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Preparing for your college career can be a daunting task. There are scholarship applications and applications to schools to complete. There are essays to write and letters of recommendation to acquire. There may even be interviews with prospective schools. And, for most students, there is also the ACT®. Most colleges use the ACT test as an entrance exam to help the school determine what student has learned during your High School career. This information (along with other information obtained through your application, interviews, recommendations and the like), is used by colleges to determine your eligibility for admission.

ACT structure

The ACT test is composed of four sections, and an optional writing test. The four sections of the test are English, Math, Reading and Science, and each section has a maximum score of 36. The tests are timed and scored individually. There is a composite score, which is the average of the scores from each the four sections of the test. This composite score is the overall ACT score that is most often used by schools and is generally considered as your “ACT score.”

The optional writing test is a 40 minute essay designed to demonstrate writing skills developed in English and composition courses. The test itself outlines an issue and provides 3 different perspectives on the issue. In the essay, the student is to evaluate the issue and the different perspective, develop your own perspective and explain the relationship between your perspective, the issue described and the other perspectives given. Although the essay test considered an optional component, many colleges require the test for admission. For this reason, taking the optional writing test is recommended in order to keep the most college possibilities open.

Test prep

When preparing for the test, it is important to remember that the test is designed to evaluate what has been learned over the course of a high school career, and not what a student can cram into his or her brain the week before the test. The best way to prepare for the test is to review the ACT Prep Guide, take practice tests, or participate in the online prep course offered by Peterson’s.

School counselors, teachers, and students who have recently taken the test, are also great resources for test preparation. The best advice for the night before the test is to relax, get a good night sleep and eat a good breakfast. It can be stressful to consider taking a test that can be a huge factor in deciding college admission, but it is important to realize that this is a test that covers no new information. It simply tests what you have already learned. It is important to prepare, but typically a student prepared for the test will demonstrate the same academic performance that he or she did during the course of their high school career.