Ever since the ACT modified their essay format and scoring system last September, there has been a lot of controversy about the scoring.  Many students are getting essay scores that do not at all correlate with the rest of their section numbers.

Posts on College Confidential:

 “With all the talk on the low ACT writing scores, I decided to send in a rescore request because I was satisfied with my other and composite scores. My original writing score was a 23 and I felt like I would need to take the ACT again to at least get a 29 on the writing (last thing I wanted to do). Anyways, they increased my writing score to a 33! How could they be so off that they were 10 points incorrect in the first place? Very frustrating…I suggest anyone who is confused with their low writing score do the rescore if you have the ability to. It seems to be worth it.”

 “My daughter scored a perfect 36 on her first ACT essay, then a 27 the next time. We asked for a hand-correction and paid the $50. The re-score was a 33.“

 “I got a 33 composite and scored a 22 writing. Usually I score way higher. This sucks.”


  1. The scoring is as follows and is drilled down into 4 categories:
  • Language Use
  • Ideas and Analysis
  • Development and Support
  • Organization
  1. Two graders will give scores in each, 1-6, which will be combined for a raw score (8-48) and then converted to the scaled score out of 36. (NOTE: Graders cannot spend more than 90 seconds grading an essay!)
  1. If there is more than a 1 point discrepancy between the 2 graders, the essay will be assigned to another grader.)
  1. Students will also receive an ELA score – a combination of the essay and the multiple choice English scores. THE ESSAY SCORE IS NOT FACTORED INTO THE COMPOSITE SCORE.

WHAT IS CONSIDERED AN AVERAGE SCORE? (This is where it gets tricky!)

 The former grading system was based on a combined scale of 2-12, again 2 graders. Most students scored 8-9.  That 8-9 (out of 12) now correlates to a 23-30 (out of 48). The odd thing is that a 23 on the Writing puts the student in the 83rd percentile; whereas on any other section the the test that same score ranges in the 66th – 70th percentile.

A score of 17 is at the same level as 26-36 percent of students in any other section of the exam; however, in the Writing, a score of 17 is in the 52nd percentile.


 I would wager that many colleges are aware of these odd statistical differences – old scoring vs. new and that a 23 is in the 80+ percentile?! If you don’t want to take that chance, submit a request to the ACT to hand score + $50 fee. The rescored essay will be released within 3-5 weeks of your request.

I recommend requesting the hand score if:

  • You student knows their essay ‘knocked it out of the park’ and that the score is truly an error
  • The Writing score is 6> points lower than your composite
  • The subscores don’t seem at all to correlate to the scaled score

Please note that if you do decide to get the essay rescored, the score can only stay the same or go up, not go down.

Hopefully, this will give you and your teen some perspective if you were thoroughly disappointed with your teen’s Writing score. You do have some recourse.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *