What is the ACT Test and How to Prepare for it?

    Updated on: 18 Mar 2023


    Most of the undergraduate schools in the US and Canada require ACT scores to give admission. These scores are used by colleges and universities to make the admission decision and are administered by ACT Inc. The full form of ACT is American College Testing. This standardized test has been developed to evaluate the mathematical, written, scientific and verbal skills of the candidates. 

    So let's explore the details of ACT and also know how you can best prepare for the test. 

    What is the ACT?

    ACT is a standardized test that evaluates a student's readiness to attend college and also provides colleges and universities with one standard data point that can be used to compare all the applicants. The test comprises five tests- Math, English, Science, Reading, and the optional Essay Writing section. The total exam time is 3 hours 35 minutes (with writing) and 2 hours 55 minutes (without writing)

    Why should I take the ACT?

    Most of the colleges in the USA and Canada require ACT or SAT scores. Therefore, you must give either one of these tests. However, some states have made the ACT mandatory for high school graduation. In most cases, ACT score is the first thing that the college admission officers notice in your application.

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    When can I give the ACT test?

    The ACT test is offered several times a year. You can give the test in the months of February, April, June, September, October and December.

    What subjects are covered by the ACT test?

    There are four main sections in the ACT exam:

    • English
    • Math
    • Reading
    • Science

    There is also an optional 40-minute Writing Test. Some colleges make require the score in the writing section. But it totally depends on the subject you are planning to study in college.

    How can I register for the ACT?

    Following are the steps by which you can register for the ACT exam:

    • Signup on ACT's official website
    • Choose the test center and the test date
    • Create your profile and complete the application request
    • Submit the documents 
    • Get the immediate registration confirmation
    • Pay the exam fee online

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    What is the scoring process of the ACT?

    36 is the highest score a student can get in an ACT section and overall test. It is a scaled score and the scoring is highly complicated. The scores in each test (except writing) range from 1-36. The average of all the sections makes the composite or final score.

    What score is considered good in the ACT?

    A good score in the ACT is one that can help you get admission to the college of your choice. In general, 20 or higher is an above-average ACT score. For elite colleges, an ACT score of 30 or more is good.

    When will I get the ACT score?

    You will get your ACT scores in two parts. The scores for multiple-choice questions are released two weeks after the test. The essay scores are released four weeks after the test. Sometimes, due to various reasons, the ACT scores can come late. For that, you can visit their official website to stay updated.

    ACT vs SAT: Which one should I take?

    Most colleges and universities accept scores from either the ACT or SAT and do not favor anyone over the other. A few alterations made to the SAT test in 2016 made it easier than ever to prep for both tests at the same time and get competitive scores on both ACT and SAT. The best way to decide is to take a timed full-length practice test of both. As the content and style of both the tests are very similar, aspects like how you manage the time and what sorts of questions you find more challenging can help you decide which test is a better fit for you.

    How to prepare for the ACT?

    Following are the key tips in the process of preparing for your ACT exam:

    • Make yourself accustomed to the ACT structure and format.
    • Get familiar with ACT's question styles
    • Figure out your weaknesses and work on them
    • Set a target score
    • Make a study schedule and stick to it
    • Practice the mock test papers
    • Work on your English
    • Practice doing maths in your mind


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    First published date: 30 Dec 2020


About author

Rahul Srivastava
A vampire hunter, a renowned archaeologist, and an Oscar-winning filmmaker... Rahul is none of them. He is just a curious soul whose interest in education and finance sectors goes beyond his journalism degree and the monthly salary.

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