The ACT(/eɪ siː tiː/) like the SAT is a standardized test widely used for admissions to undergraduate schools, mainly in the US. The ACT was originally an abbreviation for American College Testing. The test is administered by ACT, a nonprofit organization for the same. The ACT debuted in 1959 as an alternate to the SAT (then called Scholastic Aptitude Test). Since its inception, there has been a consistent increase in the number of test-takers opting for the ACT. In fact, in 2012, the total number of test-takers opting for the ACT surpassed the SAT. Since 2007, any university in the US that seeks a standardized test score accepts both SAT and ACT. There is no preference for one test over the other as far as the university admission process is concerned, contrary to a popular myth, that SAT scores are preferred over ACT scores. The ACT is designed to measure your college readiness by assessing your reading, writing, and computational skills, and then comparing you with the rest of the student who takes the test. The ACT can be given seven times a year in the United States: in September, October, December, February, April, June, and July. In other locations, the ACT is offered five times a year: in September, October, December, April, and June.The ACT is offered only on Saturdays-the ACT as of 2019 costs US$52 (US$68 with the optional writing section).
Inside the ACT
The ACT is a straight forward content test. The ACT comprises of four sections or subject areas: English, Math, Reading, Science plus an additional Optional Writing section or essay.
|Section||Section Name||No. of Questions||Time Allotted (Minutes)|
|Total||215||175 (215 with Essay)|
Questions asked in the ACT are from the curriculum of high school. The test scores range between 1 and 36. If you take the essay or writing test (optional), you will receive a separate score within a range of 2-12.
1) The English section consists of five passages based on which you will be presented with a set of questions. Broadly the English section tests you on two main categories
- Testing your rhetorical skills (issues such as apostrophes, commas, colons, (misplaced/dangling) modifiers, and fragments and run-ons )
- Testing you on usage and mechanics (issues such as commas, apostrophes, (misplaced/dangling) modifiers, colons, and fragments and run-ons).
2) The Math section consists of 60 questions roughly arranged in increasing order of difficulty. In general, the questions are drawn from six areas of math that most students have covered by the end of their 11th-grade year: pre-algebra, elementary algebra, intermediate algebra, coordinate geometry, plane geometry, and trigonometry. The Math section has five answer choices for each question compared with four answer choices in the rest of the sections. The ACT tests higher-level math than the SAT. The ACT focuses a lot more on geometry as compared to SAT. Also, ACT examines some concepts like logarithms, matrices, graphs of trigonometric functions, which the SAT doesn’t test at all. The ACT allows the use of a calculator for the entire math section.
3) The Reading section consists of four sections, each containing one long or two shorter (paired) prose passages. The types of passages will always follow the order: prose fiction, social science, humanities, and natural science. The ACT tests this content with question types including, Big Picture, Little Detail, Vocabulary in Context, Development and Function, Inference.
4) The Science section consists of 7 passages. These passages are various ways of presenting Data for you to interpret. The Science section is designed to test your critical thinking skills and not your specific science knowledge like memorizing formulas or theories. It assesses your reading and reasoning skills based on a given set of facts.
5) The (optional) Writing section provides you with a writing prompt which generally addresses the contemporary issues, and presents three different perspectives on the subject. You need to take your stand and defend your position by providing your own opinion on the matter by addressing all the various aspects presented to you.
Preparing for the ACT
The indispensable ingredients for the ACT prep or any standardized test include Content Knowledge, Test Strategy, and Time Management. All these three components, when applied simultaneously and optimally on the test day, finally yield the results which you have been aspiring for throughout your ACT prep phase. Even if one of the components fails, the results will significantly vary as far as your expectations are concerned. It is not uncommon for students to run out of time during their ACT day. So, one might have a sound content knowledge, but not applying effective time management on the test day forfeits your chances to obtain your target score.
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