How to Interpret Your ACT Score Report

The ACT released a helpful Interactive ACT Score Report that thoroughly explains each number and measurement you’ll see on your ACT score report. We recommend thoroughly reviewing your score report and taking note of where you excelled, and where you could benefit from some more studying.

Using a sample ACT score report, we’ll walk you through how to interpret your ACT score:

  1. Evaluate your composite and scaled scores
  2. See how you compare to averages
  3. Evaluate your detailed results
  4. Make a study plan!

1. Evaluate your Composite and Scaled Scores

The score in the top left, highlighted in purple, is your composite score. It is the average of your scaled scores. When you look up ACT averages for your school, this is the number they are referring to. We wrote an in-depth post about how the ACT is scored if you’d like more information on how your score came to be.

The scores directly to the right are your scaled scores for each section of the test. Your STEM score is an average of your math and science scores. Your ELA score is an average of your English and Reading scores. These scaled scores help you see how you did on each section of the test.

You’ll notice a purple “Readiness Benchmark” line with an associated score for each section of the test. According to the ACT’s research, if you meet or exceed this benchmark, you have about a 50% chance of earning a “B” or higher in your freshman level classes related to the subject area.

While it’s great to meet or exceed these benchmarks, keep your personal goals in mind. What is the average ACT score range for the schools you are applying to? What types of schools are you applying to? Are you applying to a STEM school or major? If so, you should definitely meet or exceed the STEM benchmarks. However, if you’re applying to a liberal arts school or major, it’s probably not as important to have top STEM scores.

act student composite score result

2. See How You Compare

The average ACT score in 2018 was 20.8. If you exceed this score, you’ve already done better than the average ACT test taker! You can see how your score compares to others who took the test nationally and in your state with the “US Rank” and “State Rank” charts below your score report.

act student score report

3. Evaluate Your Detailed Results

Finally, take a look at your detailed results. This may be the most helpful section of your score report for determining your study plan going forward because the report shows how many of each type of question you got correct. As you evaluate, remember to study what counts.

For example, there are only 5 “Number and Quantity” math questions, but 22 “Modeling” questions. If, in this example, you didn’t do too hot in both of these sections, then it is more strategic to study the Modeling questions as there will be more of them on the test.

But what exactly are Modeling questions? What are “Knowledge of Language” questions? The ACT has provided descriptions of their question categories on their website:

detailed act score report

You’ll notice a fourth section to your ACT score report: the college and career planning guide. This section of the report evaluates your fitness for your college major choice and career goals based on your ACT score. Really, it’s probably not telling you any new information. Take a look, be realistic with yourself. (If you know you consistently perform well in ELA but not STEM, a STEM major may not be your best fit. However, you know how hard you’re willing to work, and hard work gets you a long way in any field). Ultimately, don’t let the ACT tell you what major to choose.

4. Make a Plan

The last step in evaluating your ACT score is to make a plan for further action. Are you content with your score? Congratulations! Go ahead and send it to colleges.

Feel like you want to boost your ACT score a few points? It’s time to get to work. Create a study plan that works with your schedule and stick to it. As you pull together your study materials, make sure you’re using quality materials that help you truly learn the content, not just memorize it. We’ve developed our ACT course, The Olive Book, with this goal in mind: that you’d complete it with a firm grasp of the concepts you need to know to ace the ACT, not just cheap tricks or memorization that may or may not work on test day.

Happy studying!

More on ACT Scoring:

How is the ACT Scored?
What Do Colleges See on My ACT Score Report?

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