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What's a Good ACT Writing Score?

If you took the ACT Plus Writing, learn what your writing score means.


Ever since the SAT evolved to include a written component, more and more colleges have changed their policies to require ACT students to take the optional Writing Test (see the list of colleges that require ACT Plus Writing). Hundreds more colleges "recommend" the Writing Test, and if a selective college recommends something, you should probably do it. After all, strong writing skills are an essential part of college success.

The ACT Writing Test uses a different scoring scale than the rest of the ACT exam. Whereas the Math, English, Reading, and Science Tests are each scored on a 36-point scale, the Writing Test is scored on a 12-point scale.

The numbers below show how each score measures up against other test-takers:

12 - top 1% of test-takers
11 - top 1% of test-takers
10 - top 1% of test-takers
9 - top 6% of test-takers
8 - top 14% of test-takers
7 - top 49% of test-takers
6 - bottom 37% of test-takers
5 - bottom 11% of test-takers
4 - bottom 7% of test-takers
3 - bottom 2% of test-takers
2 - bottom 1% of test-takers

You can see that an average SAT Writing Test score is about a 7. If you score up in the 10, 11 or 12 range, you are among the very top test-takers in the country (the percentages above are from the ACT website's National Ranks for ACT Scores and are based on data from 2009 to 2011)

To see how your writing score measures up to other applicants, the data below shows the scores for the 25th and 75th percentile of matriculated students at certain colleges. In other words, half of all enrolled students scored somewhere between the lower and upper numbers.

Harvard University
• ACT Writing (25th / 75th): 8 / 10

Kent State University
• ACT Writing (25th / 75th): 6 / 8

• ACT Writing (25th / 75th): 8 / 10

Northwestern University
• ACT Writing (25th / 75th): 8 / 10

Ohio State University
• ACT Writing (25th / 75th): 7 / 8

SUNY New Paltz
• ACT Writing (25th / 75th): 7 / 8

Syracuse University
• ACT Writing (25th / 75th): 8 / 9

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
• ACT Writing (25th / 75th): 7 / 8

University of South Florida
• ACT Writing (25th / 75th): 7 / 8

University of Texas, Austin
• ACT Writing (25th / 75th): 7 / 9

You can see that you don't need a perfect 12 to get into the most selective colleges in the country. In fact, a 9 or 10 puts you in a strong position even at schools like Harvard and MIT.

Keep in mind that your ACT Writing Test score is just a tiny part of your application. Your overall ACT composite score matters more than any individual section of the exam (read What's a Good ACT Score?). A strong application also needs to include glowing letters or recommendation, a winning essay, and meaningful extracurricular involvement. Most important of all is a strong academic record.

Compare ACT Scores: the Ivy League | top universities | top liberal arts colleges | top public universities | top public liberal arts colleges | University of California campuses | Cal State campuses | SUNY campuses | more ACT charts

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