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Ask the Experts: ACT

By Peterson's Staff updated on Thursday, March 20, 2014

Question What is ACT as opposed to SAT? - Robert

AnswerThe ACT is taken by almost as many students (some 1.3 million) as the SAT these days. It has four sections (reading, math, verbal, and science concepts) as well as an optional writing section/essay. Some students find it works better for them, others don't. The ACT is accepted by almost every college out there in place of the SAT, and usually the SAT Subject Tests as well. We encourage many students to try both testing programs.

 

Question what should i shoot for when i take the act and all the other test for me to be able to get in to college? - alicia

AnswerThe ACT has a broad range of scoring results, and a good level score will depend on what level of competitive college you hope to study in. You should get a good practice book, so that you can prepare for the ACT exam. You can take the test more than once to raise your scores to the level you need for those colleges you will be considering.

Here is our general guideline for you: you want to achieve a score that is at least above the 50% for college bound students. This means a total score in the 20 to 21 range (36 is the highest score one can attain). Check out other articles here on Petersons.com or go to the ACT Web site to learn about the dates of the test each term, the content of the test, and the scoring base. Good luck!

 

Question is the act test very hard? - sara

AnswerYou should first understand that there is no failing grade on the ACT. It is a test of your ability to reason logically and to read for understanding. The different sections of the test are all scored on a relative scale that compares your results to a large population of college-bound students who have taken the test earlier. Is it a difficult test? It all depends on the strength of your academic foundation in high school. Good readers do the best on the test. You can and should prepare for the test by reviewing past exams and practicing. You can do this with workbooks published by Peterson's or take a course on the Peterson's Web site. For example, here's a free ACT practice test you can take on Peterson's. You can take the test more than once to help you improve your scores.

 

Question How is the ACT score look at? Most colleges look at the composite score, but do they look at the sub scores? Do they like to see higher math and english scores than the science section?

Also how is the ACT converted to SAT? I have taken the ACT once and I got a 27. A 27 is in the 90 percentile. But when it is converted to SAT it is only a mere 1820? How does that make sense? - Paul 

AnswerWe are fans of the ACT for several reasons. First, the test measures learned information and academic skills; second, the breakout of the four different sections allows admissions committees to review the different skill sets for the individual applicant. Which subject areas matter most will depend on the fields of study you indicate in your application. For example, if you state that you plan to pursue a science or business concentration, the math and science sections of the ACT will matter somewhat more than the English. But all areas are important.

It is difficult to compare the ACT to the SAT since they are different tests constructs with different populations of test takers. We would simply encourage you to review, review, and review some more and then retake the ACT and not worry about the SAT format.

 

Question Can people take only reading test in the AST test? - siky

AnswerIf you are referring to the ACT (American College Test), you have to complete the entire exam. Only the writing portion is optional. The positive feature of the ACT (in contrast to the SAT testing format) is the option to submit only the best set of score results if you take the test multiple times.

 

Question I have a question concerning the Optional Writing Portion of the ACT. None of the schools I am considering recommend or require the Optional Writing Portion. Should I still take the Optional Writing Portion? - Betty

AnswerYou probably should try the writing section. Even if colleges you are considering do not require it, they might appreciate a good score. If you do poorly, they will not be likely to hold it against you. Furthermore, as you develop your college list, you might decide down the line to add schools that want to see the writing; or, schools in which you are currently interested might decide to start requiring or recommending the writing section for next year.

 

Question hi, i live in yuma arizona. I plan to take the act to go to college. I dont know how to study for them though. I want to do good in life so i think this will help. thanks for your time - lloyd

AnswerYes, college will help you open up career options and improve your job flexibility, security, and income in the long term. Taking the ACT, or SAT, is a first step for most colleges. Explore the act.org Web site for more information on the test, and get the Peterson's "Real ACT Prep Guide," which is the official guide to the ACT exam. Practice regularly, twenty to thirty minutes every few days, and work through at least a few full length, timed practice tests, which you can score and correct yourself, to help improve your scores.

 

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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