ACT Test 101

Facts about the ACT Test and Reasons to Take It

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What Is the ACT Test?

The ACT test, started by the American College Testing Program (hence the acronym), is a standardized pencil-and-paper test used as a college entrance exam. Colleges and universities use your ACT score, along with your GPA, extracurricular activities, and high school involvement to determine if they’d like you to grace their campus as a freshman. You cannot take the test more than twelve times, although there are exceptions to this rule. 

Why Take the ACT Test?

  • Money, money, money. Broke as a joke? The ACT test can garner you some serious coin for the college of your choice if you can earn an impressive score. And by impressive, I do not mean a 21.
  • Your scores follow you around. I’m not kidding. When you apply for your first entry-level job, your ACT score is going to be on your resume, because truthfully, your pizza delivery gig can’t showcase your reasoning ability like a 33 on the ACT can.
  • It can help balance a low GPA. So maybe you hated World History, flunked it on purpose, and ruined that 4.0. That doesn’t mean you don't have the ability to do well in college. Scoring high on the ACT can show you off when your GPA doesn’t. 
  • It's often preferred over the SAT: Since the ACT is a college entrance test like the SAT, it can be used in its place. Which should you take?

What’s On the ACT Test?

Never fear. You’ll not be required to rewrite the entire periodic table of elements, although Science is one of the subjects you’ll see. This test, although long, (3 hours and 45 minutes) basically measures reasoning and the stuff you learned in high school. Here’s the breakdown:

ACT Test Sections

How Does the ACT Test Scoring Work?

You may have heard previous students from your school bragging about their 34s on the ACT. And if you did, then you should definitely be impressed with their test-taking skills because that is a high score!

Your overall score and each individual multiple-choice test score (English, Mathematics, Reading, Science) range from 1 (low) to 36 (high). The overall score is the average of your four test scores, rounded to the nearest number. Fractions less than one-half are rounded down; fractions one-half or higher are rounded up.

So, if you get a 23 in English, a 32 in Math, a 21 in Reading, and a 25 in Science, your overall score would be a 25. That’s pretty good, considering the national average is right around a 20.

The Enhanced ACT Essay, which is optional, is scored separately and much differently. 

How Can You Prepare For This ACT Test?

Don’t panic. That was a lot of information to digest all at once. You can actually prepare for the ACT and get a brag-worthy score if you choose one of the options mentioned the following link (or all of them if you’re the go-getter type).

5 Ways to Prepare for the ACT Test

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Your Citation
Roell, Kelly. "ACT Test 101." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Roell, Kelly. (2021, February 16). ACT Test 101. Retrieved from Roell, Kelly. "ACT Test 101." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 20, 2023).