The first sight that will greet you when you open your ACT test packet will be the ACT English section. It contains the most questions of any section on the test (75 of them!), but it only allows you 45 minutes to answer them. Your raw score will be translated into a score from 1-36 and, along with your scores from the Reading, Math, and Science sections, will be included as part of your composite score (more on overall ACT scoring here).
The ACT English section focuses on testing your skills in usage/mechanics and rhetorical skills. This is the nitty gritty part of writing. A good score in this section demonstrates you have a solid grasp on the English language and can recognize when it is used effectively. Perhaps more importantly, it proves you can recognize and fix writing that isn’t effective.
If you are hoping to be in the top half of test takers, shoot for a scaled score of 20 on the ACT English. Most people consider above average to be a good score. But we’ll break this down a little bit more, depending on what your goals are.
Give it to me straight: What score do I need?
What exactly is a “good score”? The answer is different for everyone, of course, but here are some general ideas to keep in mind.
According to the ACT’s “Norm Chart” for the multiple choice sections and composite score, the mean, or average, scaled score of the ACT English section is a 20.
For a good ACT score, shoot for above average: anything above 20 will put you ahead of the pack. For a great ACT score, look to reach the 90th percentile of scores (top 10 percent) on the ACT English, where you should score above a 29. And for an exceptional ACT score? If you are applying to more competitive universities, like the Ivy Leagues, you want to ideally be in the 30+ range.
Most schools don’t throw an otherwise-qualified application out the window because of a lower ACT English score, but it’s always a good idea to shoot for a score similar to those of people who have been accepted in the past. After all, it worked for them!
Why does the ACT English test matter?
You may be thinking: “I hate grammar and sentence structure. I’d rather study for the other sections and just not do as well on the English. It’ll be fine.”
Yes, grammar is not everyone’s favorite subject. However, something to remember about the ACT English section is that it’s included in the composite score. This means your score on this section is averaged with the scores you get on the Math, Science, and Reading sections to produce your single composite score, so you can’t really afford to have a “throwaway” section.
Confused? Let’s look at an example.
Imagine your section scores broke down like this:
- English: 17
- Math: 25
- Reading: 24
- Science: 23
Your composite score would be 22.
Even though all three other scores were above 22, the English score was significantly lower than the others, which dragged the composite score down. The lesson? No slacking on the English (or any other part of the composite score)!
Don’t worry. It’s not going to be THAT bad.
What have we learned? Let’s review!
- ACT English focuses on grammar, punctuation, and rhetorical strategies.
- A 20+ scaled score puts you above average.
- A 30+ scaled score is a great, competitive score.
- No slacking allowed!
If you need to brush up on the topics covered by the ACT English section or want to explore some more topics related to this test, take a peek at this run-down.