# Take the Confusion Out of College Admissions Tests: ACT Scores Explained

Dec 20, 2020

Don’t you hate how confusing it is to figure out SAT or ACT scores? I deal with admissions tests every day and still have to think to convert from the SAT system (200 to 800 points on three sections – reading, math, and writing) to the ACT (a single score of 0-36). Today I’m going to take the confusion out of ACT scores.

The ACT is a competitor of the SAT. Some students will prefer the ACT, just as some people prefer one car to another. The ACT is not easier or harder than the SAT; it is just different.

An ACT composite score is the average of a student’s scores on the four parts of the test – English, math, reading, and science. The written essay receives a separate score, but is not factored into the composite score. Students can score between 0 and 36 on each section.

The most common question I hear is, “What’s a good score?” “Good” is a relative term; what is good for you may not be good for someone else. Compare your score to your previous results Vegasgoal and to the average admissions numbers at the colleges on your list to determine if your score will be sufficient. Keep in mind, the national average on the ACT is 21. That means half the test takers will earn a 21 or less and the other half will earn a 21 or greater. Students scoring 28 or above represent the top 10% of test takers.

Some students benefit from the way the ACT averages scoresbecause they can bring up their lowest score with higher numbers in the other sections. For example this student’s scores in English, reading, and science help make up for a math score of 16:

English 21

Math 16

Science 20

Composite Score: 20

However, averaging scores can diminish exceptional results. In this example, the composite score does not show this student’s math and science talents:

English 24

Math 32

Science 30

Composite Score: 27

Some colleges and universities are experimenting with “superscoring” the ACT. “Superscoring” is common on the SAT and means the school will take a students best reading, math, and writing even if they are from different test dates. Ask if the schools on your list will superscore the ACT.

Colleges and universities will accept either SAT or ACT scores. To be on the safe side, go ahead and send all scores. If you want to see how SAT and ACT scores compare, you can search for the most recent concordance tables on the ACT or SAT sites.