An Overview of the ACT and ACT Test Prep

The ACT is one of the two major tests used by colleges and universities during their admissions processes. Though many high schools treat the ACT as if it is interchangeable with the SAT, the two tests are in reality very different from one another, and most students are better served taking one rather than the other based on their individual strengths and weaknesses. Inspirica Pros’ approach to ACT test prep starts with recognizing that fact, and our SAT/ACT PathFinder Diagnostic will help you determine whether the ACT is the test that’s right for you.

Once you know if you are going to prep for the ACT, we have expert tutors and free resources for you to use for your ACT study plan.

ACT Test Prep Basics: The Format of the ACT

The ACT is comprised of four multiple-choice sections followed by one free-response essay. In order, the sections are as follows:

  • English: 75 questions divided among five passages. 45 minutes.
  • Math: 60 questions. 60 minutes.
  • Reading: 40 questions divided among four passages. 35 minutes.
  • Science: 40 questions divided among six or seven passages. 35 minutes.
  • Writing/Essay (optional): 40 minutes.

Compared to the SAT, the defining feature of the ACT is its frenetic pace. This is obvious in the Reading and Science sections, where students are expected to read multiple dense passages and answer comprehension questions about each while moving at a pace that gives them less than a minute to work on each question. If this sounds challenging, that’s because it is! Fortunately, our ACT test prep programs focus just as heavily on mastering timing strategies as they do on learning content, so you’ll go into test day fully prepared for the series of wind sprints that is the ACT.

ACT Test Prep Basics: Scoring the ACT

You’ll receive a raw score for each of the four multiple-choice sections on the ACT that is equal to the number of questions you answered correctly in that section. No penalty is applied for incorrect answers.

Equating Scores on the ACT

Then, using a process called equating, the ACT will produce a scaled score from 1 to 36 for each section; this scaled score takes into account the difficulty level of the section that you completed relative to the difficulty levels of sections that previous test-takers have completed over the previous five years, which allows colleges to be sure that your English score of 31 means the same thing as your older brother’s 31.

Scaled Scores on the ACT

Finally, your four scaled scores will be averaged to produce an overall composite score from 1 to 36; this score is the best single measure of your performance on the test, and it’s the score that colleges will primarily look at when reviewing your application. You’ll also receive a separate score from 2 to 12 for your essay; however, this score does not affect your composite score in any way, and many schools no longer even require the submission of an ACT Writing score with your application. It’s a good idea to check each school’s admissions department website for their official policy.

Does the ACT Superscore?

Yes! The ACT will now provide an automatically calculated ACT Superscore to all students who have taken the ACT more than once from September 2016 to current day. Log in to MyACT to view and send scores.

It’s worth noting, however, that while the ACT will automatically include a superscore on your score report, they cannot force schools to use that score when evaluating your application. Some schools prefer to use your highest single composite score instead, for instance. For the most accurate information about how an individual school handles superscoring, be sure to contact that school’s admissions department directly

ACT Registration and Test Dates

 The ACT is administered roughly once every two months year-round, and there is no limit to the number of times a student can take the test. Because of that, it’s generally to your advantage to test more than once. Part of beating any test is giving yourself as many opportunities as necessary to succeed and taking the test multiple times can be a great way to maximize your improvement.

To register for the ACT, go to the ACT website and follow the corresponding instructions. Testing is administered at official test centers, which are typically high schools approved by the ACT. You can search for the test center closest to you using the ACT’s test center locator, found here. If you currently receive accommodations in school due to a professionally diagnosed and documented disability, be sure to review the ACT’s policies in detail before registering for your test dates.

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