ACT Writing Score

Complete Guide to Understanding the ACT Writing Scores, Ranges, & Topics

act-writing-scoreMany students who sign up for the ACT test forget about the optional writing test. This is understandable because the writing section is not commonly required by colleges, but many do recommend it.

This section can be a bit nerve racking for many students because writing essays isn’t their strong suit. Don’t worry. This section is easier than you think. With a little practice, you will have no problem writing excellent essays.

Let’s look at the writing section rubric, topics, and tips how you can improve your ACT Writing test scores.

What is the ACT Writing Section?

This is an optional ACT section comprising an essay that students should plan, write, and edit within 40 minutes. You will be offered three different perspectives encouraging you to think critically about the issue and then develop your unique perspective. The student has to explain the relationships of the varying perspectives. Most importantly, the section evaluates expository writing, rhetoric analysis, and evaluative argument skills.

The most important aspect is the section is optional, and currently, around 27 institutions required students to take the ACT with writing. Therefore, if you apply to one of the universities or colleges that required the ACT writing section, you should take it.

Alternatively, if you are not sure about the colleges you will apply for, it is advisable to take the ACT writing section beforehand to make it easier should one of the colleges you are applying to have that requirement.

How is the ACT Writing Test Graded?

The ACT Writing score is scaled from 2 to 12 with 12 being the highest. The average ACT writing test score is 6 – 7 according to the most current report published by ACT, Inc.

The ACT writing test is graded by two human graders who follow a specifically designed scoring rubric. Notably, each reader will score the four domains on a 1-6 scale. Then, the two scores are combined to give the final domain score of 2-12.

Sometimes, when there is too much difference between the graders on the domain score, a third reader will be consulted.

Here is the ACT Writing rubric for grading the test.

ACT SubscoreWhat is GradedHow to Improve Your Score
Ideas and AnalysisAbility to create an argument and gauge the argument of anotherWrite well, thought out answers. Being "correct" doesn't matter. It's about the thought.
Development and SupportAbility to use examples as supports for ideasExplain your argument with solid examples
OrganizationAbility to make sound, logical pointsOrganization is key. Every essay should have a introduction, body, and a conclusion.
Language Use and ConventionsAbility to write clearly and succinctlyKeep your grammar on point. Don't make obvious errors.

ACT Writing Score Range

The ACT writing score range is graded on a scale of 2-12 with 12 being the highest score possible.

Here is a chart showing the range of ACT writing scores along with the ACT percentiles that each score falls in.

ACT Writing ScoresACT Writing Percentiles

Average ACT Writing Score

According to the 2022 National Norms for ACT Writing Report, the average ACT Writing score is 6-7. Roughly 50-66% of test takers receive scores between 6 and 7.

Here is a chart that shows the average score for the ACT writing section.

ACT Writing ScoresScore RankingScore Rating
2 - 5Below AveragePoor
6 - 7AverageAverage
8 - 10Above AverageGood
12PerfectBest / Max

Highest Score for Writing on ACT

The highest ACT writing score is 12 and only occurs when scoring a perfect 6 on both domain scores.

Only the top 100th percentile of test takers score a perfect ACT writing score.

What is a Good ACT Writing Score?

Typically, good ACT writing score is any score over 8.

Keep in mind that getting a good score on your ACT writing section depends on which colleges and schools you are applying to. Higher tiered universities will require higher ACT scores in order to get in.

Thus, a good score for one school may not be good enough for another.

What Schools Require the ACT Writing Test?

Most schools don’t require the ACT writing test because they feel that the General ACT test is sufficient to gauge the applicant’s knowledge and understanding of topics.

A few colleges do, however, require ACT writing test results be submitted with your application.

Here is a complete list of the colleges and school that currently require the ACT writing test:

  • Martin Luther College
  • Molloy College
  • Soka University of America
  • University of Mary Hardin-Baylor
  • University of Montana Western
  • West Point – US Military Academy
  • Wyoming Catholic College
  • Yellowstone Christian College

Tips on How to Improve Your ACT Writing Score

Tip#1: Practice Writing

This sounds obvious, but it’s true. Work on your writing. Write short stories. Write essays. Write anything. Just practice writing. You will get better.

