About The ACT
The ACT is a curriculum-standards-based test that assesses students’ academic readiness for college. It measures grammar, reading comprehension, math, and science skills.
Colleges and universities use the ACT as one measure among many – class rank, high school GPA, extracurricular activities, personal essays, and teacher recommendations – of a student’s readiness to do college-level work.
ACT scores can also be used as a basis for awarding scholarships and merit-based financial aid.
The ACT is administered on six national test dates in September, October, December, February, April, and June. Visit our test calendar and events page for specific test date and registration deadline information.
Test Format and Structure
|Section||Time||Number of Questions||Content Covered|
|English||45 minutes||75 multiple-choice||Ability to apply conventions of standard written English usage and rhetorical skills.|
|Math||60 minutes (10 minute break after completion)||60 multiple-choice (appear in order of increasing difficulty)||Knowledge of algebra, coordinate geometry, plane geometry, and trigonometry.|
|Reading||35 minutes||40 multiple-choice||Ability to identify themes, extract salient details, and understand meaning in context.|
|Science||35 minutes (10 minute break after completion)||40 multiple-choice||Ability to interpret charts, tables, and graphs, analyze and evaluate data, reason scientifically, and problem-solve.|
|Writing (optional)||40 minutes||1 essay question||Ability to apply the conventions of standard written English in the context of a persuasive argument responding to a prompt.|
- Students who receive time and a half (1.5x) receive a 5-hour block to complete the test. They can choose how much time of those 5 hours that they spend on each section. The Writing section is administered at the end of the 5 hours.
- Students must complete the test sections in order and cannot go back to a section once it is already completed. Students are allowed to take a break after each section, but the break time is included in the five hours. Students cannot take breaks once they have begun a section.
- Total Testing Time: 5 hours (without Writing) – 6 hours (with Writing)
- The ACT does offer multiple-day (two-to-four days), school-based administrations of the test up to triple time, if a student’s IEP or extended-time application supports such a consideration.
Each multiple-choice section is graded on a scale of 1 to 36. These 4 scores are averaged for a student’s composite score.
The essay is graded on a scale of 2 to 12, and it is not figured into the composite score. Students who take the essay do receive a combined English Test/essay score on a scale of 1 to 36, in which the essay figures as 1/3 of the English score.
The ACT does not penalize students for guessing.
The essay on the ACT is optional, but many colleges require it. Like on the SAT, two graders evaluate the ACT essay. Each grader gives the writing sample a score from 1 to 6 in each of four domains:
- Ideas and Analysis
- Development and Support
- Language Use
The respective scores are then combined for a score from 2 to 12 in each domain. Students who complete the writing section receive a scaled score out of 36 that is not part of their composite score.
Please note that the ACT offers score choice, which means that a student can choose the score from his or her best administration and have only that score sent to colleges.
Essay scores cannot be sent separately—if a student wishes to send a particular essay score to a college, he or she must also send the results of the multiple choice portion of the same test.
Some colleges will ask students to submit all of their scores when applying. Yale, Stanford, Cornell, Georgetown, and University of Pennsylvania are examples of schools that will ask students to send all of their scores. We encourage families to learn about the policies at their schools of interest.