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Test PrepACT

The ACT: An Overview

What’s It Used For?

The ACT is a standardized test used primarily by four year colleges for admission purposes. High school students are the most common test-takers. Colleges use scores to evaluate applicants from differing backgrounds. Many schools require submission of an ACT (or SAT) score, although a growing number are making standardized tests optional.

Test Content

The chart below outlines what's on the test. You'll want to prepare for it in two ways: by reviewing the test content and familiarizing yourself with how the questions are posed. You'll also want to develop your test-day strategy - everything from pacing yourself to keeping yourself energized on the day of the exam.

Section Time Questions Skills Tested
Math 60 minutes 24 Pre-Algebra & Elementary Algebra
18 Intermediate Algebra & Coordinate Geometry
18 Plane Geometry and Trigonometry
Reading 35 minutes 20 Social Studies & Sciences
20 Arts & Literature
Reading Comprehension
English 45 minutes 40 Usage & Mechanics
35 Rhetorical Skills
Grammar & Usage Punctuation Sentence Structure Rhetorical (Writing) Skills
Science 35 minutes 40 Science Reasoning Reasoning
30 minutes 1 Essay Prompt Writing


Each of the four test areas of the ACT (English, mathematics, reading and science) is scored 1 to 36, with 36 being the highest possible score. These four test scores are then averaged and rounded to the nearest whole number to obtain a composite score from 1 to 36. If you take the ACT Plus Writing, your essay will be evaluated by two professional readers who will assess the overall quality of your written expression and award your essay a subscore of 1 to 12. This subscore will be combined with your English test score (your performance on the English multiple-choice questions will account for two-thirds of the score while the essay will count for one-third) to arrive at a composite English test score. Your score report for the ACT Plus Writing will include both your writing score and your English score, before and after the composite English score is determined. (For details regarding the writing score, visit


The ACT is administered five times per year between October and June. However, some states also offer the exam in late September as well. Most students take the ACT in the spring of their junior year and/or the fall of their senior year. Since the exam measures mathematics skills commonly taught through the third year of college preparatory study, it is not recommended to take your first ACT earlier than the spring of your junior year unless you are highly advanced in your academic work.

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