by Debi Lucas

You’ve taken the ACT® test, but now you’re anxious to find out how you did. Once your score report arrives, it’s important to understand the numbers used to evaluate your performance.

Your official ACT score report shows how you performed on each component of the test. You will see your overall score, in addition to how you compare to other students who took the test.

In this blog, we’ll explain the different numbers found on your score report and how to create a study plan to address the areas you can improve.

Please note: This blog includes a mockup of what your student score report may look like. KD College Prep is not associated with or approved by ACT, Inc.

When will I receive my ACT test scores?

Your official ACT score report will be available through your student web account about 2-3 weeks after the test date. View ACT score release dates.

If you wrote the essay on the test day, that score is usually available about two weeks after the multiple-choice score is posted.

Understanding Your ACT Score Report

understanding act score report

Types of Scores

You’ll receive a score of 1 to 36 on each of 4 sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science.

Your composite score is the average of these 4 section scores. It is found in the dark blue box at the top of the report.

Your STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) score is a representation of your Math and Science section scores.

Your ELA (English, Language Arts) score is a representation of your English, Reading and Writing section scores.

In the score chart, your section scores are listed at the top of each column. Although some colleges focus primarily on the composite score, some colleges or majors will pay special attention to individual section scores.

Below each section score is a horizontal line with shading above and below it. The shading represents your score range. That means you could have reasonably scored anywhere within this range on that section.

Detailed Results

This portion of your report is likely the most important if you’re trying to identify areas where you can improve.

Chances are that you didn’t get a perfect score on your ACT test. But don’t worry! There are ways to identify key areas for improvement.

You can pay extra for the Question and Answer Service to find out exactly which problems you got wrong, but the Detailed Results part of the score report is the next best thing.

While it doesn’t go into the specifics of which questions you missed, it does tell you the areas in which you performed the best and the worst within each of the sections.

For instance, you can find out if you missed more questions in the Algebra or Geometry portions of the Math section. This gives you a clear indication of what areas you should study in order to improve your Math score the next time around.


The rankings section shows how you compare to other people who took the test on a national and state level. Here, the test is broken down by each section of the ACT test.

For example: if your state ranking is in the 99th percentile, this means that you performed within the top 1% of all students in your state who took the ACT test.

Readiness Benchmark

The Readiness Benchmark is the purple line found in the score range box and alongside your percentages in the Detailed Results section. This benchmark is the score you need to be above to demonstrate to colleges that you will be able to handle a college course in that subject.

There is no benchmark for writing.

Next Steps

Did you get a “good” score?

Now that you have your score, you’re wondering if it’s the score you need.

What is considered a “good” score is relative to your college choices. See ACT test score averages for Ivy League and Texas Colleges for more in-depth information.

How do I improve my ACT test score?

If you’ve received your score report and it’s not what you were hoping for, try these 5 Ways to Improve Your ACT Test Score or enroll in a test prep program near you.

How do I send my score report to the colleges I’m applying to?

You’ve reached your target score? Great! Now it’s time to send the score report to the colleges on your list.

ACT, Inc. will send your scores to any colleges you requested when you registered for the test. You can send up to 4 score reports at no cost this way.

To send your scores to a college after you’ve taken the test, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to your ACT web account and select the link “Send Your Scores”.
  2. Choose the test date you want to send, then on the next screen choose “Continue with Score Report Request.”
  3. Fill in the relevant fields for colleges or other institutions. You may select up to 8 schools on one order, but you have to pay the fee ($13) for each school.
  4. After you’ve chosen schools, select “Continue”.
  5. On the next screen you must enter your credit card information. Your request will be processed in about a week and sent to most colleges electronically.

Please note: Score reports requested simultaneously for different colleges may be received by the colleges at different times. Each college receives score reports according to the schedule it selects.

For example, a college may choose to receive scores every Monday, so no matter when you made the request the college will get the scores on the first Monday after your request was processed.

Therefore, you’ll need to allow some extra time between when you request a score report and your application deadline.

Need help improving your ACT test score?

We offer test prep programs to help you reach your target ACT score. Contact a campus near you to get started.

Debi Lucas is a senior campus director at our Plano campus.