ACT Test Overview

ACT Test OverviewThe ACT Test is a standardized exam that is used by U.S. colleges in their admissions process.  The ACT assesses a student's college readiness in the subject areas of English, Mathematics, Reading and Science.  Students may also take the ACT Plus Writing which includes a 30 minute Writing exam. The ACT Test serves a similar function to the SAT in that both are used by colleges and universities as a factor in admissions. 

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Different institutions place varying degrees of importance on standardized tests and use them along with other factors such as GPA, class rank, community service, recommendations and extracurricular activities.

The ACT Test is meant to measure a high school student’s readiness for college.  The ACT Test consists of multiple choice questions in the areas of: English, mathematics, reading, and science.  There is also an ACT Plus Writing Test which is a thirty minute essay test that evaluates your writing skills.  The ACT Writing Test is required by some colleges and optional for others.

ACT Test Scores range from 1 to 36 for each of the sections.  There are six ACT Test Dates for the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Territories. 

ACT TestACT Test Format 

The ACT Exam consists of a total of 215 questions.  You are given a total of 175 minutes to complete the test.  The table below lists the sections of the test in more detail.

Time Limit
Number of Questions
 ACT English  45 minutes  75 questions  Covers: punctuation, grammar, usage, and sentence structure.  Also tests your rhetorical skills in: strategy, organization, and style.
 ACT Math  60 minutes  60 questions  Covers basic mathematical skills that are typical for a student at the end of 11th grade.  You will be tested on: pre-algebra, elementary algebra, intermediate algebra, coordinate geometry, plane geometry and trigonometry
 ACT Reading  35 minutes  40 questions  Evaluates your reading comprehension. You will be given four passages and use your referring and reasoning skills to: identify main ideas, locate important details, understand sequences of events and make comparisons.
 ACT Science  35 minutes  40 questions  Measures your skills in the natural sciences. You will be evaluated on interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning and problem solving.

 To help prepare for the exam, you should try our Free ACT Practice Tests.

ACT Test Registration

The ACT Test is offered six times a year in most states.  The ACT Test Dates are on Saturdays in the months of September, October, December, February, April and June.

ACT Test Registration is typically done online.  The advantages to online registration include the ability to see if there is an open slot at your test center and the ability to print your admission ticket.  To register online, you will need to create an account at   When you create a student web account, you will be asked to supply your contact information, address/phone number, and information about your high school.  WIth a student web account, you can print your admission ticket, select and change your ACT test dates, see your scores, request score reports to send to colleges, and update your high school grades.

The ACT test fees vary depending on the type of test you are taking, when you register, and how many schools you want to send your scores to.  The current fees are $34 for the standard ACT and $49.5 for the ACT Plus Writing.  For late registration or to change your test dates you will pay an additional $21 fee.  You will also pay $10 for sending your scores to more than the included 4 colleges.

ACT Test Preparation

 Students have a wide variety of options available to them to prepare for their ACT tests.  Many high schools include ACT test preparation as part of their junior year curriculum.  Schools also offer optional ACT prep classes, either free or for a small fee. Other standard ways of preparing for the ACT include purchasing an ACT study guide, taking ACT practice tests, or using ACT online test prep resources.

ACT Test Scores

 Your ACT Test Scores are intended to measure your current academic levels in English, math, reading and science.  You are given a score of 1 to 36 for each of the 4 sections of the test.  Your ACT composite score (an average of the four test scores) is then computed.  The ACT Composite score will also have a range of 1 to 36.  Your ACT scores are best thought of as representing a range of your academic abilities.  For example, if you have an ACT composite score of 24, you may consider your range of scores to be 23 to 25.

To best understand and use your ACT scores you should:

  • Compare them to other students scores (by viewing your percentile rank)
  • Determine whether they are good enough to meet the ACT requirements of your selected colleges
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses in you academic abilities
  • See how they compare to your high school grades