All About the ACT Test
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 is now being used by colleges in the United States, Canada and other countries, as an alternative to the SAT, for admissions.
No really, 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 because colleges say so!
All four-year colleges and universities in USA and over 225 universities outside USA accept ACT scores.
The ACT is offered seven times a year in India:
How does the ACT help in the admission process?
Today universities are flooded with applications with only a marginal increase in admission facilities, so they tend to 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, it is the ACT score that can be a decider for acceptance at a college. Besides, the ACT score is important to the colleges too because the admitted students’ ACT scores will be integrated in 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 any of the Ivy League schools, an ACT score of at least 30 is necessary. Reputed colleges like Harvard require an ACT score of 32-35, at Stanford, it is 31-35 and at Berkley, it is 31-34. Most other colleges expect an above-average score of 21 or higher.
So your ACT score is very important. In fact, be proactive and check the required ACT scores at the colleges that you intend to apply so that you have a target to focus on. Plan to take the test in advance so that you have ample time to take a re-test in case 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.
The ACT test consists of four required sections—English, Math, Reading, and Science — as well as a Writing section that is optional overall but recommended for certain 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. This 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 questions are not arranged by subject area or topic, but they are ordered by level of difficulty.This means that questions that are commonly found easiest will be found at the beginning of the test and that the questions will progress to 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 all questions can technically be solved without acalculator. Be sure to review the ACT calculator policy.
The Reading Section
The Reading test is the third section that contains40 questions and you’re allowed 35 minutes to complete it. This comes out to an average of about 50 seconds per question but 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 and is followed by ten questions on its 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 40multiple-choice questions that you’ll answer over the course of 35 minutes.This section is the last required part of the ACT; the Writing section that follows it is optional. Some students may find that when they arrive at this part of the test, they are beginning to feel fatigued or somewhat bored. If this is the case for you, you should try to refuel between the beginning of theScience section and the Reading section that precedes it.
The Science ACT consists of seven brief passages, divided among the categories of Data Representation, Research Summary, andConflicting Viewpoints. Typically, there are three passages each of DataRepresentation and Research Summary, with the remaining passages beingConflicting Viewpoints. Each passage will be accompanied by five to seven multiple-choice questions.
Although, this section is called the Science section, all the information needed to answer the questions will be in the passage. No outside knowledge aboutScience is needed for this section. A maximum of 2 questions can be asked aboutScience 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 to 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:
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 is scored by converting your “raw score”for each part of the test to a “scaled score”. At the end, your three scaled scores are 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 is derived from the raw score; the precise conversion chart varying from test to test.
We at AP Guru have put in free guides and tutorials for you to ace the ACT. Please visit our ACT Free Training page.