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Shooting For A Score

Updated: Feb 5

You took the ACT recently, and you just received your test score – your so-called “scaled score,” which can range from a low of 1 to a high of 36. Perhaps you received the score of your dreams – if so, congratulations! Or, perhaps you were not so fortunate. Maybe you took the ACT hoping to receive a composite score of, say, 28, but only scored a 24. The obvious question you ask is - what do you need to do next time to get that scaled score of 28?

Scaled Scores Are Confusing

The answer is, don’t think in terms of your scaled score; that’s too confusing. What the heck is a scaled score, anyway? Instead, ask a simpler question: “How many more questions do I need to get right for a 28?” In the case of the ACT English section, answering 59 of the 75 questions correctly typically will equate to a score of 24. However, if you can answer 8 additional questions correctly, you will have a 28. Similarly, to move from a 24 to a 28 on the Math section (60 questions), you need an additional 10 correct answers; on the Reading section (40 questions), an additional 4 correct answers; and on the Science section (also 40 questions), an additional 5 correct answers.

Focus On Questions

Because more correct answers equates to a higher scaled score, thinking in terms of questions, not your reported score, will make it easier for you to determine if you are on track for your desired score. Released actual ACTs, available online, and, often, commercial texts include conversion tables that allow you to determine the number of additional correct answers that are required to achieve a certain ACT score.

Conversion Table

Don't Get Discouraged

One more, related piece of advice – don’t get discouraged if your practice or real test scores occasionally go down. Instead, learn from your mistakes. Ask yourself: Why did I miss that question? What kinds of questions do I seem to get wrong most often? Where should I focus my time and effort to make sure I see improvement – i.e., get more questions right?

Remember that, as with most things in life, progress is incremental and, sometimes, uneven. So, prepare diligently, learn from your mistakes, and always focus on getting more questions right. If you do those things, you almost certainly will see steady and significant improvement in your ACT score.

Dave Bell, who organizes ACT and SAT workshops for area high schools and not-for-profit organizations, can be reached for answers to your questions at


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