Four Important ACT Exam Facts to Know

What is the ACT Test?

Almost every college-bound high school student takes either the SAT or ACT exam during their Junior and Senior years. Most people are aware that the ACT or SAT, is a requirement for getting into college, but what is the ACT Test?

The ACT (short for American College Testing) is one of two national standardized tests used by American colleges and universities to make admissions decisions. The ACT uses over 215 multiple-choice questions in the areas of English, Mathematics, Reading and Science to gauge the academic proficiency of the test takers.

Overall Time Allowed to take ACT Exam..? On average, you can expect to spend about three (3) hours taking the test.

Number of Questions and Time Allowed

As of the 2017-2018 testing season, the number of questions on the ACT test and time allowed to answer those questions are:

English: 75 multiple choice questions, with 45 minutes to answer.

Math: 60 multiple choice questions, with 60 minutes to answer.

Reading: 40 multiple choice questions, with 35 minutes to answer.

Science: 40 multiple choice questions, with 35 minutes to answer.

Note: You WILL NOT be allowed to use a calculator during the science testing portion of the ACT Test

ACT Optional Writing Test

The ACT also includes a relatively new writing section which features a 40-minute (essay) writing test. Note: Taking the writing test will not affect the scores you get on the multiple-choice test or your Composite score.

Your ACT Composite Score

Your Composite score is the average of your four multiple-choice test scores, rounded to the nearest whole number, with 36 being the highest possible composite score you can achieve.


Below you will find some important facts about the ACT:

#1: When Should I Take the ACT?

It’s smart to choose a testing date at least two months ahead of the application deadlines for all colleges and scholarships you might want to apply to. This is because scores will typically be made available 5 – 8 weeks after your testing date. Some students take the ACT in the Fall of their Junior year.

This leaves them with plenty of time to retake the exam, which may be a smart move for students who have performed poorly. Students who complete the ACT in their Junior year will not have to worry about college applications competing for their attention during their Senior year. Students interested in entering college immediately after graduation should take the test by the Fall of Senior year.

#2: How do I Study for the ACT?

The best way to excel on the ACT is to excel in your studies. The design of the ACT reflects a typical high school curriculum, so if you’re working hard in your classes, then you’re already preparing for the ACT. Because you could be tested on anything you have learned in regards to the core subject areas, it is always a good idea to review old notebooks. The ACT also provides a free test-prep book, which you can download online or get from your school.

Completing the mock tests will also give you a feel for the ACT exam format and can help guide your studies by identifying your weak areas. Because your mental and physical state will influence your performance on the test, it is smart to begin your studies early. This will both give you confidence and prevent you from exhausting yourself with ineffective last-minute cramming. It’s also a good idea to get enough sleep and to eat a nutritious breakfast before the test.

#3: How Many Times Should I Test?

Many students test once during their Junior year and then again during their Senior year. If you felt particularly ill, nervous, anxious, or confused during your first examination, it would be a good idea to take the test again. Even if your first test went well, many students use their Junior year testing to help get a better sense of what they need to learn and study for a retake in their Senior year.

The ACT exam only reports scores from one year, so if you test twice, you can choose which set of scores to send to colleges and scholarship agencies. On average, students perform slightly better when taking the ACT for the second time.

#4: Are There Accommodations for Students with Disabilities?

The ACT does have a procedure for providing accommodations to disabled students. If you receive accommodations in school for a professionally diagnosed disability, you may request accommodations for the ACT test.

Because testing accommodations are granted on a case-by-case basis, students with disabilities should review ACT Policy for Documentation to get a better sense of what kind of accommodations could be available for their particular challenges. The most common ACT accommodation awarded to students is extended testing time.

Finding ACT and SAT Resources Online

So, what is the ACT test? If nothing else, it’s something worth preparing for. Your high school may even offer a free test prep program. If not, remember that there are also ACT test resources online for students looking for facts about the ACT. Taking the proper time to prepare for the ACT will save you unnecessary stress during your Senior year.

About the Authors

Johnny Rogers and His wife Helena are the owners of College Tidbits – The Online College Planning Guide. If you found this article useful, they would greatly appreciate it,  if you would consider Liking their Facebook Fan Page or Following them on Twitter.


Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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