Unlocking the Mystery: How Many Points is the ACT Out Of?

ACT is a standardized test given to high school students in the United States. The scores of the test are accepted by most colleges and universities in the country. Understanding how the ACT scoring works is one of the fundamental aspects of preparing for the test. In this article, we will unravel the mystery surrounding ACT scores and discuss in detail how the scoring works.

The ACT Test Structure

The ACT consists of four sections, each designed to test different skills. The sections of the ACT include Reading, English Language Arts, Math, and Science. There is also an optional writing section that scores differently from the other sections, adding extra weight to the overall ACT score.

Reading Section

The Reading section of the ACT lasts forty minutes and consists of forty questions. This section tests the student’s reading comprehension skills. The passages that the students will read come from different subject areas, including social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities.

English Language Arts Section

The English Language Arts section of the ACT consists of two sub-sections: English (grammar and usage) and Writing (essay). The English sub-section has seventy-five questions, and the writing sub-section consists of one essay prompt.

Math Section

The Math section of the ACT has sixty questions and lasts for sixty minutes. This section consists of questions related to algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. Students can use a calculator in this section of the test.

Science Section

The Science section of the ACT lasts for thirty-five minutes and consists of forty questions. This section mainly tests the student’s ability to interpret and analyze data, research summaries, and conflicting viewpoints in scientific terms.

Writing Section

The Writing section is optional and consists of one essay prompt, allowing forty minutes for completion. Scores in this section are not added in the overall score out of 36.

How the ACT is Scored

The ACT has a maximum score of 36. Each of the four main sections receives a score from one to thirty-six, and then the scores are averaged to provide an overall score. The writing section receives a score from two to twelve, which doesn’t impact the composite score.

Scoring the English, Reading, and Science Sections

The scoring of English, Reading, and Science sections of the ACT is simple. These sections have forty questions each, and students get one point for every correct answer. There are no negative points for incorrect answers or unanswered questions. The raw score for each of these sections ranges from 0 to 40, which is then converted into the scale of 1 to 36 using a process called scaling. The scaling process consistently evaluates questions in every year’s tests for difficulty and accuracy of student responses. Raw score and scaled score tables can be found on the ACT website.

Scoring the Math Section

The Math section of the ACT is scored slightly differently from the other three sections. Like the other three sections, students get one point for every correct answer, but there is a negative score for incorrect answers, meaning that students lose 0.25 points for wrong answers. Unanswered questions don’t result in the loss of any points. The raw score calculation is identical to the English, Reading, and Science sections, followed by scaling.

Calculating the Composite Score

The composite score is the average of scores of the four main sections. It is also scaled, so it ranges from 1 to 36.

Calculating the Writing Section Score

The Writing section carries its unique scoring system. Two independent graders read and evaluate the essay section, giving each an individual score between 1 and 6. The two scores are then combined, with a possibility range of the overall score being twice 2 to 6.

Why the ACT Score is Important

The ACT score is one of the deciding factors for most U.S. colleges and universities, with school admission based on the scores achieved by students. The ACT score reflects the knowledge and skills acquired by students throughout high school and is an indication of a student’s potential to succeed at the university level.


  • What is the highest score possible on the ACT?

    The highest possible composite score on the ACT is 36. A perfect score reflects the student’s knowledge and potential in all four sections.

  • Is there negative marking for incorrect answers?

    Only the Math section has negative marking for incorrect answers. Students lose 0.25 points for each incorrect answer.

  • What happens if you leave a question blank?

    There are no negative points for unanswered questions in the ACT test. Leaving a question blank will not lead to the deduction of any points from the overall score.

  • How many times can you take the ACT?

    Students can take the ACT as many times as they want without affecting their chances of admission to a school. However, some colleges and universities may request to see all your scores, so it’s essential to check with them beforehand.

  • Which is the most crucial section of the ACT?

    All four sections are equally important, and the composite score is an average of all four. A balanced score across all sections is essential for achieving a good score.


The ACT is a crucial evaluation tool used by colleges and universities to judge prospective students. It is necessary to understand how the ACT score is calculated to help students prepare better for the test. The ACT scoring system is easy to understand, and getting familiar with it will help in creating an effective study plan to achieve the best possible score. Preparation is key, and by understanding how the ACT works, students can better prepare themselves for this important test.

References: ACT.org

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