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What is ACT all about?

The ACT is a standardized test for high school achievement and college admissions in the United States produced by ACT, a nonprofit of the same name. ACT consists of multiple choice tests covering four skill areas: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. There is one optional Writing Test which measures skill in planning and writing a short essay.

Specifically, ACT states that its scores provide an indicator of college readiness, and that scores in each of the subtests correspond to skills in entry-level college courses in English, algebra, social science, humanities, and biology.

The majority of colleges do not indicate a preference for the SAT or ACT exams and accept both, being treated equally by most admissions officers. However some colleges prefer ACT over SAT Subject tests. So, depending upon your college preference, you shall choose which exam you want to give.

The ACT is more widely used in the Midwestern, Rocky Mountain, and Southern United States, whereas the SAT is more popular on the East and West coasts. Recently, however, the ACT is being used more on the East Coast. Use of the ACT by colleges has risen as a result of various criticisms of the effectiveness and fairness of the SAT.


The ACT is divided into four multiple choice subject tests: English, mathematics, reading, and science reasoning. The test scores range from 1-36. The English, mathematics, and reading tests also have sub scores ranging from 1 to 18. The composite score is the average of all four tests.

In addition, there is one optional writing test. The writing score ranges from 1-36. The writing score does not affect the composite score.

On the ACT, each question correctly answered is worth one raw point. There is no penalty for marking incorrect answers on the multiple-choice part of the test. Hence, a student can answer all questions without suffering a decrease in his/her

score for the questions he/she answers incorrectly. This is parallel to several AP Tests that eliminate the penalties for incorrect answers.

To improve the result, students can also retake the test.

· English

1. It is the first section and has a time limit of 45 minutes.

2. This section covers usage/mechanics, sentence structure, and rhetorical skills.

3. The 75-question test consists of five passages.

Usage and mechanics – issues such as commas, apostrophes, (misplaced/dangling) modifiers, colons, and fragments and run-ons.

Rhetorical skills – style (clarity and brevity), strategy, transitions, and organization (sentences in a paragraph and paragraphs in a passage).

Sentence structure – constructing sentences in a stylistically and grammatically correct manner.

· Math

1. The second section has a time limit of 60 mins.

2. It has 60 questions.

3. Distribution of questions is 14 covering pre-algebra, 10 elementary algebra, 9 intermediate algebra, 14 plane geometry, 9 coordinate geometry, and 4 elementary trigonometry questions.

4. Calculators are permitted in this section.

· Reading

1. The reading section has a time limit of 35 minutes.

2. It is a 40-question test that consists of four sections out of which three sections contain one long prose passage and one remaining section contains two shorter prose passages.

3. This section assesses skills in 3 categories: key ideas and details, craft and structure, and integration of knowledge and ideas.

4. Students will be asked to use their referring and reasoning skills to determine main ideas; locate and interpret significant details; understand sequences of events; make comparisons; comprehend

cause-effect relationships; determine the meaning of context-dependent words, phrases, and statements; draw generalizations; and analyze the author’s or narrator’s voice and method.

· Science Reasoning

1. This test has time limit of 35 minutes.

2. It consists of 40 questions.

3. There are 7 passages each consisting of 5-7 questions.

4. The passages have three different formats: Data Representation, Research Summary, and Conflicting Viewpoints.

· Writing

1. The optional writing section has a time limit of 40 minutes.

2. Essays are on the basis of a given prompt.

3. The prompts are about broad social issues and students must analyze three different perspectives given, and show how their opinion relates to these perspectives.

4. No particular essay structure is required.

5. Two trained readers assign each essay sub scores between 1 and 6 in four different categories: Ideas and Analysis, Development and Support, Organization, Language Use and Conventions.

6. Even though, the writing section is optional, many colleges require essay score for determining admission.

When is ACT conducted?

ACT is offered 7 times a year in US and its territories while in other locations ACT is offered five times a year.


Candidates may choose ACT assessment ($46.00), or the ACT assessment plus writing ($62.50).

Hope you understand all the details you need to know about different sections in ACT. Keep reading our blogs for other useful topics!

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