ACT Preparation Guide + Useful Resources

What is ACT and Why Does It Matter? 

Most students in the United States and the international exchange students that think about entering a college have heard about the ACT or American College Testing. This mysterious abbreviation is nothing to be afraid of as it represents a standard entrance that is a part of the enrollment process for some college or university. The aim of the ACT test aims to determine whether a high school student is ready for college. The achieved ACT score becomes a component that helps to set a person above or below the average when compared to the rest of the applicants. Turning to statistical data, there is a steady increase in the number of high school graduates that took the ACT. In 1995, there were 38% of graduates, while in 2018, the number grew to 52%. The average test score for the 2018-2019 academic year was 20.8 with the maximum score being 36. 

The general length of the ACT is over two hours (2 hours, 55 minutes if no written test is taken) with an additional 40 minutes for an optional writing challenge, which includes an essay. 

In most cases, if there is no exception due to special needs, ACTs take place at the local high schools or colleges, which makes it quite comfortable for most students. Check out the ACT site locator to make certain. In terms of planning your schedule, it is vital to remember that most tests are provided on a Saturday. The registration usually takes place at your local school or a specified location. 

The principle of this verification can be easily explained if one takes a look at the ACT test sections. They include basic English, Math, Reading, and Science. The essay part called Writing is optional. 

The prices vary for the US and non-US citizens. US citizens that do not take the writing part must pay $50.50 or $67 if the essay is included. The foreigners must pay $150.00 for the standard ACT and $166.50 if the optional 40 minutes long essay is taken. 

The score is calculated between 1 and 36. The composite result is made out of four section scores. The average score varies between 20-22 with the maximum score being 36. The writing part is calculated as separate. 

The Difference Between ACT and SAT Tests 

As the test prep time comes up, the natural question that occurs is whether one must take the SAT or ACT test and what is the major difference between these two. First of all, the SAT is an academic test standard, which stands for Scholastic Aptitude Test. In 2019 alone, there were over 2.22 million high school students that took the challenge. 

Still, why does it matter, and what points must be considered? In reality, these are two different tests and you may be required to take either one to be admitted. There is no clear substitute or winning over in a certain case. The only difference lies within the price ratio for the US or non-US students. While you can take both tests, it is crucial to understand that the SAT focuses on logic and reasoning, while the ACT is more calculation-based with a practical approach. 

ACT 

SAT 

Science Section

-

Critical Thinking Required

Logic and Reason approach

-

Data Analysis in Math test

No calculator allowed for the Math section

Includes one calculator test

Scored between 400 and 1600 points.

Scored on a scale between 1 and 36. 

3 hours, 35 minutes

 

English - 45 minutes, Math is one hour long, Reading - 35 minutes, Science test takes 35 minutes as well, and the optional essay writing is 40 minutes, which is shorter than with the SAT test. 

3 hours, 50 minutes length (essay)

 

Reading takes 65 minutes, Writing and Language test is 35 minutes, Math (without a calculator) - 25 minutes, Math with a calculator - 55 minutes. An optional essay offers 50 minutes. 

$50 - if no essay is included

$67 - with an essay

 

IES Students

 

$150

$167 (essay included)

$47.50

$64.50 (+ essay) 

The foreign students or non-US residents: 

 

$26 for registration

$22 additional payment per each test

$26 payment for listening language tests (starting between November 2019 and May 2021) 

In addition to all the aforementioned, SAT has around 150 questions in the latest edition, while ACT testing has over 200 questions. The style of both tests is constantly changing, yet the ACT takes a more direct approach with clearer wording. However, if you understand what is being asked when you take the SAT challenge, the rest becomes a breeze! 

Remember that both ACT and SAT provide special services for students with learning disabilities, which is why it is vital to ask your school advisor for details. 

When is The Upcoming ACT Testing in 2021?  

Currently, the deadline to register is November 20, 2020. There are no late fees as well for this particular date! The entire registration process will take you about thirty minutes and includes four major requirements: 

  • PC with an Internet connection.
  • Reading to pay with a credit card or a wire transfer. 
  • High school course details. 
  • Formal headshot photo of at least 640 x 480 pixels. 

The current schedule is as follows: 

Test Date

Registration Date

Late Fee Dates

December 12, 2020

November 20

No late fees

February 6, 2021

January 8

January 9 - January 15

April 17, 2021

March 12

March 13 - March 26

June 12, 2021

May 7

May 8 - May 21

July 17, 2021

June 18

June 19 - June 25

As a rule, most ACT tests take place on Saturday at your local school or a college that you have chosen for your future career. Far not every student has an opportunity to attend the test on that particular day of the week due to sports practice, medical, religious, or any other reasons. Therefore, you can register for non-Saturday testing and explain your situation. The location that you choose must be within 75 miles away from your home. 

