Interested in preparing for the ACT Exam? Huntington can help! Call 1 800 CAN LEARN

Click here to find a program in your area

What is the ACT?

The ACT Assessment Test, or ACT, is a nationally administered, standardized exam designed to measure your general educational development and your ability to complete college-level work. The ACT is a paper-and-pencil test. Students typically take the ACT in the spring of 11th grade or in the fall of 12th grade. The ACT is designed and administered by ACT, Inc. The ACT exam tests four skill areas: English, mathematics, reading, and science. There is an optional fifth section for Writing.

Colleges use the ACT as a means of evaluating students for college admission. Because courses and grading standards vary widely from school to school, scores on standardized tests like the ACT help colleges compare students from different schools, cities, and states. ACT scores are used to estimate how well students are likely to perform in college-level courses, and are also used as qualifiers for academic scholarships.

What content is tested on the ACT? What are the different test sections?

The ACT consists of four required sections and one optional section.

Section Time (minutes) Number of Questions
45 75
60 60
35 40
35 40
30 1 prompt

How long is the ACT?

The ACT exam is approximately 3½ hours in length, including breaks and the optional Writing section. Without the Writing section, the test is about three hours.

How do I register for the ACT Test? When are the tests offered?

ACT dates, locations, and registration information can be found at

When will I get my scores?

In general, ACT scores are available online after each national test date. ACT Writing scores are posted online as soon as they are processed, which is normally about 2 weeks after multiple-choice scores are available. ACT score reports are mailed out approximately 27 days after a test date. If student scores are not available on the first date listed for a test date, the recommended course of action is to check back weekly. Scores are processed and added each week, usually each Wednesday and Friday. Normally, all scores are reported by 8 weeks after the test date.

How many times can I take the ACT?

Many students take the ACT twice, usually once in junior year and once in senior year. Consider taking the test a second time if you had problems during the test, did not feel well, or were unhappy with your scores. If you do take the test more than once, it is up to you to decide which set of scores are sent to colleges. Only the scores from the test date you choose are sent to colleges.

How is the ACT is scored? What is the Composite score?

Each section of the ACT is scored from 1 to 36. The scores for all four sections are averaged to produce an overall ACT Composite scaled score of 1 to 36. Certain sections of the ACT also produce subscores, which are scored from 1 to 18. Scaled scores and subscores are based on raw scores, which are calculated according to the number of correct, incorrect, and omitted questions.

  • Students receive 1 raw score point for each correct answer.

  • Students do not lose any raw score points for incorrect answers.

  • Students neither gain nor lose points by omitting.

Subscore Reporting

  • Three scores are reported for the ACT English Test. They are:

    • A total test score based on all 75 questions;

    • A subscore in Usage/Mechanics based on 40 questions; and

    • A subscore in Rhetorical Skills based on 35 questions.

  • Four scores are reported for the ACT Mathematics Test. They are:

    • A total test score based on all 60 questions;

    • A subscore in Pre-Algebra/Elementary Algebra based on 24 questions;

    • A subscore in Intermediate Algebra/Coordinate Geometry based on 18 questions; and

    • A subscore in Plane Geometry/Trigonometry based on 18 questions.

  • Three scores are reported for the ACT Reading Test. They are:

    • A total test score based on all 40 questions;

    • A subscore in Social Studies/Sciences reading skills (based on the 20 questions in the social studies and natural sciences sections of the test); and

    • A subscore in Arts/Literature reading skills (based on the 20 questions in the prose fiction and humanities sections of the test).

  • One score is reported for the ACT Science Test, which is a total test score based on all 40 questions.

  • Students who take the Writing Test receive two additional scores. They are:

      • A Combined Score for the multiple-choice English Test and the Writing Test, and

      • A subscore for the Writing Test.

    The ACT essay is scored on a scale of 2 to 12, with 12 being the best possible essay score. This score is actually the combination of two separate scores. Each essay will be scored by two readers and scored on a scale of 1 (low) to 6 (high). The Combined English/Writing score is then scaled 1 to 36. The English Test contributes 2/3 and the Writing Test contributes 1/3 toward the Combined English/Writing score.

Score Conversion Scale:

Your ACT Score Report will contain other valuable information to help you better understand your score. This includes the ACT Score Conversion Scale, which distributes student scores along a bell curve. This means that most students receive scores that cluster around the center of the "bell" (a score of approximately 21). ACT scores correspond to certain percentiles. A percentile represents the percentage of students that took the test on a given day that performed below a given score.

Each college and university sets its own ACT score requirements for admission into that school. Check with the schools you are interested in applying to in order to determine the score you need for admission into that institution. Students can decide (with limited exceptions) which ACT scores are sent to colleges.


©2008-2015 Huntington Mark, LLC, all rights reserved *ACT is a registered trademark of ACT, Inc., SAT and AP are registered trademarks of the College Board, PSAT/NMSQT is a registered trademark of the College Board and National Merit Scholarship Corporation; and none were involved in the production of, or endorses, this product. Huntington Learning Center®, the three-leaf, and 1 800 CAN LEARN® are registered trademarks of Huntington Mark, LLC. Each franchised Huntington Learning Center is operated under a franchise agreement with Huntington Learning Centers, Inc.