How ACT Essays are Scored

Your essay will be scored analytically using a rubric with four domains that correspond to different writing skills. Two trained readers will separately score your essay, giving it a rating from 1 (low) to 6 (high) in each of the following four domains.

  1. Ideas and analysis
  2. Development and support
  3. Organization
  4. Language use and conventions

Each domain score represents the sum of the two readers’ scores and is reported on a scale of 2 to 12. If the readers’ ratings differ by more than one point, a third reader will evaluate the essay and resolve the discrepancy.

Your writing score is calculated from your domain scores and is reported on a scale of 1 to 36. The readers take into account that you had merely 40 minutes to compose and write your essay. Within that time limit, polish your essay as best as you can.

Make sure that all words are written clearly and neatly. Although handwriting is not scored, it could negatively affect your score if the readers can’t decipher it. With careful planning, you should have time to briefly review and edit your essay after you have finished writing it.

Keep in mind that you probably will not have time to rewrite or even recopy your essay. Instead, you should take a few minutes to think through your essay and jot preliminary notes on the planning pages in the scoring booklet before you begin to write. Pre-writing (planning) helps you organize your ideas, manage your time, and keep you on track as you compose your essay.