ACT Test for College

How Does the ACT Help the Colleges Judge You?

The ACT evaluates a candidate's general educational development and the capacity to complete college education. The 4 areas where these skills are tested are Math, English, Science and Reading. The writing skills are also tested but it is an optional section. The applicant's readiness to join a college is tested and the scores directly reflect the student's skill level at courses in the college entry-level.

The test is administered 6 times in a year. The total duration of the test is 3 hours and it is 3 hours and 30 minutes in case the Writing section is also taken up. The cost of the test ranges from $34 to $49.50. The total score is given as an average score of the 4 sections of the test. The maximum score one can get is 36 and the average national score is 21. Sub scores in English, Math and Reading are also given to the students and the scores range between 1 and 18. These scores are not considered during the admission process by the colleges or universities.

Sections and Question Types

Details of the 4 sections in the test that are compulsory and the essay writing section that is optional:

  • Math

This section is for 60 minutes and there are 60 multiple choice questions to be answered in this time. There are 5 answer choices given for each of the questions. The following table gives the details of the math section of the test.

Math Topic

No. of Questions



Elementary Algebra


Intermediate Algebra


Plane Geometry


Co-ordinate Geometry


Elementary Trigonometry


The scores range form 1 to 36. The use of calculators is allowed.

  • Science

This is a 35-minute section. 40 multiple-choice questions will be given to you for answering. The scores range from 1 to 36. Seven passages are given with 5 to 7 questions at the end. The table gives the details of the passage types and number of questions for each of the passages.

Passage Type

No. of Passages

No. of Questions

Data representation



Research Summary



Conflicting Viewpoints



  • Reading

This is also a 35 minute section with 40 multiple choice questions. Here again the scores range from 1 to 36. 1 passage each from prose fiction, social science, humanities and natural science totaling 4 passages are given for reading comprehension in this section.

  • English

75 multiple choice questions are given in this section. The time allotted for this section is 45 minutes. 1 to 36 is the score range. Usage and mechanics skills and rhetorical skills are tested in this section. The usage and mechanics skills test the usage of commas, apostrophes, colons and fragments. Clarity, sentence organization and strategy are tested under the rhetorical skills.

  • Essay Writing

Though this is an optional section, many colleges ask for this score for the admission process. This is a 30-minute section. An essay has to be written on the given topic. Usually the topics are social issues. The essay is scored by 2 trained readers on a 1 to 6 scale. The score is given as a total of the 2 scores. 0 is given only in cases were the essay is illegible, left blank, not related to the given topic, is written in a language other than English or not written with a no.2 pencil.

When to Take the ACT?

Generally students take up the test in the spring of junior year. If required, they take it up again in the fall of the senior year. Some students also take up the test in the fall of the junior level. This gives them time to retake the test more than once or take other such similar examinations.