Last Updated: January 15, 2022
What is the ACT Test?
ACT, American College Testing, is a standardized test based on high school courses to assess high school achievements for all four-year college admissions in the U.S. It is conducted by ACT Inc, which is a non-profit organization. SAT
, Scholastic Aptitude Test, is the main competitor of ACT. Most universities accept both SAT and ACT
ACT assessment measures the capability of high school students 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.
Who can Apply for ACT?
The ACT examination has been created for students who are currently pursuing their education in 10th, 11th, and 12th-grade levels. Since it is a medium for institutions to recognize merit and provide college admission to suitable candidates, the test is highly competitive with small score fluctuations resulting in gaining or losing a coveted college seat. But at the same time, students who are enrolled in 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th-grade levels are also eligible to apply for the examination as long as they are above 13 years of age. Most students choose to take the Pre-ACT
at that age group after which they choose to take the ACT examination if their scores are satisfactory.
Eligibility Requirements for ACT
Students above the age of 13 may attempt the examination which includes students from 8th, 9th, and 10th-grade levels.
There is no upper age limit for the examination.
Cost of Taking ACT
The full ACT Fee without the writing test would be $60.00
whereas the full ACT Fee with the writing component
. In case the candidate chooses to switch between the tests, the amount charged for the writing component is refundable upon a written request.
The fee includes test reports for the candidate, the high school, and four colleges if their codes were provided during registration.
In addition to this, the candidate will have to pay an extra amount for late registration, standby testing, to change the test date or center, and to avail a 5th or 6th scorecard for other universities(if applicable). The details of the additional charges may vary from time to time and is available on the official website of ACT. As of now, the test option change fee is $25.00.
How to Register/Apply for ACT?
There are different ways in which students or guardians will be able to apply for the ACT examination. The most common method especially during the pandemic is the online mode of registration. The ACT is conducted on 6 National and 7 International dates apart from the District and State Testing dates in order to be all-inclusive. Students can apply for the ACT through District Testing, State Testing, and On-Campus Testing Programs which are largely dependent on the region one resides in.
- District Testing- In this mode, the test will be paid for by the district or the school. Candidates will be able to attend the test on weekdays during school hours.
- State Testing- In the absence of District Testing in select localities, the State funds ACT at different schools. It will be held during school hours. Further information regarding this mode may be availed by contacting the district as it may change according to State.
- On Campus Testing-This mode gives colleges the power to conduct and score ACT on campus any time of the week. The scores received through this mode will be valid only within the respective campus.
One can also apply for the test through the official ACT website with the high school course details, a headshot photo, and a credit card or with other payment options in hand.
Test Dates for ACT
ACT is conducted 7 times a year nationally where the National Test dates
are applicable to the United States, United States territories and Puerto Rico.
There is an option to avail standby testing if the candidate has missed the late registration deadline, or if the candidate missed their chance to choose a test date or test center.
The conditions that apply for standby testing are as follows-
- Candidates are not guaranteed a seat under standby testing.
- Candidates must compulsorily bring a photo identification and printed Standby Ticket.
- Ensure that the candidates name is displayed on the Standby Roster at the test center.
- Candidate must pay an additional standby testing fee.
- Standby request will be considered valid only after the completion of providing required information along with the fee payment.
- Standbys are admitted into test centers depending on the order in which they arrive.
- Standbys may be admitted only based on the availability of seats and test materials after all registered students have been admitted.
Format for ACT Test
The ACT Format
consists of a multiple-choice section and an optional writing test. The multiple-choice section comprises 215 questions covering the four subsections of English, Reading, Mathematics, 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 40 minutes(total 215 minutes) if one takes the optional writing test.
There will be no long breaks available in between the test. But a short break will be given after the first two tests where the candidates will not
be permitted to use cell phones or other electronic gadgets. Candidates will not be allowed to eat or drink anything in the test room as well.
If the candidate has opted to take the ACT with writing, time will be provided before after the four sections to relax before the writing section.
Recommended Study material and books for ACT
|Test||# of Questions||Score(s)||Duration|
|English Test||75||Usage / Mechanics (40 questions)|
Rhetorical Skills (35 questions)
|Mathematics Test||60||Pre-Algebra / Elementary Algebra (24 questions)|
Intermediate Algebra / Coordinate Geometry (18 questions)
Plane Geometry / Trigonometry based (18 questions)
|Reading Test ||40|| Social Studies / Natural Sciences reading skills (20 social studies & natural sciences questions)|
Arts / Literature reading skills (20 prose fiction & humanities questions)
|Science Test|| 40||None: the total test score is based on all 40 questions.||35 mins.|
Calculate ACT Score
One point is awarded for every correct answer among the multiple-choice questions and there is no negative marking for a wrong answer. Each of the four sections(English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science) has a raw score, scaled score, and a composite score.
The raw score
is the number of questions answered correctly by the student. This raw score is converted into a scaled score
between 1 and 36.
The composite score
is calculated by taking the average of the four scaled scores of each section. Hence, it is in the range of 1 to 36. All the scores are rounded off to the nearest integer.
The multiple-choice section and writing test are graded separately which implies that the score obtained in the optional writing test does not affect the score received in the multiple-choice section.
The score in the written test ranges between 1 and 36. The written 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 scores, 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 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. For more details regarding ACT Scoring, click here
Reporting Categories in ACT
The reporting categories are benchmarks with which an examiner can assess the performance of a student in a test through each grade. Knowing the reporting category of each subsection allows the candidate to focus learn and better one's performance after the trials.
Firstly, in English, they look at the production of writing, knowledge of writing, and conventions of Standard English.
Secondly, Math includes numbers and quantities, algebra, functions, geometry, statistics, and probability along with an overall skill to integrate essential aspects.
Thirdly, Reading focuses on key ideas and details, craft and structure, integration of knowledge and ideas.
Fourthly, in Science, they look for an interpretation of data, scientific investigation, evaluation of models, inferences, and experimental results.
Retaking ACT test
Candidates may retake the test as many times as required. The scorecard will be issued separately for each test and hence the candidate will be able to choose the score they want to present in colleges.
ACT now permits students to retake individual test sections/subjects according to the section they want to improve their score
in instead of the full test. Candidates may take a retest as many times as required. The retest will be offered on the National ACT dates which are conducted 7 times a year.
The conditions to avail this are as follows-
- Candidates must have taken a full ACT test before applying for a Section Retest.
- Candidates must have a valid composite score on file.