What is the Highest ACT Score? By Thomas Broderick

This blog post originally appeared on the Magoosh high school blog.

So you’ve come to learn about the highest ACT score? Welcome! First thing’s first: What is the highest ACT score? 36. 36 composite (overall), and 36 in each test (or section). Still reading? That’s awesome! Most people, once they learn that the highest ACT score is 36, go on their merry way. But if you’re seeking to raise your ACT score to such sky-high levels, read on for some tips and tricks to reach the top of the ACT score charts.

By the Numbers

Appropriately, scoring a perfect 36 is a numbers game. Here are a few of the facts to get us started:

  • In 2014, 7 out of every 1,000 test takers scored a perfect 36 on the ACT.
  • You can miss up to five questions on the ACT and still earn a 36 (depending on what sections you miss them in!)
  • The 99th percentile of test takers includes those who earn a 35 or 34 on the ACT.

What does this mean for you? In the first place, you can miss a handful of questions and still get that perfect score. In the second place, missing even a few more questions isn’t the end of the world—scores of 34 and 35 are strong enough to bolster your application at even the most competitive schools.

Still, aiming for the very top is a great way to ensure that you get one of these great scores. And by prepping smart, you may just be one of those 7 out of 1,000 to get that 36!

So How Do I Get a Perfect ACT Score?

There are so many ways, so many guidebooks to help you reach the summit that it can be hard to know where to start. Perhaps you already took the PreACT and haven’t done much since then. Taking an ACT practice test is your first step to see where you are and how much progress you want to make. As you continue to reach for that perfect score on the ACT, constantly evaluate your work. What types of questions continually stump you? Then, seek out ACT study guides, lessons, posts, and practice problems in these areas. Continually test yourself to make sure you’re integrating what you’ve learned into your test-taking.

What’s a 36 Worth?

A 36 was worth a lot more ten or fifteen years ago. Scoring a perfect 36 has completely lost its value over time, but many colleges and scholarships have adopted more holistic (well-rounded) admissions approaches to giving out letters of acceptance and/or monetary awards. In a lot of ways, this is good news for students, as the process values your coursework, letters of recommendation, essays, and other factors as well.

A 36, though, will get your application moved to the top of of the pile, particularly at less competitive institutions. At some Ivy League schools, a full 25% of the entering class scores 36s! Nevertheless, a perfect score does make your application all the more appealing—colleges love to brag about the percentage of perfect-scoring applicants they’ve admitted each year.

To have your 36 really shine in your application, make sure those grades are good, or at least improving, throughout high school. Admissions counselors are generally sympathetic to students who stumbled a bit their freshman year and turned themselves around. If that’s you, make sure to emphasize this in your admissions essays. Keep in mind, as well, that some colleges will accept ACT superscores. So if your perfect 36s vary in section from test to test, your superscore may still be that perfect 36!

Last but not least, make sure that there’s one or two extracurricular activities in there, too. You don’t want to make it seem that your only after-school activity was test prep. You’re on a tough quest, but a worthy one! A 36 is difficult to achieve—but not impossible.

About the author, Magoosh: We’re a bunch of education nerds who get super stoked about helping students achieve their academic dreams. Visit our high school blog for more resources and tips on how to achieve your dream ACT score!