ACT Score Ranges: Understand Your Score vs. Class Grades (2023)

ACT Score Ranges: Understand Your Score vs. Class Grades (1)

Are you wondering what the highest and lowest possible scores you can get on the ACTare? And, once you receive your score, what does it mean? Many people find it difficult to understand their ACTscore because the exam doesn't usethe same kinds of grades your classes do. In this guide, we've converted ACTscores into class grades to make them easier for you to understand.

What'sthe Total Range of ACT Scores?

For each section of the ACT, the lowest score you can get is a 1, and the highest score you can get is a 36. The ACT contains four required sections, English, Math, Reading, and Science, and scores from each of those sections are then averaged to get a total composite score for the entire exam. The range of the composite score is also 1-36.

However, that still doesn't tell you all the information you need to know. This is because it's quite uncommon for someone to get a perfect score of 36 or a low score of 1 on the ACT. Also, you're probably more used to letter grades, like A- or B+, because that's whatyou see in class. To give you a better understanding of the ACT, we've converted ACT scoresinto letter grades as well asnumericalclass grades, like 85% or 55%, that you've likely seen throughout your time in school.

How Can You Interpret Your ACT Score?

In the table below, we've mappedACT scores to numerical and letter class grades. We thenexplain how to interpret the results and also how we created the table. In the final section of this guide, we also discuss what a good ACT score is.

Conversion of ACTScores to Class Grade Equivalents

ACT Composite ScoreNumerical Class GradeLetter Class Grade

How can you use this table? For example, say you got a 17 on the ACT. You'd then want to find this row:

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ACT Composite ScoreNumerical Class GradeLetter Class Grade

From the table, we can see that getting a 17 on the ACT is roughly equivalent to getting a score of 81.5% or a letter grade of B- for a class.

What DoesThis Table Really Mean?

Put simply, the above table takes ACT scores and converts them to class grades. This gives you a rough idea of what letter grade or percentage you would have gotten on the ACT if the exam had used those types of scoring methods. Class grades are familiar to you because you've used them your whole life, but you may not have any experience with the ACT grading scale. The table takes information you may not completely understand and converts it to something you're more familiar with.

More precisely, the above table convertsACT scores to class grades based on percentiles. These percentiles were calculated based on scores of previous ACT exam-takers. The class grades percentiles were based on a large academic survey of grading trends in college (which typically closely match high school grades). So, to go from an ACT score of 17 to a class grade of a B-, we found the ACT percentile for 17, then used the survey to determine what letter grade corresponded to that same percentile.

Things to Note inthe Table

First, note that the distribution ofACT scores and their class grade equivalents are quite different. At the top of the ACT scale, a 36 and a 28 are 8 points apart, yet, after the conversion, they all map to an A+. That's not a typo; both a 36 and a 28 are equivalent to an A+.

Why is this true? It's due to the fact that classes often don't do a great job of differentiating between great students andtruly stand-out ones. In a hypothetical class of 20 students, you might have two people earn an A+. That may seem like a small number at first, however; if that same class represented all the students in the US, only two would score a 28 or above on the ACT. This is one of the reasons the ACT is very useful to colleges, particularly highly selective colleges, because it distinguishes between great students and the very best.

Another thing to note is that both class grades and ACT scores do a good job of resolving middle-of-the-pack students.Ifyou go from an ACT score of 13 to a 22 -- just a range of 9 -- that's equivalent togoing from a straight D to an A-. For students who are about average in their class or a bit below, both ACT scores and class grades have solidresolution.

You may also have noted that neither ACT scores nor class grades begin at zero. Why not? Think about what you know about grading patterns and scores you and your classmates have received. When did you last hear of someone getting a 10 out of 100 as their final class grade? Failing grades are given out less than 4% of the time for class grades. Similarly, when did you last hear of someone getting less than a 10 on the ACT? Neither case is common. Even though, technically, the lowest ACT score is a 1, less than 1% of people taking the ACT get lower than a 10.Therefore, it's more realistic tothink of the ACT as starting from 13, not 1.

(Video) Understanding ACT scores | How To Use Your Score Report To Get A Higher ACT Scale Score

Can You Really Convert ACT Scores to Class Grades?

Yes, it's completely possible to convert ACT scores to class grades; however, it's not an exact science, and there are a few things you should be aware of.

First, remember that ACTsand your school classes don't testthe same thing. The ACT is a multiple-choice exam takenin one sitting. Classes, on the other hand, require hours of learning and schoolwork over a long period of time. Additionally, you take the ACT alone, but in your classes you work with teachers and classmates every day. Because the two measure very different things, getting a B- in a class does NOT automatically equala 17 on the ACT, and vice versa.

Additionally, class grades aren't as rigorous as the ACT. If you got an A- in a class, would you consider that a good grade? If half the class got an A or an A+, then your A- would be considered a bad grade. Conversely, if you were the only person to get an A in that class all year, that A- would be a great grade. Therefore, you shouldn't view the conversion too rigidly.

However, those notes aside, you're correct if you think about the table as "lining up," say, different varieties of races at a track meet. For example, you can't compare someone's performance in the 100-meter dash with a marathoner, but you could say that someone who completed the 100-meter dash in 10 seconds was at an Olympic level, while 2 hours 10 minutes would also be considered an Olympic level marathon time.

What’s Next?

Not sure what ACT score you should be aiming for? Read this guide to figure out your target ACT score.

Want to begin or continue prepping for the ACT? We have a guide that explains every single question type on the ACTso that you're completely prepared for the test!

Looking for an easy way to boost your ACT score? Learn aboutthe most common mistakes students make when guessing on the ACTand how you can avoid them.

(Video) Understanding Your ACT Score Report

Want to improve your ACT score by 4+ points? Download our free guide to the top 5 strategies you need in your prep to improve your ACT score dramatically.

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ACT Score Ranges: Understand Your Score vs. Class Grades (3)

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Dr. Fred Zhang

About the Author

Fred is co-founder of PrepScholar. He scored a perfect score on the SAT and is passionate about sharing information with aspiring students. Fred graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor's in Mathematics and a PhD in Economics.

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