INTRODUCTION TO THE ACT
The ACT Test is an exam designed to measure your achievement in the major academic areas typically covered in your high school classes. There are four multiple-choice tests—English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science—and an optional Writing Test.
Keep in mind that the ACT isn’t an IQ test—it doesn’t measure your basic intelligence—it is an achievement test designed, with the help of classroom teachers, curriculum specialists, college faculty, and curriculum guides for schools all over the country, to be one of several effective means of evaluating your readiness for college coursework.
The tests that make up the ACT consist of questions that measure your skills and knowledge. However, you are not required to memorize facts or vocabulary to do well on the ACT. Of course, all those terms, formulas, and dates that you learned in your years of school will be helpful when you take the ACT, but last-minute cramming—like memorizing lists of vocabulary words or the entire periodic table of elements—probably won’t improve your performance on the test.
What can you do to improve your performance? On the ACT, as with any other exam, it’s good to find out ahead of time what the test is like—what you’ll be expected to know and do—and to think about how you can use your unique abilities to your best advantage.
The ACT Plus Writing includes the four subject area tests plus a 30-minute Writing Test. ACT results are accepted by all 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S. The ACT includes 215 multiple-choice questions and takes approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete, including a short break (or just over four hours if you are taking the ACT Plus Writing). Actual testing time is 2 hours and 55 minutes (plus 30 minutes if you are taking the ACT Plus Writing).
The ACT is administered on six test dates within the United States. The basic registration fee includes score reports for up to four college choices, if you list valid codes when you register.
I. English Test Description
The English test is a 75-question, 45-minute test, covering:
• grammar and usage
• sentence structure Rhetorical Skills
Spelling, vocabulary, and rote recall of rules of grammar aren’t tested.
The test consists of five prose passages, each one accompanied by multiple-choice test questions. Different passage types are included to provide variety.
Some questions refer to underlined portions of the passage and offer several alternatives to the underlined portion. You must decide which choice is most appropriate in the context of the passage.
Some questions ask about an underlined portion, a section of the passage, or the passage as a whole. You must decide which choice best answers the question posed.
Many questions include “NO CHANGE” to the underlined portion or the passage as one of the choices.
The questions are numbered consecutively. Each question number corresponds to an underlined portion in the passage or to a box located in the passage.
II. Mathematics Test Description
The ACT Mathematics Test is a 60-question, 60-minute test designed to measure the mathematical skills students have typically acquired in courses taken by the end of 11th grade.
The test presents multiple-choice questions that require you to use reasoning skills to solve practical problems in mathematics, including pre-algebra, Algebra I and II, coordinate geometry, plane geometry, and trigonometry.
You need knowledge of basic formulas and computational skills to answer the problems, but you aren’t required to know complex formulas and perform extensive computation. You may use a calculator on the Mathematics Test. If you use a prohibited calculator, you will be dismissed and your answer document will not be scored. You are not required to use a calculator. All the problems can be solved without a calculator.
III. Reading Test Description
The Reading Test is a 40-question, 35-minute test that measures your reading comprehension. You’re asked to read four passages and answer questions that show your understanding of:
• what is directly stated
• statements with implied meanings
Specifically, questions will ask you to use referring and reasoning skills to:
• determine main ideas
• locate and interpret significant details
• understand sequences of events
• make comparisons
• comprehend cause-effect relationships
• determine the meaning of context-dependent words, phrases, and statements
• draw generalizations
• analyze the author’s or narrator’s voice and method
The test comprises four prose passages that are representative of the level and kind of reading required in first-year college courses; passages on topics in social studies, natural sciences, prose fiction, and the humanities are included. The four types of reading selections are: social studies, natural sciences, prose fiction, and humanities. The Social Studies/Sciences subscore is based on the questions on the social studies and natural sciences passages, and the Arts/Literature subscore is based on the questions on the prose fiction and humanities passages.
Each passage is accompanied by a set of multiple-choice test questions. These questions do not test the rote recall of facts from outside the passage, isolated vocabulary items, or rules of formal logic. Instead, the test focuses on the complementary and supportive skills that readers must use in studying written materials across a range of subject areas.
