A Perfect Score on the ACT
You can get up to five questions wrong on the ACT (or miss them—the test doesn’t deduct points in either case, so they count the same towards your score) and still get a 36. That statement, though, has to be heavily qualified! For instance, those five questions? They’d have to be in precise categories for you to still get a 36.
In the first place, we definitely don’t recommend going into the test thinking “I can get x number of questions wrong and still get a perfect score!” In the second place, the best strategy is to try your best on every question.
However. Let’s say as a matter of academic interest, you wanted to know how many questions you could miss on the ACT and still get a perfect score—not for your own personal use, mind you, but rather just out of curiosity. The answer’s actually pretty interesting.
A perfect composite (overall) score on the ACT is 36. This 36 is the average of four subscores from the sections that make up the larger test: English, Math, Reading, and Science.
Perfection on the ACT by Subject
To get a perfect 36 in English, you can’t get any questions wrong. In Math, you can miss one. In reading, you can’t get any wrong; ditto in science.
Don’t despair, perfectionists! Remember, your total score is the average of your subscores from the four different categories. This is great news for those of you aiming for a 36, because you could get a 35 in two categories if you got a 36 in the other two, and it would average out to a 36 (rounded up from 35.5).
(If you are also aiming for a perfect 36 on the ACT essay, check this out.)
A Loophole to an ACT 36?
Strangely enough, the number of questions you can get wrong on the ACT and still get a perfect score varies by which section you get them wrong in. For a 35 in English, you can get up to two questions wrong. In Math, you can miss up to three. In Reading and Science, it’s one per section.
The two categories that provide us with the maximum flexibility, therefore, are English and Math: combined, you could get five questions wrong (two in English, three in Math) and score 35s in both sections, while getting perfect 36s in Reading and Science. If we flip that around and you have 35s in Reading and Science (missing one question per section) and 36s in Math and English (missing one question and no questions), you could only get three questions wrong.
All in all: if you want to get a perfect score on the ACT, you’re better off studying than worrying about how many questions you can get wrong and still achieve that score. However, if you must know: you can get between three and five questions wrong and still get a perfect score on the ACT, depending on the category in which you get them wrong.
PS For those of you confused about how the 1-36 ACT score works—after all, there aren’t exactly 36 questions in any section—we explain it a little more here.