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Your ACT test scores are an important part of your future college plans. As you apply for colleges, the schools will be looking at your test scores to determine if you are ready for college level work, if you meet the criteria to be admitted, and what classes you might be placed in. Since you can take the test multiple times if you need to, many students often take the ACT the first time in their senior year. If you are a freshman or a sophomore right now, this means you’ll be preparing for the test sooner than you think. The first step in preparation is to learn your way around the test, so that you can get an idea of what may be expected of you when you take it.

The test is divided into four parts, with an optional writing section being the fifth. It is broken down in sections according to the academic disciplines of English, Math, Reading, and Science. You are scored separately for each section of the test, and then a composite score is created by averaging your scores on all 4 test. The writing test is scored separately. So let’s take a look at the different sections of the test.


The English section of the test is designed to measure your ability to organize and edit written material. During the course of this test, you will be asked to evaluate a sentence and then indicate which of the answers listed corrects the sentence. You may be correcting grammar, punctuation, re-ordering the text presented or cutting out portions of the text. The test has 75 questions and you’ll have 45 minutes to complete it.


In the Math section, you are expected to prove proficient at the Math you learned in high school. There are questions on Pre-Algebra and Algebra, as well as Geometry and Trigonometry. All questions are multiple choice and you are allowed to bring a calculator – however, some calculators are not permitted, so it is important to double check to make sure you bring one that you can use. This is a 60-minute test and you have 60 questions to answer.


The Reading section consists of 4 reading passages. Each passage covers a different topic and you will be asked questions directly related to the passages read. The questions are designed to test your critical thinking and your ability to understand and analyze a piece of writing. It consists of 40 questions that need to be completed in 35 minutes.


The Science section is similar to the reading section in that you will be presented information and the questions will be related to the information provided. There are written pieces, charts and graphs that you will analyze in order to answer the questions. Also like the Reading section, you’ll have 35 minutes to answer 40 questions


The optional writing test is designed to assess your writing skills – skills that you learned in high school or college prep classes. This test is optional, but some colleges require it. If writing is a strong skill for you, it may be a good idea to take this optional portion of the test. It does not add into your composite score, but it can demonstrate to colleges your ability to express your thoughts. You will be given one prompt for your essay and will have 40 minutes to complete it.

Knowing what is on the ACT should help you in focusing your study. There are several different ACT test Prep courses you can take to help fine-tune your skills and help prepare you for each of the 4 sections of the test.