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Guide to the ACT


The American College Test (ACT) is a popular examination usually taken in the US by high schoolers to submit to colleges as part of their application. It’s accepted by all four year colleges in the US as well as various international universities. Unlike the SAT; a very competitive test, can be submitted instead of the ACT. Colleges do not have a preference for either test, so the candidate submits whichever test they performed better on.

The ACT Sections

Similarly to the SAT, the ACT has four sections: English, Mathematics, and Reading. Unlike the SAT, it contains a Science and optional writing section. All sections are scored on a scale of up to 36 – the composite score is the average of the four. This exam is multiple choice and is constructed using the nationwide standard for seventh to twelfth graders. The ACT is 3 hours and 30 minutes long.

Meanwhile, the SAT runs about 2 hours and 55 minutes (without writing). While they are similar in time offered, they are not similar in speed. Taking the ACT will require you to move much faster due to the fact that the ACT has 215 questions. Compared to the SAT, with only  154 questions.

Section 1 – English

The first section is comprised of 75 questions to be completed in 45 minutes. There are 3 parts within this section: the production of writing, knowledge of the language, and conventions of standard English. The production of writing production accounts for 29 to 32% of the section 1 score. These questions test two main subtopics: topic development & organization, unity, and cohesion.

Topic Development & Organizational Skills – Unity & Cohesion

Students must comprehend if isolated parts of the text effectively communicate their meaning, create impact, and have a purpose. As for organization, students will need to evaluate whether the text flows cohesively. Moreover, knowledge of language requires students to recognize proper word choices, uses, and how to maintain tone. Lastly, conventions of standard English are primarily basic grammar rules.

Section 2 – Math

In the second section, students will have about a minute per question, as 60 questions and 60 minutes are allotted to answer them. The Mathematics portion covers pre-algebra, algebra 1, geometry, algebra 2, and some concepts front trigonometry.

Algebra, Geometry, & Trig

Pre-algebra accounts for about a 1/5 to a 1/4 of the math portion containing concepts such as exponents, proportions, percent change, and scientific notation. Elementary algebra accounts for 15 to 20% of the questions and includes factoring, quadratics, and functional relations. Similarly to intermediate algebra, elementary algebra questions also make up 15 to 20%  of the score. Intermediate algebra mainly includes subjects learned in Algebra 2. Coordinate Geometry accounts for 15 to 20% of the section, while Plane Geometry accounts for  5 to 10%, respectively. Lastly, the test has a few questions from trigonometry, being 5 to 10% of the score.

Section 3 – Reading

This section requires the student to read 4 passages and answer 40 multiple choice questions in 35 minutes. Students are thus required to have less than 52 seconds per question in the reading section. This section assesses your ability to read quickly and thoroughly and derive or infer answers based on the evidence in the text. There are a variety of questions, but they all require close reading skills and comprehending complex texts.

Section 4 – Science

Similarly to the reading section, the science section allows 35 minutes for 40 multiple choice questions. Contrary to common sense, the science section has nothing to do with actual science! (Sure, it may throw a scientific concept or two at you and might have some graphs) This section is mainly about reading comprehension and the number of questions and time allotted is the same as the reading section of the exam.

I wish you the best of luck on whichever test you take.

Click the link here to read ways on how to prepare yourself for the ACT if you choose to take it.

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