There are two pieces of big news for the ACT this year. One was expected, the other was, uh, a little more embarrassing. First off, the long awaited Official Guide is here, containing tests written by the ACT itself. This is a big deal because the ACT has been getting more difficult over the past five years or so. Yet, we only had access to old—like 2009—tests in the official guide. Students would take these practice tests and think, hey, that’s not too bad. Then, they’d take the actual ACT and be in for an unpleasant shock.
The other change had to do with confusion over the essay scores. It’s actually quite a mess and so I won’t go too in depth as to what actually happened. But I will tell you what you need to know to make sense of the most recent score changes.
Regarding the essay, another change happened in 2015. Since it’s pretty recent and not everybody knows about it, I’m going to discuss it below, as well.
The Official ACT Prep Guide
This is a must buy, if you want to take the ACT. The positives include fresh material, solid explanations, and useful tips on how to improve your score. What’s not as positive—and has really raised the hackles of many a test prep expert—is that the guide includes only three measly practice tests. To make matters worse, some of the content is from those old tests. You know, those ones that had material that was far easier than what you’ll see on the actual test. Still, there is enough up-to-date material to provide some practice so you can get the closest thing to an ACT practice test for 2016.
In 2015, the ACT essay score changed from 12 to 36. Sounds innocuous enough, but this really caused a lot of confusion and dismay. For one, 36 is what the other sections are out of, so it can get a little confusing, especially since the ACT essay is optional and not included in the 36 “English” score (but it is included in a subscore—yes, I know, that’s confusing). And this 36 essay score did match up very well (percentile-wise) with the other sections. So when college admissions departments see a 23 writing, which is actually 83%, they don’t see it as a relatively competitive writing score.
A quick fix was that the ACT went back to the 12-point system that is graded by two different graders on four different domains. These four domains are averaged out to give you a total of 12.
With these new scoring changes afoot, it is a good idea to know how scores convert into percentile. This ACT raw score conversion chart should help you out. Meanwhile, don’t forget to run out and get a copy of the Official ACT Prep Guide.
For the last ten years, Chris Lele has been helping students excel on the SAT, ACT and GRE. In this time, he’s coached 5 students to a perfect SAT score. Some of his GRE students have raised their scores by nearly 400 points. He has taken many GMAT students from the doldrums of the 600s to the coveted land of the 700+. Rumor has it he does a secret happy dance when his students get a perfect score. You can read Chris’s awesome blog posts on the Magoosh High School Blog, and study with his lessons using Magoosh SAT Prep.