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Act composite vs subscores

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Do colleges care more about the composite score on the ACT, or do they focus mainly on the subscores? Also would it make a difference if someone had a 34.5 composite vs someome who had a 35 composite flat or a 35.25 composite, since they would all just appear as a 35. Or would colleges just consider all 35s equally.

ACT

4 answers

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I'll answer this in a different way.

If your ACT score is 32 or less, I think that some colleges have their own subscore criteria and like to see that either you're sort of equal across the 4 test buckets or at least have the subscore they consider a min.score for a single or more bucket. For instance, if you are applying as an English major and have 31, 30 for your English, Reading score and 34, 33 for Math and Science score, that doesn't look as good as it flipped the other way.

Since you have a 35 composite already, I do not believe there is a single school out of 5300 colleges that would scrutinize your subscores. In fact, an unwritten rule is that if you have a 33 or over at Harvard, they treat you the same as someone with a 36. They only care that you have met the standard and know that there's not much difference between someone in the 98th Percentile or 99th Percentile in terms of what they test measures which we all know is not content, but test-taking ability. If that doesn't make you happy then at least know that the historically hardest school to get in to with test scores is now Test Blind and that is CalTech. (the 25/75% middle is 35/36). This cycle if you submit a score, they redact it before the reader reads your file.

Best of luck.

Can I ask the source for the Harvard Unwritten rule? I’m not doubting it I just want to read about it for myself?
Ok thanks for the answer. But do you think that colleges will treat a 34.5 and a 35.25 the same since they are both 35s even though one is 3 points less subsocre wise?
In your case, it is highly doubtful. Even if you had a 36 36 36 30 = 34.5 that is 99% score. I'd stop worrying about this dimension and focus on areas of your application you can improve on like essays, making sure your recommender has the best data to work with, honing your ECs, and keeping your grades up. Best.
Agree the only edge case would be at HYP caliber schools if all ECs all essays all rec letters were the same so it really only applies in <1% of cases at the top 1% schools.
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Since less than 1% of Harvard applicants have Summa status, the bulk of admits fall into 2s and 3s and some 4s through 6s. Most admits are 2s. Either 2+, 2, 2-, and occasionally a 3+ gets in if they are a recruited athlete, development candidate, or someone like David Hogg 1270 who is a famous HS activist. The academic table from Harvard Admission Guide is @ 1.44 on the video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DX98-1cuUFM
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All of the answers provided have included good information and I think answer your question well enough. With a 35 composite you don't need to worry about those minor 1/4 or 1/2 point differences. You're in the top percentile of ACT test takers and at that point you've crossed that threshold and the AOs are going to be more concerned about the rest of your profile.

I think @CameronBameron gave a great suggestion that it's time to move on to areas of your application where you have more room to improve and which will most likely have a greater impact on your application. I'd make sure to nail down your essay as priority one only because I imagine it will be hard to improve ECs with the current COVID situation (if you can improve ECs definitely do). If you have any follow-up questions please let me know.

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So generally it’s composite but it heavily depends on major. A school I looked at believe it was Michigan requires a minimum of x in math for all engineering majors. Also a pure engineering school will weigh math more than English so it depends on school and major. For example K state requires a score of 1200 if I remember correctly requires 21 ACT and doesn’t care if it’s a 18 ACT Math and a 36 in English as an engineering student you’ll still be admitted.

Hope this helps and please comment if you need clarification as I’d be happy to help clarify!

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It honestly depends on the colleges you're applying to. Most colleges look at your subscores and will average your highest scores in each sections. Make sure to check the college's website to make sure. I believe al 35s will be considered equally.