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Act writing score range 2016

act writing score range 2016

IOWA CITY, Iowa—Beginning this fall with the September national test date, ACT will no longer report ACT writing test scores on a 1-to-36 scale. To reduce confusion among users, the writing score will instead be reported on a range of 2-to-12, with 12 being the highest possible score. The new reported score will be the average of the four 2-to-12 domain scores on the essay.

The writing test itself, which was revised last year, will remain unchanged. The essays will still be scored using the same rubric, on four domains (ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use and conventions) by two independent readers. Scores on the four individual domains on the ACT writing test will continue to be reported on a 2-to-12 range as they are now.

Last year, ACT revised the optional writing test and began converting results to a 1-to-36 score scale to be consistent with the multiple-choice ACT test scores. This change, however, caused confusion among students who attempted to interpret their writing score in comparison to their multiple choice test scores. Each ACT subject test measures different skills, and many students earn higher scores on some tests than on others.

“Our customers have spoken, and we have listened,” said ACT Chief Commercial Officer Suzana Delanghe. “Converting the writing results to a 1-to-36 scale made sense conceptually, but in practice it created confusion among some students. We clearly understand that now, and we are making this change to eliminate the confusion.”

“Our research indicates that scores on the revised ACT writing test are performing no differently in comparison with scores on the other four ACT subject tests than they did on the previous writing test,” said Wayne Camara, ACT senior vice president of research. “Converting the writing scores to the 1-to-36 scale may have made the differences in scores seem larger or more obvious. This is really a perceptual problem that we are addressing.”

ACT advises that students can best interpret how well they scored on an individual subject test by looking at the percentile rank, rather than comparing the score on one subject test to the score on another.

Did you do better than average? Worse? Exactly average? Learn what an average ACT Writing score is in this article.

Note: The information in this article includes average scores both for the current ACT Writing test (on a scale of 2-12, where the total ACT Writing score is an average of the four domain scores) and for the ACT Writing test as it was scored September 2015-June 2016 (on a scale of 1-36).

feature image credit: meet average! by Maria Ly, used under CC BY 2.0/Cropped and modified from original.

What is the ACT Writing Score Range?

ACT Writing scoring differs from the other test sections in three important ways. Unlike your scores for English, Math, Reading, and Science, your ACT Writing score...

  • is on a scale of 2-12, rather than 1-36.
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What’s an Average ACT Writing Score?

Based on updated information released in June 2016, the average ACT Writing score on the 2-12 averaged-domain-score scale is around a 7/12.

doesn't provide specific information about the cumulative percentiles of the domain scores.

1-36 ACT Writing Scoring

For students who received essay scores on the 1-36 scoring scale (all tests taken September 2015-June 2016), the average ACT Writing score was 18-19 out of 36.

How do I know this? Take a look at the following table, which I created by combining the information ACT, Inc. released about the scaling of the Writing test scores with information ACT, Inc. released about percentiles on the Writing test.

Scaled Score

Writing Raw Score
(Domain Scores Sum)

Cumulative Percents
(2015-2016 Actual)

Cumulative Percents
(Score Report)

36

47-48

100

99

35

46

99.58

99

34

44-45

99.50

99

33

42-43

99.43

99

32

41

98.92

99

31

40

98.49

98

30

38-39

98.02

98

29

37

97.15

97

28

35-36

94.60

95

27

34

93.51

95

26

33

91.39

93

25

32

87.90

90

24

31

85.65

88

23

29-30

77.84

83

22

28

68.07

80

21

26-27

63.65

74

20

25

58.23

68

19

24

52.34

63

18

23

44.39

58

17

21-22

39.64

52

16

20

34.30

44

15

25.00

37

14

18-19

21.26

35

13

17

18.14

31

12

16

14.80

23

11

10.91

19

10

14-15

9.02

16

9

13

6.50

13

8

12

3.18

8

7

2.56

8

6

10-11

1.94

6

5

9

1.50

4

4

1.14

3

3

0.86

2

2

0.68

2

1

8

0.62

2

The two highlighted rows in the above table cover the 50th percentile of students. As the third column shows, 44.39 percent of all students who took the ACT with Writing from 2015-2016 got a 18 or below, while 52.34 percent of students got a 19 or below. Because this data was only gathered after the fact, however, the percentiles students saw on their initial score reports were quite different.

In the "one special study" the percentiles reported on score reports were based on, 44 percent of all students who took the ACT with Writing got a 16 or below on Writing, while 52 percent of students got a 17 or below.

How Much Does My Essay Score Matter?

Does your essay score even matter? While there are many colleges that require or recommend ACT Writing scores, most do not provide an ACT Writing score range they want to see.

For students applying to humanities programs, colleges might consider the new English-Language Arts subscore, which combines English, Reading, and Writing section scores; in that case, you'd want your Writing score to be close to (or higher than) your English and Reading scores. Otherwise, my best advice is to make sure your ACT Writing score isn’t drastically (>20 percentage points) lower than your other ACT section scores - that kind of discrepancy might raise a red flag for admissions staff.

Take a look at our full analysis of the ACT Writing scoring rubric.

How long does your ACT essay need to be? Find out how essay length affects your score here.

Confused about the domain scores? Get the inside story on ACT Writing scoring with our complete guide.

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Our program is entirely online, and it customizes what you study to your strengths and weaknesses. If you liked this ACT Writing lesson, you'll love our program. Along with more detailed lessons, you'll get your ACT essays hand-graded by a master instructor who will give you customized feedback on how you can improve. We'll also give you a step-by-step program to follow so you'll never be confused about what to study next.

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Laura Staffaroni

About the Author

Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and earned a Master's degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel in high school.

The new reported score will be the average of the four 2-to-12 domain scores on the essay.

The writing test itself, which was revised last year, will remain unchanged. The essays will still be scored using the same rubric, on four domains (ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use and conventions) by two independent readers. Scores on the four individual domains on the ACT writing test will continue to be reported on a 2-to-12 range as they are now.

Last year, ACT revised the optional writing test and began converting results to a 1-to-36 score scale to be consistent with the multiple-choice ACT test scores. This change, however, caused confusion among students who attempted to interpret their writing score in comparison to their multiple choice test scores. Each ACT subject test measures different skills, and many students earn higher scores on some tests than on others.

“Our research indicates that scores on the revised ACT writing test are performing no differently in comparison with scores on the other four ACT subject tests than they did on the previous writing test,” said Wayne Camara, ACT senior vice president of research. “Converting the writing scores to the 1-to-36 scale may have made the differences in scores seem larger or more obvious. This is really a perceptual problem that we are addressing.”

ACT advises that students can best interpret how well they scored on an individual subject test by looking at the percentile rank, rather than comparing the score on one subject test to the score on another.

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