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Suniti's Advice Corner

Guide to the Most Commonly Asked Questions about the ACT

Posted by Sybil St. Hilaire on Thu, Nov 07, 2013

ACT questionsWhat is the ACT?

The ACT is a standardized college admissions test that is accepted by all 4 year colleges and universities in the United States. The test is one of the tools colleges use to assess the academic ability and potential of all their applicants. Since the test is standardized, it helps level the playing field so that students from all backgrounds are evaluated with the same criteria.

Why should I take the ACT?

There are many reasons to take the ACT, here are a few:

  1. Most universities require a standardized test score, (either the SAT or ACT) as part of the college application. Submitting your ACT score will allow you to fulfill this requirement.
  2. Consider taking the ACT if you have done well on the PLAN or have a PSAT or SAT score that does not match your school performance.
  3. In addition to using your ACT score to make admissions decisions the ACT can also be used to figure out your optimal course placement, provide academic advising, and inform scholarship and loan decisions. 

What is the ACT scored out of?

For each of the ACT’s four sections you receive a score between 1-36, these scores are then averaged to arrive at your composite score. Another bonus of taking the ACT is that unlike the SAT there is no negative marking for incorrect answers. (Learn more about differences between the SAT and ACT by clicking here). 

What is tested on the ACT and how long is the test?

The ACT tests your math problem-solving, reading comprehension, and writing skills. The test has 215 questions and is 3 hours and 25 minutes long (including the optional 30 minute writing section).


Number of Questions

Total Mins

Content Tested


75 questions

45 minutes

Usage/ mechanics and rhetorical skills


60 questions

60 minutes

Arithmetic operations, algebra, geometry, statistics, probability, trigonometry, logarithms, Complex Numbers, and Matrices/Circle & Ellipse Equations


40 questions

35 minutes

Reading comprehension


40 questions

35 minutes

Skills required in analyzing natural science based passages: interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem solving


1 essay prompt

30 minutes

Usage/mechanics and rhetorical skills

When should I take the ACT?

We advise our students to take the ACT at least twice: once during the spring of their junior year, and again in the fall of their senior year. In the United States the test is administered 6 times a year. (February, April, June, September, October, and December)

How do I sign up for the ACT?

You can register for the ACT online at www.actstudent.org/regist/. Be sure to register well in advance of your test deadline and double check the proximity of the testing center you choose.

Do I need to prepare for the ACT? When should I start preparing for the ACT?

Yes, you should definitely prepare for the ACT. Start by doing the best you can on the work assigned to you in the classroom. Once you have a handle on the academics work to identify the right test-prep for you outside of the classroom.

Everyone has the ability to do well and you want your ACT score to match your potential so that you can get into the best schools. Start preparing for the ACT any time after your sophomore year. You should prepare ahead of time – don’t leave it until the last minute.

Can I use a calculator on the ACT?

You may use a calculator on the ACT’s mathematics section.

How much does it cost to take the ACT?

While prices vary based on how many colleges you want to send your scores to and whether you want to take the writing section, the ACT (no writing) is $36.50. The ACT plus writing is $52.50. More pricing information can be found here.

What is the PLAN? When should I take the PLAN? How is the PLAN different from the ACT?

Similar to the PSAT, the PLAN is a practice test for the ACT. It both shows you what the ACT will be like, and provides an indication of how you will perform on the actual ACT. You should take the PLAN during your sophomore year of high school. The only real differences between the PLAN and the ACT are that the PLAN is a shorter test and does not include a writing section.

Enjoyed these tips? Want to learn more about the ACT? Register for our free trial:

Start your ACT  free trial today!


Tags: For Students, For Parents, For Counselors

About Suniti

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Suniti is the creator of TestRocker, an online learning platform that helps you unlock your dream SAT and ACT scores. TestRocker is based on Suniti’s highly successful and proven method of teaching students how to maximize their SAT and ACT scores, a method she has perfected through tutoring thousands of students globally for more than a decade. 

TestRocker is a one of a kind online SAT/ACT program that empowers students to take control of their test preparation. After taking our diagnostic test a customized study plan, individualized to students' strengths/weaknesses, allows them to track progress as they work through the program. Each of the 1,200 SAT & 2000 ACT questions on TestRocker are accompanied by video explanations from Suniti. Parents are able to track their child’s progress through biweekly reports.

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