The ACT, or American College Testing, is a standardized collegiate examination, similar to the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). In use since 1959, it is commonly used as an indicator of academic aptitude and readiness to enter college. Although the ACT is not as well-known as the SAT, it is almost as widespread; as of 2008, nearly all four-year colleges and universities in the United States accept the ACT, although every school factors the results into admission decisions differently.
The test itself consists of four subject multiple-choice examinations; the exams cover English, mathematics, science and reading. A fifth exam, an essay writing test, was added in 2005, though not all schools require the essay portion of the test. Questions on the ACT are based on testing standards developed by national governing organizations such as the American Educational Research Foundation, as well as national and state standards for education, such as those established per the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Textbook reviews and national surveys of teachers and other educators are also used in determining exam content.
Like the SAT, the ACT is given only at set time periods during the year, generally four to six times per year, depending on the state where the testing takes place. Testing must be scheduled in advance, and is only available on certain Saturdays. However, students with religious prohibitions against Saturday events can apply to take the examination on Sunday. Accommodations can also be made for students with disabilities. The amount of time allotted for the standard exam is roughly 3.5 hours, which generally includes two 15-minute breaks. Students that take the ACT Plus Writing exam, which includes the essay writing portion, are allotted just over four hours for testing. Students who take the ACT can send their score reports to up to four different colleges or universities.
In other words, the ACT is a standardized college entrance examination that measures knowledge and skills in English, mathematics, reading, and science reasoning and the application of these skills to future academic tasks.
Subject Test Type Description English Multiple-choice
- Consists of five passages of nonfiction prose.
- Each passage contains 15 questions on:
- The selection that best rephrases an underlined portion of the passage.
- The overall organization of the passage.
- Tests your knowledge on the basic facts and skills taught in most high school math programs.
- Utilizes various problem types, including:
- Word problems
- Reading and interpreting graphs and charts
- Straightforward arithmetic and algebra
- Includes one fictional narrative and three nonfiction discussions of topics from:
- The natural sciences
- Social science
- The humanities
- Questions after each passage test how well you understand the subject.
- Includes seven sets of science information presented in the form of:
- Graphs, tables, charts, or diagrams
- Descriptions of experimental studies and their results
- Presentations of differing theories or hypotheses about a particular scientific question.
- Several questions after each passage test your understanding and interpretation of the information.
- Consists of one essay question that defines an issue and presents two points of view.
- You must declare your position and support your opinion with reasons and details.
- Your grade depends on your:
- Ability to express a position
- Maintain focus
- Develop your position and support your ideas
- Organize your ideas logically
- Use language clearly and effectively
For current test dates and locations, check with your guidance counselor or visit http://www.actstudent.org/.
Sections Question Type Number of Questions Time Allotted English 75 multiple choice 45 minutes Usage & Mechanics 40 Rhetorical Skills 35 Mathematics 60 multiple choice 60 minutes Arithmetic 14 Elementary Algebra 10 Intermediate Algebra 9 Coordinate Geometry 9 Plane Geometry 14 Trigonometry 4 Reading 40 multiple choice 35 minutes Prose Fiction 10 Humanities 10 Social Studies 10 Natural Sciences 10 Science 40 multiple choice Data Representation 15 Research Summary 18 Conflicting Viewpoint 7 Writing (optional) 1 Essay 30 minutes
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