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What is an ACT score? : Your Guide

Updated on 15 April, 2024

Mrinal Mandal

Mrinal Mandal

Study Abroad Expert

The American College Testing– ACT score is a part of the college applications in the United States of America (USA), depending on the institution students apply to. There are no fixed passing marks for this examination. However, a good ACT score strengthens the college application and elevates the chances of getting admitted into the institutions students aim for.

ACT Exam 

The exam is conducted by the mission-driven, not-for-profit organization under the same name– ACT. It is a curriculum-based, standardized test that evaluates the candidates' mathematical, written, scientific, and verbal skills.

There are four main sections of the ACT exam: Maths, English, Reading, and Science. The final or composite ACT score will be an average of these four section scores. Candidates can also appear for the ACT's optional writing test, which doesn't impact the composite score.

ACT Average Score

Here is the ACT score chart below highlighting the average numbers– ACT total score/ composite score for the students who appeared for the exam in 2021:

ACT average score - 2021 

Number of test-takers












ACT Exam Sections and Scoring

As mentioned above, the ACT exam has four different sections– English, Math, Science, and Reading. But what is the highest score on the ACT? The four sections are marked out of 36 points each, with 1 as the lowest and 36 being the upper limit. Furthermore, the section-wise questions numbers and reporting categories in the ACT exam are as follows:


Questions: 75

Reporting categories: Production of Writing (29-32%), knowledge of the language (13-19%), and conventions of standard English (51-56%)


Questions: 60

Reporting categories: Preparing for higher math (57-60%) and integrating essential skills (40-43%)


Questions: 40

Reporting categories: Key ideas and details (55-60%), craft and structure (25-30%), and integration of knowledge and ideas (13-18%)


Questions: 40

Reporting categories: Scientific investigation (20-30%), Data interpretation (45-55%), and evaluation of inferences, models, and experimental results (25-35%)

Scoring of the writing test

The scoring process of the writing section is more complicated. Anyone who takes up the ACT plus writing exam, including the essay that needs to be written, will be re-evaluated by two different readers.

These two readers will score the essay on a scale of 1 to 6 based on four areas where cogency holds the most significant importance. Candidates will be assessed on the skill to stitch lines of reasoning together into a coherent and compelling essay.

Additionally, it is to be noted that the evaluators are not looking for an excellently written specimen but a well-put-up first draft. 

Recommended Reads:

Syllabus for ACTACT Exam Pattern
ACT Exam RegistrationACT Exam Dates

ACT Exam Eligibility

ACT Syllabus/level

The syllabus of the ACT focuses on four sections. We will be discussing each section and the syllabus under the same. 


The English section consists of five passages with 75 multiple-choice questions. The questions are mainly detail-based/big-picture-based, concerning the entire passage or a particular passage. 

The evaluators are testing two essential skills of the students through the English section– Usage and Mechanics skills along with the Rhetorical skills. 

Usage and Mechanics will access you according to your grammar rules– punctuation and sentence structure. On the other hand, Rhetorical skills are connected to the comprehension of a passage or the abstract understanding of the same. 


The mathematics section consists of the below-mentioned topics:

  • Pre-algebra
  • Elementary algebra
  • Intermediate algebra
  • Coordinate geometry
  • Plane geometry
  • Trigonometry


The reading section will have four different passages, amounting to 40 multiple-choice questions. These passages will represent four major areas: Humanities, Natural Science, Social Science, and Literary Fiction. 


The science section deals with the topics in conjunction with Physics, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, and Biology. You will have seven passages in this section with 40 multiple-choice questions. 

These passages will be presented with varied diagrams like charts, tables, and graphs. You will not be accessed based on learning the scientific facts and figures. Instead, the application and reasoning will be questioned.

Furthermore, data representation questions in the ACT exam will check your ability to understand scatter plots, tables, or graphs clubbed with your usage of the presented information. 

Additionally, in these questions, research summaries will access your understanding in the design of experiments and associated results, as told in the passage. Similarly, conflicting viewpoints test your ability to reason different opinions. 

ACT Score Range

The ACT score range (both composite score and every test score– English, Reading, Math, and Science) will range from 1 (ACT lowest score) to 36 (ACT highest score). The fractions below one-half will be rounded down, whereas the one-half or more fractions are rounded up.

Universities accepting top scores for ACT

We have listed the top 20 American universities and their average score requirement for the ACT exam for your reference:


Average Composite ACT Score

Princeton University


Harvard University


Columbia University


Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Yale University


Stanford University


University of Chicago


University of Pennsylvania


California Institute of Technology


Johns Hopkins University


Northwestern University


Duke University


Dartmouth College


Brown University


Vanderbilt University


Rice University


Washington University


Cornell University


University of Notre Dame



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Disclaimer - ACT® is a registered trademark belonging to ACT, Inc. ACT, Inc. is not involved with or affiliated with upgradabroad.com, nor does ACT, Inc. endorse or sponsor any of the products or services offered by upgradabroad.com.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is ACT?

American College Testing (ACT) is a standardized test used for admission in most colleges and universities in the USA. The ACT is administered by ACT, a non-profit organization of the same name. There are four main sections of the ACT exam: Maths, English, Reading, and Science.

What is an ACT score?

The final or composite ACT score will be an average of these four section scores. Candidates can also appear for the ACT's optional writing test, which doesn't impact the composite score.

What is a good ACT score?

The ACT exam has four sections– English, Math, Science, and Reading. The four sections are marked out of 36 points each, with 1 as the lowest and 36 being the upper limit. Scoring a high ACT score increases a candidate's chance of getting into selective colleges. Generally, a good ACT score is anything above 24.

What are the sections of ACT?

The ACT exam has four sections– English, Math, Science, and Reading. The four sections are marked out of 36 points each, with 1 as the lowest and 36 being the upper limit.

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Mrinal Mandal

Study Abroad Expert

Mrinal Mandal is a study abroad expert with a passion for guiding students towards their international education goals. He holds a degree in mechanical engineering, earned in 2018. Since 2021, Mrinal has been working with upGrad Abroad, where he assists aspiring students in realizing their dreams of studying abroad. With his expertise and dedication, he empowers individuals to navigate the complexities of international education, making their aspirations a reality.

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The above tips are the Author's experiences. upGrad does not guarantee scores or admissions.