What’s the ACT?

The ACT (American College Testing) is a competitor to the SAT test in that it is a standardized test that measures skills needs to be admitted into United States colleges and universities.

The ACT includes 215 multiple-choice questions and takes about 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete, including a short break. If you opt to take the optional writing section the test length increases to about 4 hours.

In comparison to the SAT, the ACT is designed to be an achievement test that measures what a student has learned in high school. The SAT is more of an aptitude test, testing reasoning and verbal abilities.


ACT Structure

The ACT consists of four mandatory sections and one optional writing test:

English75 questions45 minutesMeasures written English and rhetorical skills.
Mathematics60 questions60 minutesMeasures mathematical skills students have typically acquired in high school.
Reading40 questions35 minutesMeasures English reading comprehension.
Science40 questions35 minutesMeasures the interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem-solving skills as required in the natural sciences.
Optional Writing Test1 prompt40 minutesMeasures general writing skills.


ACT Scoring System

Separate scores are given for each part of the test’s four section, which form the basis for a total composite score of up to 36 points.

The composite scores are calculated for each test section based on raw scores. Then these scores are converted to scale scores. There are seven sub scores that ranged from 1 to a maximum of 18. However sub scores are not used to compute the overall test score result.

Most college and university admissions to selective schools will require a score between 27 and 31.

Learn more about ACT scores from the official ACT website.


When, Where, How?

The ACT exam can be taken no more than 12 times in total. Many students take the test twice, once as a junior and then again as a senior in high school. In general students who retake the test perform noticeable better.

The ACT is offered 6 times per year, within the following months:

  • September
  • October
  • December
  • February
  • April
  • June

The test fee various depending on the option you choose. If you opt to take the ACT with no writing component the fee is $39.50. If you however decide to take the ACT with the Writing section, the fee increases to $56.50.

Online registration is the fastest method to sign up. There are many testing centers through the United States. The easiest way to find the nearest one to you is using the ACT testing center search.


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