What is the ACT?
US colleges and universities use the standardised American College Test (ACT) to assess your readiness for college-level work. It is a major factor in assessing your college application and if you’re hoping to study at an elite US institution, you’ll need to achieve the highest possible score to optimise your candidacy.
The ACT is divided into four major subjects: English, mathematics, reading, and science reasoning. Each subject is scored between one and 36, with your final score being the average of all four subjects.
You can also take an optional writing section, which is scored in the same way but isn’t included in your composite final score.
The importance of this score varies from school to school and will be used in conjunction with other application factors, such as your personal essay, letters of recommendation and interviews.
ACT Exam Explained...
So, what are the details?
Well, the ACT test is offered online to international students, usually in September, October, December, April, and June, and costs approximately $47.50 USD. If you wish to sit the optional writing portion, you will incur an additional cost. As part of the registration, you’ll need to supply a photo to prove your identity.
US students can register and attend nominated test centres on the dates specified on the ACT website.
The length of the test is as follows: + English: 45 minutes to answer 75 questions across five passages + Math: 60 minutes to answer 60 questions on algebra, geometry and trigonometry + Reading: 35 minutes to answer 40 questions across four passages + Science Reasoning: 35 minutes to answer 40 questions + Writing (optional): 40 minutes to answer one supplied essay prompt
What is a good ACT Score?
Sitting a test is one thing, but knowing how well you did is another.
The ACT has some solid indicators for success and colleges use these scores as barometers for your ability to handle their course work.
So, a good ACT score is contextual.
For example, an Ivy League college like Harvard is unlikely to consider an application from someone with an ACT score of 31 or below, unless they are a very unique or special candidate (i.e. he or she excels in another area, such as sport).
Follow this link to find out the specifics on what ACT scores various US colleges are looking for.
SAT vs. ACT: Which one?
Both tests are valued among US colleges, however deciding which one is for you can be challenging.
When deciding on which test to take, the two biggest questions you need to ask yourself are:
- Is the ACT easier than the SAT?
- Do colleges prefer the ACT over the SAT?
The SAT and ACT exams usually test the same types of content and both assess your candidacy for specific universities and merit-based scholarships. However, the tests have some subtle differences which may play to your strengths.
For example, the ACT has a Science test, while the SAT involves a Math section where you cannot use a calculator.
In practice, colleges generally don’t prefer one test over the other. Accordingly, you should sit the test you believe plays to your strengths. If you’re a science whiz, the ACT may work in your favour, while if you’re better with numbers off the top of your head, it might work to sit the SAT.
If you’d like to learn more, we’ve written a complete breakdown on these differences in our SAT vs. ACT blog, which can give you more information on deciding which exam to take.
ACT Study Guide
So you’ve decided the ACT is for you, now what? Well, it’s time to improve that ACT score with some strategies for each section.
For example, for the English section, you’ll want to study areas, such as common comma errors, lack of parallelism, problems with references or agreement, and also getting a solid foundation across grammar in general. This will equip you with an understanding of the fundamentals you need to succeed.
Want to know more? Why not check out our in-depth ACT study guide.
Why Crimson and ACT Tutoring
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Increase your ACT score, improve your college candidacy. It’s that simple.
With Crimson, you'll receive the best support available to build your confidence, boost your ACT score, and gain admission into the US college of your dreams. Connect with an ACT tutor, selected from a pool of high achievers who’ll help you ace the ACT exam.