What Do Your ACT/SAT Scores Actually Mean?

Whether you’re taking your first practice tests or decided to try out the ACT or SAT for the first time, it’s important to understand what your ACT/SAT scores really mean. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know about your ACT and SAT scores, and do they really matter.


What Do ACT Scores Mean?

Your ACT score will range from 1-36; the higher the score, the better you did. This number correlates to how you did compared to other students, or your percentile. For example, the average ACT score is 20. Scoring a 21 means that you did better than 50% of others. The score report will inform you how well you did compared to other students, too!

How is the ACT Scored?

When you receive your tests results, you will receive a Composite score and a score for each of the categories: English, math, reading, and science. The Composite score is an average of the other four numbers.

What Do You Need to Know About the Categories of the ACT?

The four categories of the ACT will be scored in slightly different ways and have a different number of questions.

English – 75 questions on:

  • Production of Writing
  • Knowledge of Language
  • Conventions of Standard English

Math – 60 questions on:

  • Number and Quantity
  • Functions
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Integrating essential skills
  • Modeling

Reading – 40 questions on:

  • Key ideas and details
  • Integration of knowledge and ideas
  • Craft and structure

Science – 40 questions on:

  • Interpretation of data
  • Scientific investigation
  • Evaluation of Models, inferences, and experimental results

What Do SAT Scores Mean?

On the other hand, your SAT score will be between 400 and 1600. Like the ACT, the higher the score, the better you did and it corresponds to your percentile ranking. Your score report will include your percentile.

How is the SAT Scored?

The SAT score is a composite of the two major sections of the exam: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math. Each of these sections are worth 200 to 800 points, so your final score will be these added together.

What Do You Need to Know About the Sections of the SAT?

The SAT includes the two major sections, which are broken up into four during the actual exam: Reading, Writing & Language, Math with no calculator, and Math with a calculator.

Reading – 52 questions on passages and your understanding of them including:

  • Vocabulary
  • Purpose
  • Detail
  • Character analysis
  • and more

Writing & Language – 44 questions on:

  • Punctuation
  • Verbs
  • Grammar
  • Charts and Graphs
  • Ideas

Math (No Calculator) – 20 questions on:

  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Trigonometry
  • Advanced Math

Math (With Calculator) – 38 questions on:

  • Geometry
  • Algebra
  • Data analysis
  • Advanced math

Understanding your SAT or ACT score is essential to doing better on your next exam. And you’ll also want to shoot for certain scores to increase your chances of getting into your dream school!

Now that you know what your scores mean, use our College Match Tool to find out which schools you match up based on your scores.

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