The highest possible ACT score is 36. Students can earn this score by understanding how the exam is graded, taking practice tests, and properly preparing. Keep reading to learn more about how you can earn a 36 on the ACT.
What is the Highest Possible ACT Score?
The highest score a student can earn on the ACT is a 36. This number refers to the Composite Score, which is the average score of the four parts of the test: English, mathematics, science, and reading.
How is the ACT Graded?
The ACT is graded on your abilities in the four sections of the ACT. Each section receives a score of 1 – 36, and then the average of those four scores results in your Composite.
Here are some facts you should know about how the ACT is scored:
- The ACT does not deduct points for incorrect answers. This means you should guess on questions you don’t know the answer to – there is no penalty for guessing!
- The ACT counts the questions you got correct. This raw score is converted to “scale scores.”
- The Composite Score is rounded to the nearest whole number.
The ACT Writing is Not Included in Your Composite Score
While you may have opted for the ACT Writing section, this score will be kept separate from your Composite score and is graded differently compared to the other sections. Here, the highest possible score is 12, and the lowest is 2. There are also four domain scores (2 – 12), which are Ideas and Analysis, Development and Support, Organization, and Language Use and Conventions.
How Can You Score a 36 on the ACT?
There is no easy way to score the highest possible score on the ACT! It is quite the achievement to even score a 36 on an individual section, let alone the entire test. However, it is possible. In 2020, 5,579 out of over 1.6 million students did just that.
If you’re aiming for a 36, you’re going to have to start early with your prep. Here are some suggestions for trying for a perfect ACT score.
1. Have the Right Approach to Practice Tests
One of the first steps you should take when it comes to ACT prep is taking a practice test. This will help you get a feeling for how the exam works, the types of questions that are asked, and where your strengths and weaknesses lie.
2. Take Your First Practice Test
Before you even study for the ACT, it may be a good idea to take an ACT practice test right out of the gate. See how you do with minimal prep and practice. This will give you direction for the weeks and months to come as you aim for that 36.
3. Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses
One of the biggest benefits of taking ACT practice tests is the ability to identify your strengths and weaknesses on the exam. Some may find at this point they’re better suited for the SAT, too! But knowing your weaker areas gives you direction on where to study.
After your first practice test, score it. Where did you succeed and where did you do less than expected?
4. Study, Study, Study
Once you know where your weaknesses are, you can start to study. If you did poorly on the ACT math but well on the other three sections,for example, you will want to dedicate more time to Math. That doesn’t mean you should ignore the other sections, however, but comparatively, more effort should be put towards mathematics.
Students can study for the ACT using flash cards, ACT study books, mobile apps, and other resources.
5. Take Additional Practice Tests
In between study periods, it can be helpful to take additional practice tests here and there. This approach will allow you to track your progress. You might even find you’re doing better in math and now reading needs work.
Practice tests should direct your studying approach, but your ACT prep shouldn’t 100% be taken up by practice tests either. You won’t advance much if you’re just taking exam after exam.
6. Always Follow the “Rules” of the ACT
Studying is essential, but it isn’t all there is to the ACT. When taking the practice tests, you should always try to recreate the “real deal.” This means adhering to the rules that you would face on test day: no turning back to previous sections, keeping within time limits, and taking scheduled breaks.
Students actually find while they can tackle the subject matter just fine, they truly struggle with the time constraints. By always taking your practice tests under these constrictions, you can ensure you’re truly ready on test day for anything.
7. Work with a Tutor
Another way to prepare for the ACT is to work with a tutor! This may be someone in your local area, through your high school, or through an online program. They have the experience to help you reach your goals with structured programs.
ACT tutors, however, can be expensive, and aren’t for everyone. Students interested in working with a tutor should compare their options before deciding. Study groups may also be available through schools.
8. Take Your FIrst ACT Early
The sooner you take your first ACT the better. You can even view it as a practice test! This gives you plenty of time to improve your score and aim for the 36, while also getting some experience under your belt.
9. Keep Retaking the ACT
A 36 is unlikely to happen during your very first ACT test! Instead, you will want to keep taking the official ACT to keep trying for the top score. You generally have until the November or December of your graduating year to take the ACT, so between sophomore year and these months, you have quite a few opportunities to sit for the exam!
While most students will not earn a 36 on the ACT, it is possible, but you can’t go into the exam without prep. Practice tests, working with a tutor, and having the right approach to studying will make all the difference, but could make a top score a reality.
Colleges and universities are looking for certain ACT scores from their students. Are you wondering how you compare? Our College Match tool and individual college pages give you all the details you need about college expectations for the ACT and SAT.