Understanding How to Get A Perfect Score on the ACT
If you plan to take the ACT test, you should understand how the test is scored. The scoring system is important because that’s what will determine whether your school of choice will consider your application or not.
Understanding what makes up a good score and what score you will need to get into the college you want to attend is crucial.
But, if you are like most students, you probably wonder what makes a perfect score and what’s the highest possible score you can get on the ACT.
To answer this, let’s look the ACT scoring system and the highest score on the ACT test, so you can improve your scores.
What is the Highest ACT Score Possible?
The highest ACT score possible is 36 with the national average score being 12. Typically, a good ACT composite test score is considered to be anything over 27.
The perfect ACT score of 36 is a composite score that is the average of the four subject areas of Math, English, Sciences, and Reading. Each ACT section is scored on a 1-36 scale. It is crucial to remember that the ACT Writing section doesn’t contribute to the composite scores, and it is possible to get a perfect score of 36 without a perfect score in the essay section.
ACT scores are whole numbers and not decimals. So, for example, if you get an average score of 35.5, meaning you didn’t get the highest score in each section, this could be rounded off to 36, meaning you will still get a perfect score.
How is the ACT Test Scored?
Each section of the ACT is graded on a scale of 1 to 36, with one-point increments. Scores will be issued separately for each of the four multiple-choice components (Math, Reading, English, and Science).
Because of the small scale, even minor gains in your score might significantly impact your percentile position (sometimes, a 1 point score increase can lift you in the percentile rankings by 5 points). Remember that you will not be penalized for incorrect answers on the ACT.
The raw score you get in the ACT sections is converted to a scaled score. The scaled score is used to ensure there is consistency across multiple test dates. Most importantly, scaling is different from curving the score relative to scores of other test-takers.
Perfect ACT Score vs Average ACT Score
The highest ACT test score is 36, which means you have to get a scaled score of 36 in almost all the ACT sections. However, sometimes you can get a not-perfect score on one of the sections and still get a perfect score.
You should aim for a 35.5 composite score or higher. If you get two 36’s and two 35’s or three 36’s and one 34, you are assured of getting the highest score. However, if you get even one 33, you won’t get the ACT highest score.
On the other hand, the Average ACT score is 21 out of the potential score of 36. The average for each section can be broken down, with the average for English being 20.3, Math 20.7, Science 21.0, and Reading 21.4.
Therefore this results in an average composite score of 21, which most colleges are not keen on. Colleges have varying average scores. For instance, some prestigious schools have bodies with average scores of around 30. Less competitive colleges can accept lower ACT scores.
|1 - 19||Below Average||Poor|
|20 - 25||Average||Good|
|26 - 29||Above Average||Competitive|
|30 - 35||Highest||Best|
How Rare is a Perfect ACT Score?
A perfect score of 36 is rare, and only around 0.334% of test-takers earn the ACT highest score.
For instance, in 2018, almost three times more students attained the next highest ACT score of 35, but that is also rare to get with only 0.961% of the students earning that score. Interestingly a considerable number of students, around 1.251%, get a score of 34.
Therefore, an ACT score of 36 is rare even among the top test scorers, and getting such as score will set you apart, especially when it comes to joining competitive schools.
Do you Need a Perfect ACT Score to get into Harvard or Yale?
No, neither Harvard nor Yale require a perfect ACT score to be accepted.
Yale and Harvard are among the most competitive colleges to get into. For instance, Yale is selective and only accepts around 6.5% of applicants each year, implying that fewer than seven out of 100 students are admitted each year. To get in, you need to get near ACT perfect scores on your ACT. To get admission at Yale, you should have an ACT score of 34 and if your score is below 32, consider retaking the test.
Equally, getting to Harvard is competitive, and the average ACT composite score at the college is 34. If you get a 33, you will be in the 25th percentile, and a 35 score places you in the 75th percentile. Therefore, a 33 will be below average to get into Harvard. However, the university doesn’t always aim to get a score of 33 and above to stand a chance.
Is it Possible for me to get a Perfect ACT Score?
Although a perfect ACT score of 36 may seem elusive, it is, in fact, possible to get the score. However, one needs to work hard to earn this score. Since the ACT score is a composite score, you should aim at getting a 35.5 average score or higher. To get this average, you need two 36’s and two 35 or three 36’s and a 34.
To get a 36 score, you should get a raw score of 75 in English, and if you miss one question, you will get a 35, and in Math, you can miss 1 or 0 questions. For the reading, you should miss 0 questions, and in science, missing one questing can bring the score to 34 or 35.
Should I get the Highest ACT Score?
A good ACT score is essential as it increases the chances of getting into a prestigious college. You should aim to score closer in the 75th percentile to boost your chances of getting into a good institution.
Sometimes getting a perfect score can make up for a lower GPA.
For instance, if your GPA is 3.0 and you get the highest ACT score, the admission board might feel that your classes were had or that you have now matured and are ready for college, as the ACT score indicates.