Are You Looking to Take the ACT?

General Test Information

ACT (originally American College Testing) is a non-profit organization involved in testing and assessment for educational and business purposes. Their services are utilized in high schools, colleges, government agencies, and businesses all over the world.

Their most popular test is the ACT, a standardized college entry exam which is accepted in America by all four-year institutions. Multiple-choice questions cover all areas (that is, English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science) except the optional Writing section, which consists of a brief essay.

For Students

The ACT is available for students who are at least 13 years old. Most students who take the ACT rather than the SAT choose to take it as a junior or senior in high school. A fee of $35.00 (for the ACT without the Writing option) or $50.50 (for the ACT Plus Writing) is required to take the test.

However, you can apply for a fee waiver if you demonstrate financial need as defined on the ACT Fee Waiver form, are currently in 11th or 12th grade in high school, and meet either citizenship or test location requirements. All waiver requests are made through your school guidance office rather than ACT itself.

ACT maintains a test prep page listing the various resources it provides to help you prepare for the test. There is a web service called ACT Online Prep which costs $19.95 per year, which gives you access to study materials that cover the test’s subjects as well as practice tests and essays.

This is an excellent way to make sure your knowledge is both complete and applicable to the ACT. Check with your school to see whether they already purchased a license for students to use the service at no charge. You can also buy an official prep guide ($30.95), look for the daily practice question, or use the practice question page.

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Going Back to College

ACT Scores

The combined subjects of the test are graded on a scale of 1 to 36, with a higher number being a higher score. In order to compare your score to that of other students, look at ACT’s national ranking page. The 99th and 1st percentiles are where you’d expect to see them, at the 36 and 1 marks. The 50th percentile (50 percent of students score at or below this number) for the composite score falls between 21 and 20, and the 75th between 24 and 25.

Scholarships and federal grants use your ACT scores, along with other details of your previous educational accomplishments, extracurricular activities, community service, and economic situation, to rank your applications for financial aid.

Colleges and universities use your ACT score as a factor in determining whether to admit you, and your advisor uses it to decide which courses you should take. If your first score does not reflect what you think is your level of achievement, redouble your efforts at studying and take the test again when next offered. That second attempt will not affect your eligibility to attend college, and if the experience prompts you to pay more attention to your studies, it will prove beneficial in the long run.

Continuing Education

When returning to college after a period of absence, your previous ACT score may still be acceptable. Check with your college’s admissions office to find out whether the school will use it. If you must take the ACT again, remember to brush up to regain at least your former level of proficiency.

Community colleges, vocational or technical schools, and other centers of education with a large percentage of adult learners may use some of ACT’s other tests. The WorkKeys test is used by employers in hiring, so if you familiarize yourself with the test while still in school you can increase your career opportunities. ACT’s DISCOVER aptitude testing system is no longer sold, but you will need some way to match your skills and interests to a particular career path. Check to see what aptitude testing is made available at your college, public library, high school, or military base.

Comparing to the SAT

Both the ACT and the SAT serve the same purpose, as college admissions tests, but the SAT requires an essay section that is added into your total score. If you don’t like writing, the ACT is preferable. The ACT does have a section on science, where the SAT only deals with reading, writing, and mathematics. When it comes to the SAT as opposed to the ACT, it’s your personal preference that guides your decision.


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