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For many years, the SATs have dominated the standardised testing. Students could take only one test to get into colleges in the U.S., but now ACT inc, a non-profit organization, has created the ACTs, which is a test just like SAT but with a different format and scale for scoring.
ACT basically “measures the knowledge, understanding, and skills that you have acquired throughout your high school.” The best preparation for the test, according to the ACT inc, is “a sound, comprehensive, high school education.”
While this exam has a reputation for being more popular in the Midwestern states, it’s widely accepted by several colleges.
It is now being used by colleges in the United States, Canada and other countries, as an alternative to the SAT for admissions. As with the SAT, the ACT supplements students’ grades to put their performances in a national perspective and evaluate them.
Just like with the SATs, you can take the ACT as many times as you want. And best of all, you can choose which scores you want to send to the college.
One major change that took place in September 2018, was that the ACT test went online for international test takers. Students who prefer pencil and paper might struggle with this.
The English section of the ACT is the first part of the test to be administered. Some students find that they are most focused at the beginning of a prolonged standardized test, while others find that they take a while to settle in to the testing experience. If you know that you are a student who takes a while to adjust when beginning a test, consider some pre-test warm ups to get into the right mindset ahead of time.
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 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 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 a calculator. Be sure to review the ACT calculator policy.
You should also be aware that unlike in the SAT, there are no references provided on the ACT. This means that you will need to know all necessary common math formulas on your own.
The Reading test is the third section that contains 40 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 of the ACT consists of 40 multiple-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 the Science 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, and Conflicting Viewpoints. Typically, there are three passages each of Data Representation and Research Summary, with the remaining passages being Conflicting 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 about Science is needed for this section. A maximum of 2 questions can be asked about Science in general, but no more than that.
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 sign up for the test.
The ACT, just like the SAT, is a very predictable test. You can crack the test with practice, since the same type of questions are asked, just with different numbers. The format of the test will always be the same.
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.
Just like the SATs, the ACTs can also be mastered with practice.