The ACT, (originally an acronym for American College Testing) is a standardized exam that measures what you have learned in your high school courses, and serves as an alternative to the SAT examination for college admissions. All four-year colleges and universities accept ACT results.
The ACT covers four subject areas; English, Mathematics,Reading, and Science, along with an optional Writing section. The ACT is not an IQ or aptitude exam; rather, the material directly relates to what you have learned in your high school courses. In other words, the more you challenge yourself in the classroom, the more prepared you will be.
The assessment consists of 215 multiple-choice questions and takes about 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete, including a brief break, (or requires just over four hours if you are also taking the Writing Test).
The English section consists of 75 questions that measure written English and rhetorical skills, such as sentence structure, punctuation and grammar usage, as well as writing strategies, organization, and style. Students receive 45 minutes to complete the English category. Spelling skills, vocabulary, and rote grammar rules are not tested.
Students receive an hour to complete the mathematics section, which has 60 questions from areas such as pre-algebra, elementary algebra, intermediate algebra, coordinate geometry, plane geometry, and trigonometry. You are permitted to use a calculator on this portion of the exam, but make sure that it is ACT-approved! For example, all TI-89 or TI-92 calculators are allowed, but any calculators with a QWERTY keyboard are prohibited.
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The reading category is designed to gauge reading comprehension. Questions on passages measure your understanding of what a passage is directly stating, as well as your grasp of statements with implied meanings. Reading selections include content from four areas: social studies, natural sciences, prose fiction, and humanities. Students receive 35 minutes to complete this section.
The science portion of the ACT consists of 40 questions over a 35-minute period. Scientific information is presented through various formats such as data representation, research summaries, and conflicting viewpoints. Corresponding multiple-choice questions require students to interpret graphs, tables, descriptions of experiments, and related hypotheses or inconsistent views. Content area includes biology, chemistry, physics, and Earth/space sciences. This category emphasizes scientific reasoning skills over recall of scientific facts, reading comprehension, and mathematical ability. Calculators are not permitted during the science portion of the exam.
Though the ACT Writing Test is an optional supplement to the exam, more and more colleges are recommending or requiring applicants take it. The writing test gives a single prompt and 30 minutes in which to complete it. You are asked to state your position on an issue, and you may adopt one or the other of the stances described in the prompt (your score will not be affected by your viewpoint). The Writing Test assesses your writing skills emphasized in your high school English classes and in entry-level college composition classes.
In order to do well on the ACT, careful preparation is crucial. Find out what method works best for you in order to succeed, such as seeking a tutor who can teach you test-taking strategies or using ACT practice tests. Good luck!