How to Interpret Your ACT Scores

So you’ve just received your ACT test scores, but what does it all mean, and where do you go from here? Both great questions. Understanding your ACT test scores is an essential component of your college admissions process, since it helps you gauge your competitiveness as an applicant and determine next steps regarding ACT prep. Here are a few tips to help you figure out where to go next:

Your ACT test scores explained

The ACT composite score is on a 36-point scale, the average of 4 multiple-choice tests (English, Reading, Math, and Science) each scored from 1 – 36. Additionally, you’ll see STEM scores (Math + Science) and ELA (English + Reading + optional Writing) that represent how well you did in those areas.

To understand how you compare with other students taking the test, you need to look at your percentile score, which describes the percentage of students who scored lower than you. For instance, if you score in the 90th percentile, it means you scored better than or equal to 90% of other students.

A breakdown of how well you did on each test and subsection appears under “Detailed Results.” This shows you the percentage of correct and incorrect questions across a range of skill areas and question types to help you pinpoint which specific areas you should target when you prep.

Do I have a Good ACT Score?

So what’s a good ACT score? In truth, good ACT test scores are those that allow you to get into the programs you’re hoping to apply to and that help you achieve your personal goals.

Generally speaking, to be competitive you’ll want to score towards the upper end of the 25th – 75th college admissions percentile for the schools you’re considering. Colleges and universities publish these ranges indicating the test score distribution of their entering freshman class. 50% of their admitted freshman had scores that fell between those 2 numbers, 25% had scores above, and 25% had scores below.

ACT/SAT Score Conversion Calculator

Quickly convert your ACT score to an SAT score using our free calculator.

Should I take the ACT over again?

How do your ACT scores measure up? Just because your score is in the 25 – 75 range doesn’t mean you have a 50/50 shot at being admitted. However, ACT scores near the 75% and above range will give you confidence that you are competitive at that college.

There is no penalty for taking the ACT more than once. In fact, many schools encourage students to take the ACT multiple times by offering SuperScore and Score Choice options. Score Choice allows you to send your highest score from a single administration of the test, and a SuperScore is an average of your highest tests scores across multiple ACT test dates.

You can continue to boost your skills, confidence, and performance in time for college admissions deadlines to ensure that your scores are competitive for the programs you’re aiming for. Your score report provides you with valuable information that will help you personalize your prep and prioritize your weaker areas.

Next Steps

Now that you’ve interpreted your scores, you’re probably either super excited about how you’ve done or are thinking of ways to do better. Either way, be sure to give yourself a pat on the back for even getting through it. No matter what test score you received, you’re awesome for taking the exam and doing the work necessary to see it through. Now that you know your test score, what are the next steps you should take?

Acknowledge the strengths that led to your test score

No matter what test score you received, there are parts of the exam where your performance was average or above average. Recognize and mark those as your strong points. To stay on top of your progress, you have to keep practicing those strong points to make sure you continue to do well in those sections.

Examine where you could have done better

Unless you got a perfect score, there were undoubtedly certain sections you struggled with more than others. Pay close attention to those parts, write them down, and note when you got those questions wrong. Let these be your guiding principles when you go back to study again. However, don’t be concerned with just getting the right answer. Instead, fight to understand why you got it wrong so you will not make the same mistake twice.

If you’re not happy with your score, there’s still hope

An average or lower score does not mean you should give up. Instead, it should motivate you to prove your original score wrong. This time, study harder and use the knowledge you have from the first exam to do even better on the second.

If you are happy with your score, there’s still room to improve

If you got a good score on your first go-around, that’s an amazing feeling. However, do not let a good score make you complacent and underestimate your full potential. Always aim to improve—just a point or two could stand between you and your dream school. Remain focused in school and continue to push yourself. Remember, in order to achieve success, your only real competition is yourself.