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What is ACT Test (American College Testing)?

ACT, American College Testing, is a standardized test to assess high school achievements for all four year college admissions in U.S., produced by ACT Inc, a non profit organization. SAT is the main competitor of ACT. Most universities accept both SAT and ACT scores. There are some universities that accept ACT score instead of SAT subject tests and some other universities accept ACT optional writing test instead of SAT subject tests. ACT assessment measures high school student's capability to complete college-level work. It is offered as a computer-based test except at schools that cannot offer it where it is still conducted in paper format.

ACT Test Structure

The ACT test consists of a multiple choice section and an optional writing test. There are 215 multiple choice questions covering the four subsections - English, Mathematics, Reading and Science. The optional Writing Test measures skill in planning and writing a short essay. It is graded in 4 domains - Ideas and Analysis; Development and Support; Organization; Language Use and Conventions. The test duration is 2 hours and 55 minutes (175 minutes) for the multiple choice test and an additional 35 minutes (total 215 minutes) if you take the optional writing test. This time period does not include the time for breaks. There is a 10 minute break after the first 2 sections and a 5 minute break before the ACT Plus writing. There is a reminder given when there are 5 minutes left for each section.

Test# of QuestionsScore(s)Duration
English Test 75 Usage/Mechanics (40 questions)
Rhetorical Skills (35 questions)
45 mins.
Mathematics Test 60 Pre-Algebra/Elementary Algebra (24 questions)
Intermediate Algebra/Coordinate Geometry (18 questions)
Plane Geometry/Trigonometry based (18 questions)
60 mins.
Reading Test 40 Social Studies/Natural Sciences reading skills (20 social studies & natural sciences questions)
Arts/Literature reading skills (20 prose fiction & humanities questions)
35 mins.
Science Test 40 None: the total test score is based on all 40 questions.35 mins.

Recommended Study material and books for ACT

ACT Score

There is one point for every correctly answered multiple choice question and there is no negative marking for the wrong answer. Each of the four sections (English, Mathematics, Reading and Science) have a raw score and a scaled score. The raw score is the number of questions correctly answered by the student. This raw score is converted into a scaled score between 1 and 36. Composite score is calculated by taking the average of the four scaled scores of each section. Hence, it is in the range of 1 and 36. All the scores are rounded off to the nearest integer.

The optional writing test score does not affect the score of multiple choice section and is graded separately. The writing test ranges between 1 and 36. The writing essay is graded by 2 readers in four domains (Ideas and Analysis; Development and Support; Organization; Language Use and Conventions) and each domain is graded between 1 and 6 by each reader. The scores of both the readers are then added per domain to obtain a score between 2 and 12 per domain. The overall writing score is then calculated from the domain scores and ranges between 1 and 36. If there is a difference of more than 1 point in both the reader's score, a third reader is required. Usually 0 is reserved for blank or near blank essays and 1 for off topic essays.

Based on all of the above scores, ACT also reports two other scores, namely, STEM and ELA. STEM is an average of Mathematics and Science scores. ELA is an average of English, Reading and Writing scores. Although the optional Writing score does not affect the composite score of the student but ELA score is not reported if the student does not take the Writing plus test.

The test can be retaken by the student to improve their scores and they can choose which score they want to send to the universities.

Retaking ACT test

Students who retook the test more than once...
57% increased their Composite score
21% had no change in their Composite score
22% decreased their Composite score

If you have given ACT multiple times you can select which set of scores are sent to colleges.

ACT Resources

Online ACT Practice Tests