IV. Science Test Description
The Science Test is a 40-question, 35-minute test that measures the skills required in the natural sciences: interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem solving. The test presents seven sets of scientific information, each followed by a number of multiple-choice test questions.
You are not permitted to use a calculator on the Science Test.
The test assumes that students are in the process of taking the core science course of study (three years or more) that will prepare them for college-level work and have completed a course in Earth science and/or physical science and a course in biology.
The content of the Science Test includes biology, chemistry, physics, and the Earth/space sciences (for example, geology, astronomy, and meteorology). Advanced knowledge in these subjects is not required, but background knowledge acquired in general, introductory science courses is needed to answer some of the questions. The test emphasizes scientific reasoning skills over recall of scientific content, skill in mathematics, or reading ability.
The scientific information is conveyed in one of three different formats:
• Data Representation (38%). This format presents graphic and tabular material similar to that found in science journals and texts. The questions associated with this format measure skills such as graph reading, interpretation of scatterplots, and interpretation of information presented in tables, diagrams, and figures.
• Research Summaries (45%). This format provides descriptions of one or more related experiments. The questions focus on the design of experiments and the interpretation of experimental results.
• Conflicting Viewpoints (17%). This format presents expressions of several hypotheses or views that, being based on differing premises or on incomplete data, are inconsistent with one another. The questions focus on the understanding, analysis, and comparison of alternative viewpoints or hypotheses.
The questions require you to:
• recognize and understand the basic features of, and concepts related to, the provided information
• examine critically the relationship between the information provided and the conclusions drawn or hypotheses developed
• generalize from given information and draw conclusions, gain new information, or make predictions
V. Writing Test Description – OPTIONAL
The Writing Test is a 30-minute essay test that measures your writing skills—specifically those writing skills emphasized in high school English classes and in entry-level college composition courses. The test consists of one writing prompt that will define an issue and describe two points of view on that issue. You are asked to respond to a question about your position on the issue described in the writing prompt. In doing so, you may adopt one or the other of the perspectives described in the prompt, or you may present a different point of view on the issue. Your score will not be affected by the point of view you take on the issue.
TIPS FOR THE WRITING TEST
• Carefully read the instructions on the cover of the test booklet.
• Do some planning before writing the essay; you will be instructed to do your prewriting in your Writing Test booklet. You can refer to these notes as you write the essay on the lined pages in your answer folder.
• Do not skip lines and do not write in the margins. Write your essay legibly, in English, with a No. 2 pencil. Do not use ink, a mechanical pencil, or correction fluid.
o Carefully consider the prompt and make sure you understand the issue—reread it if you aren’t sure.
o Decide what perspective you want to take on the issue.
o Then jot down your ideas: this might simply be a list of reasons and examples that you will use to explain your point of view on the issue.
o Write down what you think others might say in opposition to your point of view and think about how you would refute their arguments.
o Think of how best to organize your essay.
• At the beginning of your essay, make sure readers will see that you understand the issue. Explain your point of view in a clear and logical way.
• Stay focused on the topic.
• Discuss the issue in a broader context or evaluate the implications or complications of the issue.
• Address what others might say to refute your point of view and present a counterargument.
• Use specific examples.
• Vary the structure of your sentences, and use varied and precise word choices.
• Make logical relationships clear by using transitional words and phrases.
• End with a strong conclusion that summarizes or reinforces your position.
• If possible, before time is called, recheck your work:
o Correct any mistakes in grammar, usage, punctuation, and spelling.
o If you find any words that are hard to read, recopy them so your readers can read them easily.
o Make any corrections and revisions neatly, between the lines, not in the margins).
RECAP – Description of the ACT
The ACT Test consists of four multiple-choice tests: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. The ACT Plus Writing includes the four multiple-choice tests and an optional Writing Test.
75 questions 45 minutes Measures standard written English and rhetorical skills.
60 questions 60 minutes Measures mathematical skills students have typically acquired in courses taken up to the beginning of grade 12.
40 questions 35 minutes Measures reading comprehension.
40 questions 35 minutes Measures the interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem-solving skills required in the natural sciences.
Optional Writing Test
1 prompt 30 minutes Measures writing skills emphasized in high school English classes and in entry-level college composition courses.