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ACT FAQs

Questions about the Test

Registration Questions

Score Questions

Test Day Questions


Questions about the Test

What is the ACT?

The ACT test assesses high school students' general educational development and their ability to complete college-level work. The test is multiple-choice and is divided into four different sections: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. Additionally, students may sign up to take an optional Writing section, which measures the students' skill in planning and writing short essays.

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What is the format of the test?

The test is given in four sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science. The sections are always presented in this order. The sections have 75 questions, 60 questions, 40 questions, and 40 questions, respectively.

If a student signs up for the writing portion of the test, it will be given as the final section and will consist of writing an essay on a given topic.

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How long is the test?

The timing for the standard ACT is shown in the table below.

Section(s) Time
English 45 minutes
Math 60 minutes
Reading 35 minutes
Science 35 minutes
Writing (optional) 30 minutes
Total Time

2 hours, 55 minutes without the Writing

3 hours, 25 minutes with the Writing

Students with extended time will have a total of 5 hours to complete the ACT (including breaks), and may spend as long as they choose on a given section. Extended time students who take the Writing section will be given an additional 1 hour.

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Registration Questions

When is the ACT given?

The ACT test dates and registration dates can be found on the ACT website.

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How do I register for the ACT?

You can sign up online or request a registration packet at the ACT student website.

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How much does it cost to register for the ACT?

The basic registration fee is $39.50, which includes sending score reports to up to four college choices. The basic registration fee for the ACT plus Writing is $56.50. A detailed list of fees can be found at this website.

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How can I get extended time on the ACT?

Obtaining extended time for the ACT is a multi-step process. If you want extended time, you should begin by talking to your school counselor. Additional information can be found on the ACT Services for Students with Disabilities page.

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Score Questions

How is the ACT scored?

There are four sections on the standard test: English, Math, Reading, and Science. For each section, the student will be given a score from 1 to 36. These section scores will then be averaged to give the composite score, which also ranges from 1 to 36. These are known as the scaled scores.

The scaled scores are based on the raw scores for each section. The raw score for a section is simply the number of correct answers. There is no penalty for an incorrect answer. The raw score will be compared to those of other test takers to obtain the scaled score.

Should the student choose to take the writing section, he will receive two additional scores: a Writing score and a combined English/Writing score. The Writing score is the score for the essay alone and ranges from 2 to 12, while the English/Writing score combines the English and Writing scores (with the English counting twice as much as the Writing) to give a score between 1 and 36. This is important because it means that the essay can either help or hurt the combined English/Writing score.

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How is the ACT essay scored?

The essay is graded using this Scoring Guide on a scale of 1-36. Each of two graders will score your essay on a scale of 1-6 in each of four writing domains: Ideas and Analysis, Development and Support, Organization, and Language Use and Conventions. If there is more than a point difference between the scores given by the two graders, an additional grader will be brought in to ensure fairness. Each domain score is calculated from the sum of the two readers' scores. The total writing score is calculated from the domain scores. An image of the essay will be available to your high school and the colleges to which you send your ACT score report for that date.

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What is the average ACT score?

The average ACT score is about a 21. Up-to-date information on average ACT scores can be found on this website.

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When will I get my scores back?

Generally, scores are available online 2 weeks after the day of the test. You should receive them in the mail within 8 weeks.

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Test Day Questions

What should I bring to the test?

There are several things you MUST bring with you to the test:

In addition to these required items, you should also bring:

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What should I NOT bring to the test?

The following items are not allowed, and should be left in the car or at home:

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