Standardised Tests

Know everything about ACT Test

Know everything about ACT Test

Sneha Arya

ACT Inc., the Non-profit conducting the exam, explains that the test "measures the knowledge, understanding, and skills that you have acquired throughout high school." The best preparation for the test, according to them, is "a sound, comprehensive, high school education." It's now used by colleges in the United States, Canada, and other countries, as an alternative to the SAT, for admissions.

What's the ACT?

The ACT measures your ability to take the ACT test. Huh?!! Ya, that's right. Plain and simple. And the only reason it's important is that colleges say so!

All four-year colleges and universities in the USA and over 225 universities outside the USA accept ACT scores.

The ACT is offered seven times a year in India; the following are months:

  • February
  • April
  • June
  • July
  • September
  • October
  • December

How does the ACT help in the admission process?

Today universities are full of applications with only a marginal increase in admission facilities, so they rely on ACT scores to screen applicants. So admission officers at colleges review this standardized ACT score along with high school grades, classes taken, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, and admission interviews. 

In such a scenario where most students will have all the mentioned pre-requisites in place, the ACT score can be a decider for acceptance at a college. Besides, the ACT score is essential to the colleges because the admitted students' ACT scores will be integrated into their annual ACT statistics and thus elevate their place.

However, just having a good ACT score will not be an assurance of admission, but it can be a decisive factor in a competitive arena.

To stand a winning chance at an Ivy League school, an ACT score of at least 30 is necessary. Reputed colleges like Harvard require an ACT score of 33-35; at Stanford, it is 32-35, and at UC Berkley, it is 31-35. Most other colleges expect an above-average score of 21 or higher.

So your ACT score is significant. In fact, be proactive and check the required ACT scores at the colleges that you intend to apply to so that you have a target to focus on. Plan to take the test in advance to have ample time to take a re-test if your scores aren't up to the mark.

Registrations usually close five weeks before each ACT test date. For more information and to locate International Test Centers, click here.

What is ACT's Test Structure?

The ACT test consists of four required sections—English, Math, Reading, and Science and a Writing section that is optional overall but recommended for specific colleges.

The English Section

The English section of the ACT is the first section and contains 75 multiple-choice questions that you will have 45 minutes to complete. The questions are paired with five written passages, each of which is associated with 15 questions. 

It means that you'll have only nine minutes to read through each passage and answer the 15 questions that go along with it. Time management will be key here.

The Math Section

The Math section of the ACT is the second section and consists of 60 questions delivered in 60 minutes. The arrangement of questions is not by subject area or topic but are by the level of difficulty. It means that questions commonly found You will find easiest at the beginning of the test and that the questions will become more difficult and complex.

Calculators, unlike in the SATs, are allowed in the entire Math section. Approved calculators are allowed on the ACT, but test designers note that You can technically solve all questions without a calculator. Be sure to review the ACT calculator policy. 

The Reading Section

The Reading test is the third section that contains 40 questions, and you're allowed 35 minutes to complete it. It comes out to an average of about 50 seconds per question. Still, in reality, you will have significantly less than that since you will also need to spend a significant amount of your time reading the passages included in this section.

The Reading test contains three standalone passages and one set of paired passages. Each is written to be about the same difficulty as a college-level text, followed by ten questions on content.

The passages cover four topic areas; each passage or pair of passages cover each of the topics. These include humanities, social studies, natural sciences, and literary fiction. No pre-existing knowledge is assumed in the passages, so everything you need to know to answer the questions can be found directly in the text. The questions are designed specifically to test your reading comprehension and critical reading skills.

The Science Section

The Science section of the ACT consists of 40 multiple-choice questions that you'll answer over 35 minutes. This section is the last required part of the ACT; the Writing section is optional. 

Some students may find that they are beginning to feel fatigued when they arrive at this part of the test or somewhat bored. If this is the case for you, you should try to refuel between the beginning of the science section and the Reading section that precedes it.

The Science ACT consists of seven brief passages, divided among Data Representation, Research Summary, and Conflicting Viewpoints. Typically, there are three passages each of Data Representation and Research Summary, with the remaining passages being conflicting Viewpoints. Five to seven multiple-choice questions will accompany each passage.

Although this section is called the Science section, all the information needed to answer the questions will be in the passage. No outside knowledge about science is necessary for this section. A maximum of 2 questions can be asked about science in general, but no more than that.

The Optional Writing Section

The Writing section, the final section, which consists of a single essay, is an optional component of the ACT, meaning you can take the rest of the exam without completing this portion. 

However, many colleges recommend you complete the Writing section as part of their applications, so be sure to find out which schools recommend it before you signup for the test.

The infographic below summarises the structure of the ACT Test:

Summary of the ACT Test Sections

With 2 hours 55 minutes to answer a total of 215 questions, that's less than a minute per question. So this test is all about thinking on your feet and being alert and quick. And that can be acquired with practice and discipline. 

There are ample practice sessions and such help available online. ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36 points. Your composite score is the average of your scores in the 4 sections, which is also on the same scale. So you need to score consistently in all sections. The writing test score gets evaluated separately. 


The ACT converts your "raw score" for each part of the test to a "scaled score." In the end, your three scaled scores get summed to produce a final score out of 36. The questions have equal weight, with a correct answer earning one raw point and no negative marking for incorrect ones. The final score gets derived from the raw score, the precise conversion chart varying from test to test.

Free Training:

We at AP Guru have put in free guides and tutorials for you to ace the ACT. Please visit our ACT Free Training page.

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