What is the ACT Test?

ACT Test


The ACT Test is the American College Testing examination. It is a standardized collegiate examination that is somewhat similar in nature to the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). The ACT has been used since 1959. Colleges use the examination results to test the readiness of students to be admitted to college. It isn’t as well-known a test as the SAT but it is widespread. Since 2008 almost all colleges accept the ACT results and use them as a means of judging qualification for merit scholarships.

The ACT test consists of four subjects covered by multiple choice questions which include English, mathematics, science and reading. The essay writing test was added in 2005 but not all schools need or accept this portion of the test. The test is given only during set times of the year and must be scheduled in advance. Test taking is alloted over a 3.5 hour period during which the entire test must be completed.


ACT Test

It’s generally recommended that students take the ACT test at least 2 months prior to the application deadline for colleges or scholarships because the results are usually mailed between 3 and 7 weeks after the examination. Many students find it advantageous to take the test during their junior year because most of the course work required for the test has been completed by the end of the junior year, the scores are completed in enough time to send to colleges and students who do poorly will have time to take the test one or two more times to raise their scores.

Most students who have taken the ACT test find that the scores don’t reflect their intelligence but rather their determination to test well and study. A common thread in students who have done well is that they enjoy reading and it doesn’t mean you have to enjoy reading from the age of 2 and you can start at any time. In fact, you can start right now. Get out to the library and pick up two books. Spend 30 minutes each night before bed reading a book. This helps to relax your mind before bed and improves your ability to do well on the test.



The math section of the examination will be testing information you began learning in 7th grade and building upon year after year of school. Take the practice exams and learn what concepts you are weak on and what you have to study to improve.

The science section is less about your knowledge of biology and chemistry and more about how well you can interpret and extrapolate information from graphs and charts. It’s important to take as many practice tests in science as possible so you have an opportunity to learn the formula the test makers use when preparing the information for the tests. The science portion is also the last one of the examination and will require that you continue to focus through 3 hours of work to achieve this final test.

Before the test get plenty of sleep and eat a good breakfast. Get to the test center early and be relaxed before the test is handed out. You’ll need to check in with a photo ID. Bring a calculator, watch, extra batteries, pencils, erasers and leave your nerves at home.



The scoring for the ACT is 1 point for every answer you get correct and zero for every question you get wrong or skip. In other words – you aren’t penalized for guessing so you should guess. If you are lucky enough to get a guessed question correct you have the chance of increasing your score. This is definitely different from the way in which the SAT is scored.

Having this knowledge should help you to practice and study, as well as have a better chance of getting the best score possible. Remember that the test is developed in a formulaic pattern. This means that the test this year is much the same as it was for the past 10 years. If you can read and interpret the graphs and charts on the science practice tests then you’ll be fine on the real test. The same is true for the English and Math sections.

You can take the ACT as many times as you would like. And because the colleges will take your best score, and not the last score, you have nothing to lose by taking the test one or two more times.

Posted by James - July 27, 2012 at 9:27 am

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