The ACT® test is the nation’s most popular college entrance exam accepted and valued by all universities and colleges in the United States. The ACT is based on what students learn in high school and provides personalized information about their strengths for education and career planning. Find everything you need to know about registration, test prep, scores and more.
The ACT is a standardized test used by college admissions officers to compare applicants from different high schools. Here's a brief overview of the exam.
ACT Quick Facts
Duration 3 hours, 3 hours 40 minutes including essay Sections English, Math, Reading, Science, Writing Cost $34 - $49.50 Max. Score 36 Avg. Score 21
What is the ACT? Why is it important?
Created by ACT Inc., the ACT is an entrance exam used by most colleges and universities to make admissions decisions. The idea is to provide colleges with one common criterion that can be used to compare all applicants. The weight placed on ACT scores varies from school to school. Other important factors that schools consider in their admissions decisions are high school GPA, academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, interviews and personal essays. For more specific information on the importance of ACT scores at the schools you're interested in, contact the admissions offices directly.
The ACT is offered nationally every year in September, October, December, February*, April and June. In 2018, the test will also be offered in July*.
What specifically does the ACT test?
The ACT has four sections: English, Reading, Math and Science, as well as an optional 40-minute writing test. Some schools may require the writing test, so be sure to ask before you take it.
How is the ACT scored?
You'll earn one ACT score (1 to 36) on each test (English, Math, Reading and Science) and a composite ACT score, which is an average of these four tests. Usually, when people ask about your score, they're referring to the composite ACT score. The composite score falls between 1 and 36. The national average is about 21. If, for example, you scored 31 on the English, 30 on the Math, 29 on the Reading and 30 on the Science, your composite ACT score would be 30.
You'll receive subscores in English, Math and Reading that range between 1 and 18. These scores provide more detail about performance, but are not actually used by colleges or universities.
The ACT includes an optional essay, known as the writing test. If you take the writing test, you will receive a writing test subscore and a combined English/writing score.
How do I know if my score is good enough to get me into my dream school?
Good question. Check out the ACT score ranges for the schools on your wishlist, and see how scores compare.
When should I take the ACT?
Students traditionally take the ACT in the spring of their junior year and, if necessary, again in the fall of their senior year. However, more and more students are choosing to take their first ACT earlier, such as during the fall of their junior year. This gives them more flexibility to retake the ACT test one or more times, or to take the SAT or SAT Subject Tests.
How do I register?
Registration deadlines fall approximately five weeks before each ACT test date. You can get registration materials from your school counselor, or call ACT, Inc. at 319–337–1270 and they'll send you a registration packet. You can also register online on the ACT website.