Learn About the ACT

 

Overview

The ACT is a national (and international) college admission standardized examination taken by over a million students worldwide. Ever since the ACT was established as a way to objectively assess a student's potential success in college in 1959, it has been helping students to evaluate their abilities in the core high school subjects and assisting college admissions by providing a standardized measurement of students studying in many different schools across the world.

Individuals of all ages and educational backgrounds may take the ACT, including middle school students, high school graduates, and adults trying to return to college. The only requirement for registering for the ACT is the payment of the test registration fee, which may be waived in certain circumstances. You may take the ACT more than once, and select the score to be sent to the college of your choice. That is the difference of the ACT from other standardized tests, which mandate all of your scores to be sent to the colleges you apply for.

The ACT consists of 4 mandatory subject tests, English, Reading, Mathematics, and Science, and the optional writing test which takes 30 minutes. The test includes 215 questions in total, and the testing time takes 3 hours and 30 minutes. If you take the optional writing section, the testing time takes about 4 hours. The ACT test is administered 6 times a year. The administered month in September (only in certain regions), October, December, February, April, and June.



In what aspect does the ACT matter? Why is the ACT important?

 


The ACT is a standardized test for the college admission. Most colleges accept one score between the ACT and SAT, but the ACT can be a good alternative for some students as it is based on the high school curriculum. In other words, the student can directly study for the curriculum that will be covered by the test, and improve the score if the students study hard accordingly. However, the significance of the ACT may vary from one student to another.
Taking both the SAT and ACT may be a great option for some students, because those students can submit the better score between the two tests (based on their percentile ranks) and thereby increase their odds of acceptance to college. For some other students, the ACT has other significance which is the qualification for certain scholarships or programs. For example, certain colleges with special programs for middle school students will only accept the students with certain ACT scores for admission into their summer camp programs. In other cases, some colleges may have special scholarships policy which require certain minimum ACT score as a qualification. Therefore, taking the ACT provides the students with the qualification for such opportunities.
In conclusion, taking both ACT and SAT is highly recommended as there is nothing to lose and much to gain from the student's perspective.



Scoring

All subject test is graded individually based on the total correct answers the student has in each section. There is no penalty for incorrect answers. Therefore the student is recommended to guess instead of leaving it blank. The total correct answers of the student (the student's raw score) will be compared to all other students who have taken the same test, then converted to the "scaled score" from 1 to 36. We generally think of it as grading on a curve.

The ACT composite score is a mere average of the each score from the 4 sections.
The ACT Writing test is optional. If you choose to take the ACT Writing test, your essay will be scored by two readers, each of whom will give a score from 1 to 6. Your writing score is the sum of these 2 scores. This score (from 2 to 12) will be indicated as a sub-score of the English Subject Test. The combined English/Writing score ranges from 1 to 36, in which the English Test score will be weighted by 2/3 while the writing section score will be weighted by 1/3. Your report will include comments from the 2 readers to provide you with feedback on the strength and weaknesses of the essay you have written.

In addition to the scaled score, all students will receive a percentile rank. This percentile score is provided so that you can compare your own score to other students who have taken the test previously, and it represents the percentage of the students who have lower scores than yours. Thus if your report indicate 75%, it means that 75% of the students who have taken the ACT scored no higher than you did. The scaled score-to-percentile index is created consistently each year, so 25% percentile in one year may be the same 25% percentile in another year.



Materials to Bring on the Test Day

You must bring the following materials with you.

  • At least 2 or more pencils
  • An approved calculator A four function, scientific, or graphing calculator may be allowed, but you must check the calculator requirements when you receive your registration materials. (You will be given a list of approved calculators.)
  • A picture ID- If you do not bring your student ID, your driver license will be accepted as well. Your ID must have your picture on it.
  • A bottle of water or simple snack such as a bag of grapes for the breaks between sections.

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