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’s approach to ACT test prep starts with recognizing that fact, and our Agnostic 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 other classes 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. Although the ACT does provide a searchable database of schools and their policies on the Writing Test, it is always best to check each schools’ admissions department website for their official policy.

Does the ACT Superscore?

The ACT itself does not superscore, or combine individual section scores from multiple test dates to obtain your maximum composite score; if you wish to send scores from multiple test dates to colleges, you must send the entire score report from each test date. You can, however, pick and choose which test dates you want to send to schools. Many schools will perform their own version of superscoring by combining the highest score for each section from the score reports that you submit in order to get a picture of your “best” performance on the ACT. 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 on their website in detail before registering for your test dates.

Inspirica’s Approach to ACT Test Prep


If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to test prep. From testing timeline to preferred format, there are a number of variables that affect how, when, and where each student is most likely to improve. Our ACT and SAT prep options are carefully crafted to reflect that fact. 

As a wise man once said, two’s company but three’s a crowd, unless they’re prepping for the ACT. Our online small-group options are crafted to fit a variety of timelines and budgets, but they all prioritize flexibility and convenience. Learn from your classmates’ questions as you master each section of the test, then sign up for one-on-one review sessions as needed from right within each course. Prices range from $149 for a quick two-hour review to $1649 for a comprehensive eight week course.

If you’re looking for a more hands-on approach to prep, we’ve got you covered. We offer online one-on-one options both as structured packages of hours organized around a set curriculum and as open-ended, fully customizable programs that are specifically tailored to your individual test-taking personality. The one constant: your great score. Prices range from $1649 for a program that mixes small group and one-on-one to $3500 or more for programs that are exclusively one-on-one.

Get Started with ACT Test Prep Today


To learn more, visit our small-group prep and one-on-one prep pages, or schedule a free phone consultation with our Program Coordinators today!

  • Elite Prep for ACT or SAT

  • Dynamic Prep for SAT or ACT

  • Flex Prep to Dynamic Prep Upgrade

  • SAT Flex Prep: Comprehensive Bundle

  • ACT Flex Prep: Comprehensive Bundle

  • ACT & SAT Flex Prep: Build Your Own Bundle

  • ACT & SAT Flex Prep: Small-Group Classes + Practice Testing Platform

  • ACT & SAT Flex Prep: 2x 1.25-Hour One-on-One Sessions + Digital Practice-Testing Platform