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How to prepare for the ACTs?


14 December 2020

American College Testing, known as ACT, is an entrance test for college admissions in the United States. It is conducted by a non-profit organization by the name ACT.

The test includes four skill areas namely, English, Mathematics, Reading, and Reasoning in Science. All four-year colleges and universities in the United States and more than 226 universities outside the US adopt this ACT.

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What is the purpose and functions of the ACT?

The ACT is an entrance test conducted by colleges and universities to decode whether high school students are qualified for admission to colleges, based on a common cut-off grade.
If a student wants to study in a foreign country after his board exams, he should come out successfully in ACT for undergraduates before the admission committees of the foreign country.

  • Purpose of ACT

It is a multiple-choice, paper-pencil test. The purpose of the tests is to assess the fitness of the high school student for college and allot colleges with a common cut-off standard to compare the applicants.

  • Functions of ACT

ACT is to measure the high school student’s general educational development and their capability to complete the college course. The assessment is made by multiple-choice tests in English, Mathematics, Reading, and science reasoning. Further, to assess the skill in planning and essay writing, an optional writing test was also conducted.

ACT says that the scores indicate the suitability for ‘college readiness’ and scores in each of the subjects represent the skills in entry-level college courses in English, Algebra, Social Sciences, Humanities, and Biology. The ACT Inc. has found through research in 2003, that the scores in ACT of a student have a relationship with obtaining a degree by him or her.

ACTs develops the test by :

  • Prescribing the objectives for instructions from all middle and high schools in the US.
  • Reviewing approved textbooks taught for Grades 7 to 12.
  • Surveying teachers to know the knowledge skills relevant to success in a degree course.

The ACT publishes a technical manual. This manual summarizes the studies conducted on its validity in arriving at freshman GPA, comparing different high school GPAs, and assessing educational achievement.
Most colleges use only the ACT for the admission process. The 75th percentile score shows 24.1 for public institutions and 25.3 for private colleges. Students have to check with colleges directly to know the ACT admission requirements.

About the ACT

  • ACT Eligibility

It is taken by students aged 13 and above. There are no age or grade limits. The only requirements are international credit or debit cards for registering for the examination and a valid international passport as proof of identification.

  • ACT Online Courses

ACT conducts affordable, comprehensive, and animated online courses. It enables the student to know all the aspects of the test and to perform well to get success.

You can also enroll in these online ACT courses Princeton Review, Prep Scholar.



  • ACT Exam Dates

International test dates are found on ACT’s websites every year. There are 5 test dates, three of them are from September to December. One must register one month before the test date. To be safe, one may appear for the test in April – June for the first time to have improvement. This will help to learn from mistakes and to stay fully equipped in case of appearing for the second time in September.



  • ACT Exam Pattern

ACT is more concerned with curriculum-based learning in schools than mere pass in school examinations, unlike the SAT. It tests the student in English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. The students’ knowledge and endurance are tested in the 3 hours duration of the test. There is an option for essay writing, availing 40 minutes extra time. The test consists of 215 multiple-choice questions. Intelligence in guessing is necessary as no negative marking is there.

Attempt practice tests:

  • ACT Fees

Fees for the test without writing is $46 and for that with writing is $62. However, there is an additional fee of $57.50. For Indian students, who opt for the writing component is $120 in total, which is INR 7700 at the current exchange rate. Additional fees for sending scores report to additional schools are also to be paid.

Overview of ACT scoring

Out of the four subject areas of the ACT, namely English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science, sealed scores of 1 to 36 are allotted for each subject area. Then the average of the scores is arrived at, which to ranges from 1 to 36, which is the composite score of the station.
The raw score of the student is the total number of questions that are correctly answered in each section. There is no deduction for wrong answers. From the raw scores of each subject area, the scaled score of 1 to 36 is arrived at.

  • How is the ACT score computed?

The student’s score is between 1 and 36 for each subject area, from which his/her raw score is obtained. His/her composite score is the average of the four area scores, rounded up to the nearest whole number.
For example, the scores in English, Maths, Reading, and Science are respectively 24,23,26 and 25.
Then the composite score is (24+23+26+25) /4 = 24.5 = 25 after rounding off.

  • What is a good score?

The call for admissions abroad is based on the overall performance of the applicant.

  • ACT Subscores

Besides composite scores and subject scores, ACTs further give subscores in three subject areas, namely, English, Maths, and Reading. By this, the student gets more information about his/her strengths and weaknesses in each subject.
The subscore is from 1 to 18. It is also obtained from raw scores. However, there is no direct relationship between the subscore and final scaled score. The subscore just gives information about the performance and the improvements to be made.

When to take the ACT?

Pre-set timelines harm one’s academic considerations and activities. Good planning and determining the proper timeline take some effort. Smart timeline planning is necessary. In general, students should aim to attempt to take the ACT once in their junior year during Spring and a second attempt can be made in the fall of their senior year.

Registration for ACT

  • You can register online at act.org.
  • Photo: submit a photo of yourself one week before the day of the test.
  • Find out if you need a written test.
  • Pay your fees or apply for a waiver.


Nearly 2 million students from over 130 countries attempted the ACT exams making it the most popular college admission test in the US. All major universities accept the ACT, for some, it is mandatory. You can make up for a low GPA by performing well in ACTs. You can assess your strengths and weaknesses.

Based on these analyses you can understand where to work on and perform to your highest potential.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the ACT

What is the ACT exam in the USA?

The ACT exam, or American College Test, is a national standardized test that serves as a measurement of aptitude and critical thinking. ACT scores are an important factor of consideration.

Is a 24 a good ACT score?

A score of 24 means you've scored better than about 74% of students. 28 means you've scored better than 88% of students, and 30 means you've scored better than 93% of them! Anything 35 or above is in the 99th percentile—a truly phenomenal score.

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Written by P Reeta Percy Malathi, Cuemath Teacher

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