ACT Overview, Structure, and Scoring

Overview

The ACT is a standardized college entrance exam that measures your knowledge and skills in English, mathematics, reading, and science reasoning, as well as your ability to apply these skills to future academic tasks. The ACT includes four multiple-choice tests that cover each subject. An optional 30-minute Writing test is also available.

The ACT English Test consists of five passages of nonfiction prose. Each passage is followed by 15 questions about how it is written. Some questions ask you to choose the selection that best rephrases an underlined portion of the passage, and others ask about its overall organization.

The ACT Mathematics Test is designed to test your knowledge of the basic facts and skills taught in most high school math programs. The test utilizes various problem types, including some word problems, problems that involve reading and interpreting graphs and charts, geometry problems, trigonometry problems, and a few straightforward arithmetic and algebra problems.

The ACT Reading Test includes four passages. One is a fictional narrative; the others are nonfiction discussions of topics from the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. A group of questions designed to test how well you understood the information follows each passage.

The ACT Science Reasoning Test offers seven sets of science information, which can be presented in the form of graphs, tables, charts, or diagrams; descriptions of experimental studies and results; and presentations of differing theories or hypotheses about a particular scientific topic. Each passage is followed by several questions that require you to demonstrate your understanding of the subject and interpret the information that was presented.

The optional ACT Writing Test consists of one essay question. The question defines an issue and then presents two points of view. In your essay, you must declare your position and support your opinion with reasons and details. You may choose one of the perspectives presented in the prompt, or present a new perspective of your own. You will be graded on your ability to express a position; maintain focus; develop and support your ideas; organize your thoughts logically; and use language clearly and effectively.

Test Structure

English
Question Type Number of Questions
Usage & mechanics 40
Rhetorical skills 35
Time Allotted: 45 minutes
Mathamatics
Question Type Number of Questions
Arithmetic 14
Elementary algebra 10
Intermediate algebra 9
Coordinate geometry 9
Plane geometry 14
Trigonmetry 4
Time Allotted: 60 minutes
Reading
Question Type Number of Questions
Prose fiction 10
Humanities 10
Social studies 10
Natural sciences 10
Time Allotted: 35 minutes
Science Reasoning
Question Type Number of Questions
Data representation 15
Research summary 18
Conflicting viewpoint 7
Time Allotted: 35 minutes
Writing (optional)
Question Type Number of Questions
Essay 1
Time Allotted: 30 minutes

Scoring

Each of the four standard test sections (English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science Reasoning) is scored on a scale of 1-36. You will also receive a composite score, which is the average of your four test scores. If you take the Writing test, you will receive a Writing test subscore (ranging from 2 to 12) and a combined English/Writing score (ranging from 1 to 36), along with comments about your essay.

Peterson's © 2008

return to General Advice for Students

Login or Register

SAT log in   ACT Log in

Select your online course.

Frequently Asked Questions :: Students

General Test Advice