# What is the ACT?

## Why Students Should Consider Taking the ACT

Although the ACT and the SAT don’t have many differences, some students find that ACT caters to their strengths more than the SAT. An ACT score is the key component of college applications. The ACT is an entrance exam used by most colleges and universities to make admissions decisions. The purpose of the ACT is to measure a high school student’s readiness for college, and provide colleges with one common data point that can be used to compare all applicants. The ACT was first introduced in November 1959 by University of Iowa professor Everett Franklin Lindquist as a competitor to the SAT.

## What Does the ACT Cover?

The ACT consists of four sections; English, Math, Reading, and Science, plus an optional writing test. The English section covers usage and mechanics, including punctuation, grammar, usage, and sentence structure. It also contains rhetorical skills, including strategy, organization and style. It focuses on the student’s comprehending of the passage as a whole and their ability to maximize the passage’s organization and style. The Math section covers topics such as statistics, algebra, and geometry. The Reading section has four different types of passages for students to read along with questions that they need to answer, pertaining to the text in the passages. In the science section, there are seven passages, each passage contains graphs, charts, experiment summaries, or conflicting viewpoints from scientists. Every passage is followed by four to seven questions about it. The ACT also includes an optional writing test that some colleges may require students to complete.

## The Importance of Taking the ACT

Participating in ACT testing provides students with the opportunity to assess their academic skills and level of college readiness in a familiar environment. When students participate in taking the ACT it raises awareness and exposure among all students and for some the experience may help them realize they have the skills to perform college-level coursework. The ACT also offers students an interest inventory feature, which compares students’ final test scores against accepted national averages and helps them determine what career is best suited for them.

## Scores in ACT

A high ACT score can make up for a lower GPA. A student’s raw score for a section is calculated by determining the number of questions answered correctly in that section. A student’s raw score for a section is converted to a scaled score, which ranges between a 1 and a 36, with 36 being the highest possible score. Students receive a scaled score for each of the four sections.

## How long is the ACT?

The ACT is 2 hours and 55 minutes long, but if you choose to take the ACT with the essay, the test will be 3 hours and 35 minutes long.

## Benefits of taking the ACT

• All major four-year universities accept it, some even require the ACT. Students who take the ACT show that they’re ready for college.

• A great ACT score can help make up for any weaknesses in a student’s high school GPA.

• If students do badly the first time on the ACT, they can re-take it and improve their score.

• Students can evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses. Once students have taken the test they can go back over the topics and see what they excelled in and what they might need work on.

• The ACT can help students get scholarships.

• Students’ test scores will follow them through their education an beyond.

• The ACT offers a science section for those who do well in the science section, entering into biology, engineering, chemistry, or any other science college.

• In the ACT students have a ¼ chance of getting their questions right, and using the process of elimination, they can get that down to 1/3 or even 1/2, so if they’re stuck on a question they should guess away.

• The ACT allows students to use a calculator on all math questions.

## Preparing for the ACT

One of the best ways to prepare for the ACT is take rigorous courses in high school. Taking a schedule of academically rigorous courses throughout high school will provide students with the well-rounded knowledge needed to pass the ACT. Students should understand the testing structure of the ACT and learn test taking strategies prior to taking the exam. Another way students can prepare is by taking practice tests online so students know exactly the type of questions that are likely to appear on the real exam. Practice tests will also enable students to pinpoint their weak spots, so they can spend more time preparing for certain sections. There are also ACT prep courses available that offer students the guidance needed to score high. Courses can be a great method for meeting the needs of students’ unique learning style while working with an instructor with experience preparing students to pass the ACT. Students should also consider a tutor who can help them prepare for the ACT, if they prefer more of a one-on-one.