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ACT Overview


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.

Since 2001, our expert instructors have tutored thousands of students toward mastery of grammar, math, reading, and science reasoning skills necessary to achieve the highest scores on the ACT. Our customized tutoring programs raise ACT scores an average of 6 points, with our hardest working students gaining over 10 points. Read on for more information about the ACT.

Test Format & Structure

The ACT consists of four required sections with a total of 215 multiple-choice questions as well as one optional essay section.

Section Time Number of Questions Content Covered
English 45 minutes 75 multiple-choice questions
  • Usage and Mechanics (40 questions)
  • Rhetorical skills (35 questions)
Math 60 minutes 60 multiple-choice questions
  • Pre-algebra and Algebra (24 questions)
  • Intermediate Algebra and Coordinate Geometry (18 questions)
  • Plane Geometry and Trigonometry (18 questions)
Reading 35 minutes 40 multiple-choice questions
  • Theme Identification
  • Salient Detail Extraction
  • Understanding Contextual Meanings
Science 35 minutes 40 multiple-choice questions
  • Chart, Table, and Graph Interpretation
  • Data Analysis and Evaluation
  • Scientific Reasoning
  • Problem Solving
Science Writing (Optional
essay section)
40 minutes 1 prompt
  • Ideas and Analysis
  • Development and Support
  • Organization
  • Language Use

Test Format & Structure

Currently, the ACT is administered in paper and pencil form, and students are allowed to use a calculator for the duration of the test. Students can take the test at local high schools, career schools, colleges, and other locations across the country and around the world. To find the location closest to you, visit the ACT’s Test Locator page.

Students who are not taking the Writing Test may also take an “experimental” section of the ACT after the Science section. This section does not count towards a student’s composite score but should still be taken seriously.

Online Testing

As of fall 2020, some national test sites will give students a choice to take a traditional paper and pencil test or to opt in to take the test online. Scores for online tests are released two days after the test, and paper and pencil scores are released about 10 days after. Only a few national sites will offer this option in the fall of 2020, but the ACT does plan to roll out online testing to all national sites.

Section Retesting

Section Retesting Also beginning in the fall of 2020, after a student has taken the full ACT once, that student may then take individual sections to gain the best possible composite score. Any retakes of specific sections would be taken online, and students will be able to take one, two, or three subjects in each retest sitting.


Each multiple-choice section is graded on a scale of one to 36. These four scores are averaged for a student’s composite score. The ACT does not penalize students for incorrect answers, so students should guess even if it means filling in random answer choices.

Score Choice

Choice The ACT offers score choice, which means that a student can choose the score from their best administration and have only that score sent to colleges. However, essay scores cannot be sent separately, so If a student wishes to send a specific essay score to a college, they must also send the results of the multiple-choice portion of the same test.


As of fall 2020, the ACT submits superscores to colleges and universities. If a student takes the test or specific sections multiple times, the best score from each section will be reported and compiled into the final composite score sent to schools that accept superscores. The score reporting policy of each college is different, so we encourage you to learn about the policies at your schools of interest.

Essay Scoring

Essay Scoring The essay on the ACT is optional, but many colleges require it. Two graders evaluate the ACT essay, and each grader gives the writing sample a score from one to six in each of four domains. The respective scores are then combined for a score from two to 12 in each domain. This score does not factor into the final composite.

*July test dates are typically not available in New York test centers.

*July test dates are typically not available in New York test centers.

Dates & Deadlines

The ACT is administered on seven national test dates in September, October, December, February, April, June, and July.

Upcoming Test Information

Test Date  Registration deadline  Late Registration (fee required) Scores Released
April 4, 2020 February 28, 2020 February 29 – March 13, 2020 April 14 – May 29, 2020
June 13, 2020 May 8, 2020 May 9-22, 2020 June 23 – August 7, 2020
July 18, 2020* June 19, 2020 June 20-26, 2020 July 28 – August 31, 2020

Tentative 2020-2021 Dates

Test Date Registration deadline Late Registration (fee required) Scores Released
September 12, 2020 August 7, 2020 August 21, 2020 September 21, 2020
October 24, 2020 September 20, 2020 October 4, 2020 November 3, 2020
December 12, 2020 November 6, 2020 November 20, 2020 December 22, 2020
February 6, 2021 January 8, 2021 January 15, 2021 February 16, 2021
April 17, 2021 March 5, 2021 March 19, 2021 April 20, 2021
June 12, 2021 May 7, 2021 May 21, 2021 June 22, 2021
July 7, 2021* June 11, 2021 June 25, 2021 July 27, 2021


The cost for a full administration is $52 without the Writing section or $68 with it. If a student registers within the Late Registration window, there is an additional $30 fee. Cost information for section retesting has not yet been released, though ACT has confirmed that the price point would be lower than the full-length test.

Students may apply for a fee waiver if they meet certain household income criteria. For students that qualify, the ACT has clarified that each student will receive four fee waivers. Each administration would use one fee waiver, regardless of how many sections are being retested on that day.


The ACT provides a variety of accommodations: large print test booklets, extended time and multiple-day testing, English learner support, and accommodations for additional physical disabilities.

Some accommodations are available at national testing sites and some require special testing environments arranged for by the student’s school. To find out which setting applies to particular accommodations, see the ACT Accommodations Site Guide here.

Most accommodations requests are submitted through the student’s school and are processed in 10-14 business days. For information on requesting accommodations, including required documentation and how to apply if homeschooled or not enrolled, visit ACT’s Accommodations page here.

One of the most common accommodation requests is extended time, including multiple-day testing. The standard extended time accommodation grants students time and a half (1.5x), receiving an additional 50% more time per section. The total testing time for extended time tests is five hours without the Writing section or six hours with Writing. If a student’s IEP or extended time application supports more than time and a half, the ACT does offer multiple-day (two-to-four days) administered at the school for up to triple time. Students must complete the test sections in order and cannot go back to a section once it is already completed.

2020 ACT

 In October of 2019, major changes to the ACT were announced – superscoring, online testing, and section retesting. For detailed information about these changes, visit our ACT Updates page here.

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Every Student is Different:

We know our students; each one is unique, and each one requires a different approach, especially during these unprecedented times. That is why our ACT, SAT, and Middle School test prep is customized to each student and school partner.

We improve your students’ standardized testing by tailoring our research-based, expert instruction and curriculum to your needs, and we can get started with you right away.