Tip#2: Read More

Another obvious tip is to simply read more. You will learn though osmosis. The more you read good literature, the more you will be able to organize your thoughts and ideas.

Tip#3: Study the Rubric

Remember, the ACT writing section is graded by human graders– not computers. They are looking for certain things in your essay, so give it to them. Make grading your essay simple.

What Topics & Skills are Tested on the ACT Writing Section?

For students taking the ACT writing test, they will receive a subject-level writing score and four domain scores. These domain scores are based on the criteria used to score the essays with the score derived from the domain scores. You will be tested on idea and analysis, organization, development, and support, as well as conventions and language use skills.

It is easy to prepare for the ACT writing tests, and the preparation doesn’t include writing. All you should do is reading magazines, newspapers, listening to the radio and watching television analysis, and take part in debates that can build the foundation for your writing skills. This will help you familiarize with current issues and different perspective on the issues. The good news is your English writing classes will suffice.

You will be evaluated on ideas and analysis skills based on how well you present your opinion on the issue related to the essay prompt. The test evaluates how thorough you are in analyzing the given opinions and understanding the issue at hand. Equally, the development and support area tests the student’s explanation of reasoning, argument strength, and persuasiveness. Language use and convention assessment focus on word use choices, writing structure, sentence structure, and writing technique including, punctuation, syntax, and grammar.

On the other hand, the organization assessment area considers ideas grouping, essay unity, transition, and sequencing. All four skills will be assessed and form part of the final ACT writing section score.

ACT Writing Test Format & Structure

The ACT writing section comprises one essay question that students should write in 40 minutes. This part is optional, and you don’t have to complete it to receive test scores of the Math, English, Reading, and Science tests. The test evaluates the writing skills acquired in high school English courses.

Most importantly, scoring is between 2 and 12 in the four domain areas, and the final score will be an average of the four parts.

The essay evaluates students on three different perspectives on a contemporary issue. They are supposed to give their opinion, articulate the opinion on the issue, and then link their opinion with provided perspectives. Most importantly, you can agree or disagree entirely or in part with the essay prompt’s assertions.

It would help if you focused more on completing the essay instead of spending much time on word count or length since the length is not a part of the assessment. Your essay should follow the following format:


In the first paragraph, you should introduce your view in the essay prompt, and the perspective relates to what you will be discussing. Avoid jumping into the discussion because a good introduction makes a good introduction.

Thesis statement

This is part of the introduction, and you should clearly state your view in the prompt paragraph. It advisable to use one of the three provided perspectives in the essay prompt as your perspective or position to avoid using much time coming up with a position.

Discuss the correlation between different perspectives

In the main body of the essay, you can discuss the correlation between your position and one of the provided perspectives.

Give reasoning or examples to support positions

You should give supportive arguments against and for each perspective. The examples should be in the same paragraph as the perspective, and you should explain your reasoning.

Clear organization

You should discuss a single point or perspective in a paragraph because this will make it easier for you to stay on track.

Should I Take the ACT with Writing or Without?

You should take the ACT with writing if you feel it will give you a better chance at being accepted to your college of choice.

All the ACT sections offer multiple-choice questions, and all one worries about is picking the correct answer based on the passage provided.

However, the writing section is different. You are required to write essays. It’s more of a creative writing project than an exam. Students write a prompt describing an issue and presenting three different perspectives on the issue.

This test complements the ACT Reading and English tests very well, but if you aren’t a strong writer, you might want to take the ACT test without the writing section.

Who Should Take the ACT Science Section?

The ACT writing test is an optional test that students clearing high school thinking of college should take. Around 300 colleges recommend or require students applying for a spot in the college to take the Writing section test.

It is important to note that most selective colleges and universities will require applicants to submit the ACT writing cores, but others don’t.

ACT Writing Testing Fees

The cost of the ACT test fees are listed below:

  • Registration Full ACT (with writing) – $70 (includes reports for you, high school, and four colleges)
  • Registration Full ACT (no writing) – $55 (includes reports for you, high school, and four colleges of choice)
  • Test change $15 (to switch to ACT with writing)

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