The Act Test

Everything You Need to Know about the Act Test

Act or Sat?

ACT, pronounced a-cee-tee, stands for American College Testing. The test, which was first administered in 1959, gauges both high school achievement and suitability for admission to colleges in the USA.

It is a rival testing body to SAT, originally an abbreviation for the Scholastic Aptitude Test. However, after an earlier modification of its name, it currently simply goes by the name of SAT.

While both ACT and SAT enjoy broad acceptance in colleges across the USA, institutional preferences vary from state to state. While, historically, the Midwestern, Rocky Mountain, and Southern United States have leaned more towards ACT, SAT has had a larger presence in the East and West coasts.

However,the ACT test is said to be gaining ground in the East coast.

As such, whether you want to appear for ACT or SAT would depend, to an appreciable extent, on which college you wish to go, and its specific geographical location. Another factor, invariably, will be the kind of person you are, and which tests you will feel more comfortable with. Though, as competitors, the ACT and the SAT have, over the years, made adjustments in the pattern of their questioning so as not to give the other an advantage, it is generally maintained that the ACT test is more of an achievement test that takes your high school syllabus into account and finds out how much you have really learnt; on the other hand, SAT is seen more in the nature of an aptitude test.

That said, it must be pointed out that, rather than testing your memory, ACT aims primarily to discover how you can use your knowledge to solve problems and to think critically.

The Subjects Tested

Traditionally, ACT comprised tests in English, Mathematics, Reading and Science Reasoning. However, in February 2005, an optional Writing Test was also included. Candidates' performance in the Writing test has a bearing on their score in the English section.

Miscellaneous Details

The ACT test, which is paper-and-pencil based, is usually held on a Saturday from four to six times in a year, in September, October, December, February, April and June. Its frequency varies from state to state.

Exceptionally, for those who are unable to take the test on a Saturday because of religious considerations, ACT is also conducted on Sundays. Excluding the Writing Test, the fee for appearing in the ACT test is $34. Along with the Writing Test, the fee is $49.50.

The duration of the former is 2 hours and 55 minutes, and of the latter 3 hours and 25 minutes.

For candidates with physical and learning disabilities, there is a provision for accommodations, and for a 50% additional time slot to complete the examinations.

The questions in all the sections of the ACT test are multiple-choice in nature.

There are altogether 75 questions in the 45-minute English section. You are provided sentences and paragraphs and asked to identify a variety of language errors in areas ranging from grammar and pronunciation to ambiguity and redundancy.

The one-hour Mathematics section contains sixty questions, and tests, more than any other factor, mathematical reasoning ability through the application of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry.

The 35-minute Reading comprehension section consists of a total of 40 questions on four separate passages of about 750 words each on Prose Fiction, Humanities, Social Sciences and Natural Sciences respectively. While a majority of them require an in-depth understanding of the texts, there are others which deal with the more obvious and superficial aspects of the subject-matter.

The duration of the Science Reasoning Test is also 35 minutes. The candidate is required to answer 40 questions related to seven sets of scientific information presented through graphs, charts, tables, scientific drawings, research summaries and other passages.
Finally, there is the optional Writing Test. An issue of relevance to high school students is presented as a prompt, and the examinee is asked to give his response in the form of an essay.

Some people feel that, though the Writing Test is optional, not to appear in it might give the wrong signal to the admission authorities, as it might well be construed as a candidate's admission of weakness in this particular area.

Those who are not satisfied with their scores in ACT can take a re-test. Statistics show that an impressive 57% of those taking a re-test increased their composite score, while those who fared worse than earlier comprised 22%. There was no change in the composite score of the remaining 21%.

In conclusion, it may be added that, apart from the results from tests like ACT and SAT, most colleges give importance to other factors as well as criteria for admission. These include Grade Point Average, class rank, and co-curricular activities.

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