American College Testing (ACT)

Prepare for the ACT with our study guide.

When taking the ACT, you will be given a total of 175 minutes to complete 215 multiple-choice questions for tests that cover the areas of English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science, or 215 minutes for tests that cover 215 multiple-choice questions and one essay in the Writing section. This essay is optional, but it may be a good idea to complete it since some colleges require it. There will be 45 minutes dedicated to the English section, 60 minutes to the Mathematics section, 35 minutes to the Reading section, 35 minutes to the Science section, and 40 minutes to the Writing section.

As per the Americans with Disabilities Act, you may qualify for special testing accommodations. If this is the case, you can make this request in writing.

Some of the types of accommodations that are provided, include taking the exam during a special testing window, extended test time, additional breaks, or extended breaks, and Braille test materials.

What categories and topics are covered on this exam? How many questions/essays are there for each test?

  • English – 75 questions
  • Mathematics – 60 questions
  • Reading – 40 questions
  • Science – 40 questions
  • Writing – 1 essay

English

The English test will cover the categories of production of writing, language knowledge, and standard English conventions. Some of the specific topics that will be addressed, include topic development, organization, unity & cohesion, the ability to use proper word choice and consistent style and tone, correct sentence structure, punctuation, and English usage.

Mathematics

The mathematics test will cover the categories of getting ready for higher mathematics, integrating essential skills, and modeling. Some of the specific topics that will be addressed, include number & quantity, algebra, functions, geometry, probability & statistics, the ability to use the basic skills you’ve acquired, to solve complex problems, and utilizing various modeling skills for diverse math topics.

Reading

The reading test will cover the categories of key ideas and details, craft & structure, and integrating knowledge and ideas. Some of the specific topics that will be addressed, include reading, analyzing, & drawing conclusions for various texts, understand the meanings of words and phrases, identify an author’s purpose, and telling the difference between facts and opinions.

Science

The science test will cover the categories of interpretation of data, scientific investigation, evaluation models, inferences, & experimental results. Some specific topics that will be addressed, include understand information presented in tables, graphs, & diagrams, ability to comprehend experimental tools, processes, & design, and determine whether or not scientific data is valid.

Writing

The writing section will present one prompt with a compound issue. You will be given three perspectives on the issue, and then asked to write a response, using your own perspective. The ideas & analysis, development & support, organization, and language use and conventions of your response will be evaluated.

What is the most convenient way to apply for the exam?

Register online and make a payment via a credit card. If you require a different method of payment, you must register using a paper application. You will also be asked to provide a photo of yourself.

What is the cost of taking this exam?

If taking the ACT without the writing test, you will pay $50.50. This fee includes a score report for you, your high school, and up to four colleges.

If taking the ACT with the writing test, you will pay $67. This fee includes the writing test, a score report for you, your high school, and up to four colleges.

What are the testing dates, times, and locations?

The national testing dates for 2018-2020 are:

2018

10/27/18

12/08/18

2019

02/09/19

04/13/19

06/08/19

07/13/19

09/14/19

10/26/19

12/14/19

2020

02/08/20

04/04/20

06/13/20

07/18/20

The exam starts at 8 a.m. If not taking the writing section, examinees will be dismissed around 12:35 p.m. If taking the writing section, examinees will be dismissed around 1:35 p.m.

There are various test centers in the United States, U.S. territories, and Puerto Rico.

What should I do the day of the exam?

Report to the testing center on time. Arriving late could prevent you from being able to take the exam.

Bring your paper ticket. If taking the paper ACT, also bring Number 2 pencils. You may take along a watch that does not have a recording function. A basic calculator for the math section of the exam is also acceptable.

You are allowed to bring food and/or drink to consume during break time.

You are prevented from bringing items such as a cell phone, reading material, and scratch paper into the testing area.

If you take the ACT without the writing test, you will be dismissed from the testing center earlier than those who are taking the writing test.

What happens after I take the exam?

The scores for your tests with multiple-choice questions are typically available online, two weeks after taking the test, but it could take up to eight weeks. Approximately two weeks after your multiple-choice scores are available, your writing scores will be accessible.

What is the minimum passing score on this exam?

The score range for the ACT is 1-36. Although there is no official score that is considered passing for this exam, generally speaking, a composite score of 24 is a good score.

What happens if I don’t do well on the exam?

Although re-taking the exam does not necessarily guarantee a higher score, you are allowed to take it again. It is advised that before taking the exam again, you take a sufficient amount of time to re-study the test material.