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 let’s fully understand how the scoring works to motivate you to prepare hard to increase your overall score. 

How is the ACT scored? 

ACT scores range from 1-36. Your score is based on the number of correct answers on each section. Once you submit your scoresheet,  

  1. The ACT counts the number of correct questions on each section. Incorrect answers (so guess rather than leave a question blank!) do not penalize you. 
  2. 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 (and 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 based on the number of questions you answer correctly for each section. Raw scores are simply a count of the correct answers you have on each section. Those are converted to scale scores by ACT. Not sure how it works? Here’s an example from ACT: 

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? The  ACT national average composite score in 2023 was 19.5. While average scores can be a starting point to see how you compare, it’s typically better to compare your scores to the average scores at the schools you want to attend. Check your scores against the college minimums 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 (2023)
English 18.6
Math 19.0
Reading 20.1
Science 19.6
Composite 19.5

When will you get your ACT scores?

Test scores generally begin to be released 10 days after the test date, but may take up to 8 weeks. In some instances, your scores take longer to be posted. Here are a few possible 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
  • Incomplete or inaccurate test form information
  • You owe registration fees
  • Irregularity 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. 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 scores 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 four best subject scores from all your ACT tests— your best English, Math, Reading, and Science scores from ALL your ACTs—and combines those scores 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, research whether it accepts superscores. An ACT score report costs $18.50 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, a 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 superscore up to 25. Imagine what a few points in your best subject could do for you, let alone on the entire test. 

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Understanding more about your ACT scores can help show how you might improve your score. With the right preparation and strategies, you can increase your score and graduate college on time and affordably—with minimal debt. Want to learn more? Take a look at our ACT prep courses, either online or in-person!