded to the nearest whole number. 

Once you answer all the questions and submit your scoresheet, the ACT does a few things: 

  1. They count the number of correct questions on each section. They don’t deduct points for incorrect answers (so you’re better off guessing than leaving a question blank!) 
  2. Your raw scores are converted to scale scores.
  3. Scale scores are averaged to create your composite score, rounded to the nearest whole number. 
  4. Your composite score (as well as individual section scores) are sent to the colleges you selected when you registered. 

What are raw scores and scale scores?

But what are the scale scores that the ACT uses to calculate your composite score? It’s all based on the number of questions you answer correctly for each section. The raw scores are simply a count of the correct answers you have on each section. Those are then converted to scale scores by the ACT.

Not quite sure how it works? Here’s an example from the ACT website: 

ACT Scale Scores

According to this example, if you get 53 questions correct on the English section, your scale score will be a 24 for that section. These scale scores might vary a little based on the difficulty of each ACT test. But the way they are used to convert into your composite score is consistent. 

Once all four scale scores are calculated, they are averaged to find your composite score. 

What is the average ACT score? 

Where do your ACT scores stand compared to national averages? According to the ACT, the national average composite score in 2020 was 20.7. While average scores can be a good starting point if you want to see how you compare, it’s typically a better idea to look at the schools you want to attend to see what their average scores are, their minimum for attendance (usually a 20 at most public universities), and the scores that receive merit scholarships. 

After all, the goal is to attend college and graduate with minimal debt. 

Section National Average Score
English 20.1
Math 20.4
Reading 21.2
Science 20.6
Composite 20.7


When will I get my ACT scores?

Once you’ve taken the ACT, when can you expect to receive your scores? According to the ACT, multiple choice answers are typically released 2–8 weeks after the test date. However there might be some instances where your scores take longer to be posted. Here are a few of the reasons:

  • Your information on the test admission ticket didn’t match the information on your answer sheet 
  • Answer documents came late from a test center
  • There was incomplete or inaccurate test form information
  • You owe registration fees
  • An irregularity is reported at your testing center

Another reason scores might be delayed is that the writing portion takes longer to score than the multiple-choice portion.

At OnToCollege, we’ve found that, generally, test scores are released 10 days after the test was taken, on Tuesday a week and a half after the test date. This is not an official date from the ACT, but a majority of students receive their scores relatively quickly.

But don’t start worrying if you don’t receive your scores right at the two week mark! Just keep an eye on the ACT timeline because most likely your scores are on the way.

What is superscoring? 

Another common question when it comes to ACT score is about superscoring. ACT provides an automatically calculated ACT superscore to all students who have taken the ACT more than once since September 2016. It can be beneficial because it takes the average of the four best subject scores from each ACT test attempt and combines them to create your superscore.

Colleges each have their own policies about accepting superscores. If you plan to submit your scores to a specific college or university, first research to see if they accept superscores. An ACT score report costs $15 to send and you can choose to send an individual test score or your superscore. If you do send a superscore report, the college will also receive your highest full composite score along with your superscore. Superscores will be available on your ACT account after you take your second test. 

How do you increase your ACT score?

Because the ACT section scores are averaged, it doesn’t matter which scores you increase: your best section scores or your worst. 

Let’s say you scored a 23 on your last ACT with an English score of 21, a Math score of 25, Reading score of 23, and a Science score of 24. 

Now let’s say you really focus on Math, a subject you feel pretty comfortable with, practicing and increasing that section score to a 30. Increasing that subject alone brings your score up to a 25. 

Imagine what a few points in your best subject could do for you, let alone on the entire test. 


Understanding a bit more about your ACT scores can help you see how you might improve your score! With the right preparation and strategies, it can be possible for you to increase your score and graduate college with minimal debt! 

Want to learn more? Take a look at our ACT prep courses, either online or in-person!