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What is the ACT?

If you have questions about the ACT, such as when to take it, where to take it, the duration, etc, you have come to the right place. In this blog, we will try and clarify everything ACT-related.

About ACT

Administered by ACT, Inc. this test is a leading US college admissions test that measures what you learn in high school to determine your readiness for college. Many colleges today require ACT or SAT scores as part of their admissions process, and a good ACT score can help your college application shine. Educational institutions review both your GPA and your ACT scores, along with your letters of recommendation, essays, and the extracurricular activities (if you were a part of the debate team, arts club, you volunteered and so on), amongst things to make their admission decision.

When to take the ACT?

You can take this multiple-choice, pencil-and-paper test during the spring of your junior year or senior year fall. Your exam date will eventually depend on the availability of the test centre you choose.

TIP 1: Make sure to keep some time to re-take the test if need be. For instance, if you want to increase your score before you apply to college, you should have ample time to do so.  

What does the ACT look like?

The ACT consists of four sections, including English, Reading, Math, and Science.

It also includes an optional 40-minute Writing Test. You don’t need to take it if the college you’re applying to doesn’t require the writing score. You will need to check each college’s admissions policy to verify.

How long is the ACT? How is it scored?

Without the optional writing section, the ACT is 2 hours and 55 minutes long. If you decide to take the ACT Essay, the test will go up by an additional 40 minutes and be 3 hours and 35 minutes long.

The scoring for ACT is done on a scale of 1 to 36 points. Your composite ACT score is the average of the scores of the four sections. If you take the ACT Writing, you will receive a separate score for the writing test.

ACT or SAT? Is one more complicated than the other?

Most colleges and universities accept both ACT and SAT and have no particular preference. Is ACT easier or more difficult than the SAT? Not really. Only that some students fair better in one test over the other. Both the SAT and ACT are popular among college-bound students.

You could try a timed practise for both SAT and ACT to figure out which one you like better. The tests are similar in style and content, so it will boil down to how you handle the pressure of the exam-type environment and which questions post the most challenge to you.

Why take the ACT?

There are several benefits to taking the ACT. Not only is it shorter, but ACT also contains an entire section on science. Moreover, unlike the ACT where you may use a calculator for all Math questions, the SAT includes a 20-question subsection where you’re not allowed to use one.

How to register for the ACT?

You will have to register five weeks before each ACT test date. You can either register online on the official ACT website or reach out to your school counselor to get the registration details.

How to prep for the ACT?

The official ACT website offers several free resources that can help you ace the ACT. Go to the site and click on the Test Prep button on the home page to learn more.

Where to take the ACT

Based on your city/country, you can take the ACT in any of the designated test centres. You will find information for US and Non-US students. For instance, if you’re in Canada, you can take your ACT at Ashton Testing Services in Vancouver, British Columbia.

ACT Test Day

Prepare ahead and make a note of things you’ll be allowed and not allowed to bring into the centre. For example, you’ll need to bring photo identification, such as a city/state/federal government agency or school-issued original, valid ID. Paper or electronic formats are not accepted. Make sure that your first and last names match the roster. Other things you can bring include a wrist watch, a permitted calculator and so on.

TIP 2: Your watch can’t have an alarm. If it goes off in the middle of the test, you will be dismissed and not allowed to write the exam.

TIP 3: Refer to the ACT Calculator Policy (PDF) and ensure that your calculator is permitted.

The list of things you aren’t allowed to bring is much longer and includes, textbooks, notes, colored pens, pencils, electronic devices, tobacco, food or beverages of any kind. Visit the official ACT website to learn more about the rules for the test day.  If all this sounds overwhelming, don’t worry, you’ll be fine. Take heart in the fact that many students like yourself take it every year and do well. Just ensure your preparation is a hundred percent, eat well, take proper rest, and importantly, carry everything you need for the exam. Good luck!

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