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How Is the ACT Test Graded?

by Fitzalan Gorman, Demand Media

    The ACT features four compulsory sections -- English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science -- plus an optional writing section. On the ACT, you earn one point for every correct answer. There is no penalty for incorrect answers. When you receive your scores, you do not learn how many questions you got right. Instead, the ACT uses an internal formula to create a scaled score.

    Raw Score

    At the end of each section, administrators tally the number of questions you answered correctly. This is called your raw score. For example, if you answer 53 questions correctly on the math section, your raw score is 53. This number is then converted to a scaled score. The ACT uses an internal process to adjust your raw score to a scaled score. It does this so you can compare your score to other students' scores, regardless of which version of the test they took or in what year. The scoring scale ranges from 1 to 36. You receive a score for each section, plus a composite score.

    Composite Score

    In addition to your individual test scores, you receive a composite score. The ACT composite score is the average of your four individual test scores, rounded to the nearest whole number. If you receive a 24 math, 28 English, 29 reading and 26 science, then your composite ACT score would be 26.75, which is rounded up to 27.

    Subscores

    On the ACT, you receive subscores for each individual test except science. They are measured on a scale of 1 to 18. There is no direct relationship between your subscores and your test score, so they will not add up to your test score. The subscores measure different information on each test. For the English test, you receive subscores for usage and mechanics and rhetorical skills. On the math test, you receive subscores for pre-algebra and elementary algebra, intermediate algebra and coordinate geometry and plane geometry and trigonometry. On the reading test, you receive subscores for your social studies and natural science reading skills and your arts and literature reading skills.

    Writing Section

    Unlike the four compulsory sections, which are scored in a range from 1 to 36, the optional writing section has a unique scoring system. You receive a writing subscore and a combined English and writing score. To determine your essay score, two trained readers score your essay and the sum of these scores creates your subscore. You receive this subscore on a scale of 2 to 12. If the two readers' scores differ by more than a point, a third reader scores your essay. The readers base their scores on your ability to develop a position, organize your ideas coherently and use language effectively. The formula for your combined English and writing score weighs your English score twice as heavily as your writing score. This combined score is reported on a scale of 1 to 36.

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    About the Author

    Fitzalan Gorman has more than 10 years of academic and commercial experience in research and writing. She has written speeches and text for CEOs, company presidents and leaders of major nonprofit organizations. Gorman has published for professional cycling teams and various health and fitness websites. She has a Master of Arts from Virginia Tech in political science and is a NASM certified personal trainer.

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