Since any test registration dates may change due to Covid-19 restrictions and uncertain academic future, you can change various registration information through your personal ACT web account. For example, you can edit: 

  1. Presence of an essay writing test. 
  2. Your chosen test date.
  3. Test location. 
  4. Various personal information if there was a mistake made.
  5. Adding certain information to your preferred college. 

If you want to cancel the test, however, remember that your funds will not be refunded as well as any fees related to transportation. Therefore, take your time wisely and study the options that you have before taking the test or choosing a certain college. 

Discovering the Specifics of The ACT Sections 

SECTION: 

SPECIFICS: 

English

In this particular case, you are going through the list of 75 questions that offer multi-choice. It will be familiar to most high school students. The duration of this section is 45 minutes. The requirements include grammar challenges, punctuation, knowledge of good sentence structure, and various rhetorical skills. 

 

In most scenarios, you will be given a part of the text where an intentional mistake is made. Your task is to provide a correct answer by choosing one of the available options. The trick is to stay focused and try to read the answers in your mind to see what sounds right. 

Math

Here we have 60 questions that are once again with the various options. The duration of the Math challenge is 60 minutes, which allows more time since there are analytical skills involved. The subjects that are covered here include Algebra I and Algebra II, Geometry, and the basic knowledge of Trigonometry. 

 

In addition to the subjects covered, you may have to provide general skills in pre-algebra to get through the various questions. It appears that you have about one minute for a question. 

 

Even if Math is not your subject that you know well, look at the questions, and see the options to identify what is logically right. 

Reading 

The Reading ACT section includes forty multiple-choice questions that are always related to an example that represents a typical prompt. The duration of this part is only 35 minutes, so it requires good preparation. 

 

In its turn, there are four different passages that you must look through. You have a prose fiction passage, social studies article, humanities, and the natural sciences part. 

 

Each part has ten questions that must be analyzed to show that the text has been understood. The trick here is to comprehend what was the author's message. 

Science

Unlike the SAT testing, ACT also includes the challenging Science part. It also has forty questions that have multiple choice. The duration of this exam is 35 minutes. The questions may seem tricky, yet they are always science-based and do not go beyond the basics that you have learned during your high school term. Focus on graphs, charts, and tables that are always linked to a particular question. 

 

The skills that you need for this particular section include correct interpretation of a concept, analytical skills, evaluation of what has been stated, accurate reasoning, and the ability to settle down the logical equations. There are also statements that will be made where your task is to choose the statement that either approves or disapproves of a certain notion.  

Writing 

The ACT writing test is optional, yet it may be required by a certain college or university. It usually includes one essay. Your time is limited to 40 minutes. 

 

You will be given an essay prompt that you must follow or analyze. The purpose of this exam section is to show your writing skills and demonstrate the way you form your sentences and narrative abilities. 

How to Get Ready For Your ACT Test

Testing Your Skills Online: 

ACT. One of the best resources that offer a free study guide and a practice test with the correct answers. 

PowerScore. Based on the previous real exams, this is a good option that lets you test your skills in all four sections. 

4Tests. It has good practice exams with the updated ACT information for 2020-2021. 

PrepScholar. Taken from the past exams, this site allows you to prepare with the help of good ACT simulations. 

Commercial and Free ACT Solutions: 

Free Kaplan ACT Online Workshop. It represents a good solution that is done online as a workshop, explaining the peculiarities. 

Sylvan Learning. Great guide that explains how to prepare yourself as you look at the challenging questions. 

Flashcards: 

Union Test. Helpful ACT flashcards to keep you fast! 

Barron's Cards. You can buy 506 flashcards that are based on the ACT exam. 

PowerScore ACT Math. You can check this online solution for the Algebra part. 

And more:

Official ACT Practice Question. If you are totally new to the ACT and feel frightened, this list of questions covers all the basics. 

Act Up. Amazing tutoring app that you can use anywhere as long as you have the phone by your side. 

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Number 2. Free ACT tutorial that helps you to answer questions at your own pace with no time limitation to keep you relaxed. 

While there is no perfect formula or a template that would let you achieve success right away, the trick is to take one step at a time and use our ACT study guide as a point of reference. Relax and remember there’s nothing to panic about as you take the test! 

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