First of all, you may ask, “What’s a good ACT score?”
The best way to answer that question is by understanding why graduating high school students take this standardized test in the first place, to get admitted to their chosen colleges or universities.
While passing the ACT is already an achievement in itself, it may not be enough to get a student to the college of their choice. Even a good score like 29, which is above the national average is not enough if you want to get into an ivy league school.
If you want to enter Princeton, for example, you would need to aim for a score of 32 to increase your chances of ensuring your slot. That’s because more than 75% of test passers scored above 32 based on the data of U.S. News & World Report: National Universities Ranking.
How ACT Scores are Calculated
While ACT scoring not complicated, it is not straightforward either. In ACT, your raw score is converted into a scaled score for each section. The score scale ranges from 1 to 36. Then your scaled scores for each section are averaged to get your composite ACT score, which ranges from 1 to 36. This may sound confusing for now so it will be explained further below.
Your raw score is the number of questions you answer correctly for each section. This is the most straightforward way to score -no further calculations, no waste of time, just count the correct answers and it’s done. However, using raw scores for ACT brings a little problem. The problem is that ACT test questions are different for each test date. Some test dates may have harder or easier questions. To ensure that scores are within the same standards they scale the scores.
Your raw scores for each section are translated to scale scores. For example, if you correctly answer 9 to 10 questions in the English section, you get a scale score of 5.
Take note however that the raw to scaled score translation may differ for each ACT test date. That is because that adjust the scale based on the difficulty of the ACT test on a certain date.
Related Topic: ACT Test Introduction, Registration, Dates & Score
Once the scaled scores for each section are calculated, they are averaged to get your composite score, which is also the final score. Needless to say, you have to answer everything right to get the composite score of 36 except in match, which allows for one mistake.
Related Topic: ACT Registration and Requirements
21 Tips to Get the Best ACT Score Possible
While an ACT composite score of 36 may be difficult to achieve, it is definitely the best goal to aim. Here are some easy but effective tips to help you get that elusive score of 36 on your ACT test:
1. Balance studying and leisure activities.
It is easy to think that studying only without giving yourself some downtime is a good way to learn. But that is wrong. You would easily lose your motivation that way. Have some fun too.
2. Don’t let your brain experience a burnout.
Studying too much without giving your brain a rest would result in burnout and when that happens it will be hard to learn anything. Take breaks when studying to give your brain some time to process what you’ve learned.
3. Improve your sleeping habits.
When you study, your brain stores what you read in the short-term memory. Information only gets transferred to the long-term memory when you sleep. So get enough sleep.
4. Take practice tests often.
ACT Practice tests familiarize you with the test structure and improve your skills. It also tells you what you need to improve on.
5. Make a study schedule and stick with it.
The human brain loves familiarity, that is why it learns best when you feed it information at the same time of the day, every day.
6. Eat healthy, brain-boosting foods.
Eat foods to support brain function such as avocados, blueberries, walnuts, and dark chocolate.
7. Use an ACT study guide.
Look for an ACT study guide that gives you an overview of the test and the topics you need to study. You don’t need to study all the topics you have studied in high school, so a study guide will tell you where you should begin and end.
The night before the test preparations:
8. Prepare everything you need for the test the night before.
Make sure that your requirements are ready for the test.
9. Give your brain a rest.
You don’t want your brain to get tired the night before the exam because it needs all the energy it can muster for the difficult test. There is no need to review the day before the exam.
10. Sleep early.
So you can wake up early and have more time to prepare.
11. Write down your thoughts.
Feeling anxious? Let go of the anxiety by writing it down on paper. Writing them down will help release nervous feelings.
The day of the test:
12. Eat a good breakfast, so that you don’t run out of energy during the test.
A good breakfast should have protein for energy, water for hydration, and carbs to satisfy your hunger.
13. Double check that everything you need is in your bag.
You don’t want to reach the testing venue only to come home because you forgot something.
14. Go to the test site at least 30 minutes before the exam.
This gives you a short time to rest before the test.
Forget any other problem you have and just focus on the test.
During the test:
16. Skim the questions first and take note of the questions you think are easier.
This gives you an idea of which questions are easier and should be answered first.
17. Answer easy questions first.
Read the questions carefully. Once you have answered all the easy questions, go right into answering the harder ones.
18. Among the answer choices for each question, look for the choices that you are sure are not the correct.
Additional study tips:
19. Don’t skip English.
Many students skip studying for the English test, thinking that it’s the easiest part. Review grammar rules and usage, punctuation and organization.
20. Improve your reading skills.
There are two things you need to improve here: your comprehension skills and the time it takes for you to read. Practice reading a wide variety of materials to improve both. Summarizing materials that you’ve read will help develop comprehension skills.
21. Master math basics.
You don’t need to memorize formulas, but you need to master the basics of math, like the arithmetic skills (remember PEMDAS?), basic algebra, and geometry.