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  • All You Need to Know About the ACT

    The ACT is standardized test admissions officers use to compare applicants from different schools and different states. Here's a brief overview of the test.

  • ACT
     quick facts
    frequency6 times/year
    duration3 hours, 3½ hours including essay
    sectionsenglish, math, reading, science, writing
    cost$34 - $49.50
    max. score36
    avg. score21

    What is the ACT and why is it important?

    Created by ACT Inc., the ACT is an entrance exam used by most colleges and universities to make admissions decisions. The idea (in theory, at least) is to provide colleges with one common criterion that can be used to compare all applicants. The weight placed on ACT scores varies from school to school. Other important factors that schools consider in their admissions decisions are your high school GPA, academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, interviews and personal essays. For more specific information on the importance of ACT scores at the schools you're interested in, contact the admissions offices directly.

    The ACT is offered nationally every year in September, October, December, February*, April and June.

    What specifically does the ACT test?

    The ACT has four sections: English, Reading, Math and Science, as well as an optional 30-minute writing test. Some schools may require the writing test, so be sure to ask before you take it. More about what's on the different sections of the ACT.

    Should I take the SAT or the ACT?

    SAT versus ACT. Is one harder? Is one better? More prestigious? More useful? If only it were that simple. More about the SAT vs. the ACT.

    How is the ACT scored?

    You'll earn one ACT score (1 to 36) on each test (English, Math, Reading and Science) and a composite ACT score, which is an average of these four tests. Usually, when people ask about your score, they're referring to your composite ACT score. The composite score falls between 1 and 36. The national average is about 21.

    If, for example, you scored 31 on the English, 30 on the Math, 29 on the Reading and 30 on the Science, your composite ACT score would be 30.

    You'll receive subscores in English, Math and Reading that range between 1 and 18. These scores provide you with more detail about your performance, but they are not actually used by colleges or universities.

    The ACT includes an optional essay, known as the writing test. If you take the writing test, you will receive a writing test subscore and a combined English/writing score. Visit www.ACT.org for detailed information about how your ACT writing test will be scored.

    How do I know if my score is good enough to get me into my dream school?

    Good question. Check out the Can I Get In function in our School Search.

    When should I take the ACT?

    Students have traditionally taken the ACT in the spring of their junior year and, if necessary, again in the fall of their senior year. However, more and more students are choosing to take their first ACT earlier, such as during the fall of their junior year. This gives them more flexibility to retake the ACT test one or more times, or to take the SAT or SAT subject tests.

    How do I register?

    Registration deadlines fall approximately five weeks before each ACT test date. You can get registration materials from your school's guidance counselor, or call ACT, Inc. at 319–337–1270 and they'll send you a registration packet. You can also register online at www.ACT.org.

    How can I prepare?

    We can help. We have ACT prep courses for every student and every budget.

    *No test centers are scheduled in New York for the February test date.