How to Interpret your ACT Score Report

What does your ACT score report mean for you? You are going to receive a score report, like the sample one below, either by mail, email or you can check your scores online about two to three weeks after you have taken the test.

Sample ACT Score Report

The composite score in the leftmost column is the most important metric and this is what your prospective colleges will be primarily looking at when you submit your scores. Your composite score is the average of all four of your subject tests - Math, Science, English and Reading. The graphical representations below your numerical score indicate what the ACT anticipates you need to get in order to succeed, compared with your actual results. Your score is indicated by the dark green bars for Math and Science, or the dark blue bars for English and Reading. The softer highlighted areas around these bars are what the ACT believe you can get if you take the test again.

The benchmark scores in purple are what the ACT consider to be the minimum score needed for a student to succeed in college. If you reach that benchmark the ACT says you will have a fifty percent chance of getting a B or higher in a selected first year college that is representative of that sub test, or a seventy-five percent chance of getting a C or higher. If you're above these benchmarks the ACT thinks you're ready for first year college courses. We wouldn't recommend focusing too much on this, as it really depends on your willingness to study and prepare which measures your success in college. You can have the best ACT scores but if you're not going to put in the work, you're not going to succeed in college. Just like if you don't prepare and study, you're not necessarily going to succeed on the ACT either.

The STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Math) or the ELA (English, Language, Arts) scores are more informative for your colleges. If you have a particularly high STEM score, which is just an average of the Math and Science scores, it might improve your chances of getting into one of those engineering schools like Georgia Tech or MIT. The ELA score is just a way for your schools to know how well you can read and write. The Writing score is the only subjective component of the test and that's represented in the Writing column. There will be two graders that will grade you on each of the components that make up the acronym IDOL (Ideas, Development, Organization, Language). Each of these graders will give you a score between one and six, which are then added up for a total of between two and twelve as you can see in the text above the Writing score bar.

Your rank indicates how you did in comparison to other ACT test takers in the US and in your State. A higher rank means that you are more competitive compared to the other students applying to the particular schools you are interested in. This metric can also be used by you to determine your strengths and weaknesses and where to focus on for improvement. 

Detailed Breakdown of ACT Score Report
Below your scores you will see what types of questions you answered correctly in the Detailed Results section. The numbers “out of” show how many questions you got right but they don't necessarily add up or break down to create your score out of 36. They are, however, a good indication of what you need to do to improve if you want to take the ACT again. For example, if it turns out you are really good at numbers and quantity then you can focus more on functions, geometry, statistics and probabilities on your next test, like the fictional student in the sample report. The key point here is that you want to be in the ACT Readiness Range. This is the range that the ACT expects you need to reach to perform well in college. Odds are, if you study and prepare effectively you're not going to have to worry about you ability to meet these benchmarks.

If you indicated the colleges that you're interested in the ACT will share your score with these colleges. Depending on the major that you selected, the ACT will list example courses with the probability of you getting a B or C in those classes based on your ACT sub scores - basically the ELA and STEM scores. This is a way for the ACT to help you if you're undecided. This is helpful but you don't need a testing company to tell you what to study and what to become in life! You should really figure out what you're passionate about, and even if you didn't do too well on the ACT you're going to be happier if you're studying and focusing on what you like and are willing to put in the work for. 

When you applied for the ACT you needed to indicate the high school that you're attending right now. That's because the ACT will also send your high school the results and provide a similar report to what you get. This is particularly important because your guidance counselors and principals are going to be very instrumental on guiding you through the application process. If you're a junior or senior, there's a good chance that your guidance counselor has already received your reports and you should go ahead and set up an appointment with them. You can also request a copy from your principal or guidance counselor and give a copy to your favorite teacher or mentor who can be very instrumental in writing you letters of recommendation and also giving you advice. If you're a freshman or sophomore it's never too early to begin. It's a good way to introduce yourself to your guidance officer because they can become very helpful again when you begin to mail off those applications and completing them.

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