Things to Know About the ACT


While it’s just a single factor in determining chances of admission, ACT scores help admissions counselors identify how well you’ve mastered high school content compared to other high school students.

What’s Covered?

The exam includes four multiple-choice tests – English, Reading, Math, and Science. Spanning almost three hours, unless the optional 40 minute writing portion is needed for admission, the ACT measures academic knowledge and skills that should have been acquired through the high school curriculum.

English: This section measures mastery of effective writing. It requires evaluation of several essays and responses to multiple questions about each one. Focus will be on conventions of standard English (punctuation, usage, sentence structure), production of writing (organization, cohesion), and knowledge of language (word choice, style, tone).

Reading: After reading several prose passages that represent the level and kind of reading required in first-year courses, questions will test your understanding of information both stated and implied. It requires evaluation of the author’s reasoning, central ideas/themes, and supplied evidence.

Math: This sections measures skills typically acquired by the beginning of 12th grade. You’ll solve a wide-range of problems covering functions, geometry, statistics and probability, algebra, and modeling. Problems may require more than one math skill, such as averages, medians, and percentages.

Science: This section gauges interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem-solving skills. Following review of several sets of scientific information, you’ll analyze experimental designs and scientific results, compare alternative viewpoints and hypotheses, and interpret data.

Writing: This section measures writing skill emphasized in entry-level composition courses. Following your reading three points of view on an issue, you’ll evaluate each perspective, present your position on the issue, and explain how it relates to/differs from the other positions presented.


The score is based on the number of questions answered correctly; no deductions occur for incorrect responses or questions left blank. The composite score is the average of the four sections, rounded to the nearest whole number.

If the writing portion is taken, that score will be included in a separate English Language Arts score, which is the average of the scores on the essay and the required English and Reading tests.

When Should the ACT be Taken?

The ACT (and SAT, in order to see which exam better suits the student) should be taken no later than Spring of junior year in high school. This will leave time for 1-2 more exams following a study course. Once the stronger exam has been identified, focus on the study course and upcoming exam dates for that exam. Be sure to identify the last possible date a score will be accepted by each of your schools of interest.

Sending Scores to Schools

Upon registration, you can choose up to four schools at no cost to receive your scores, adding additional schools for a fee per school. There is an additional fee per school for any scores sent after testing occurs. If taking the test more than once, which should be part of your college planning campaign, you can choose the test date the schools will see (unfortunately, you can’t choose scores from different dates). Fee waivers based on income are available.

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