ACT Scoring Help: About the ACT

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

The ACT is a standardized college entrance exam that measures your knowledge and skills in English, mathematics, reading, and science reasoning, as well as your ability to apply these skills to future academic tasks. The ACT includes four multiple-choice tests that cover each subject. There is also an optional 30-minute Writing test.

Your ACT scores are determined by how well you perform on the following sections:

The ACT English Test consists of five passages of nonfiction prose. Each passage is followed by 15 questions about how it is written. Some questions ask you to choose the selection that best rephrases an underlined portion of the passage, and others ask about its overall organization.

The ACT Mathematics Test is designed to test your knowledge of the basic facts and skills taught in most high school math programs. This ACT testing utilizes various problem types, including some word problems, problems that involve reading and interpreting graphs and charts, geometry problems, trigonometry problems, and a few straightforward arithmetic and algebra problems.

The ACT Reading Test includes four passages. One is a fictional narrative; the others are nonfiction discussions of topics from the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. A group of questions designed to test how well you understood the information follows each passage.

The ACT Science Reasoning Test presents you with seven sets of science information, which can be presented in the form of graphs, tables, charts, or diagrams; descriptions of experimental studies and results; and presentations of differing theories or hypotheses about a particular scientific topic. Each passage is followed by several questions that require you to demonstrate your understanding of the subject and interpret the information that was presented.

The ACT Writing Test consists of one essay question, and is an optional part of ACT testing. The question defines an issue and then presents two points of view. In your essay, you must declare your position and support your opinion with reasons and details. You may choose one of the perspectives presented in the prompt or present a new perspective of your own. You will be graded on your ability to express a position; maintain focus; develop and support your ideas; organize your thoughts logically; and use language clearly and effectively.

The most efficient -- and quick -- way to increase your ACT scores is through ACT prep. ACT test prep and other types of ACT help are avenues that will teach you strategies to maximize your ability to score well based on your existing knowledge. In addition, ACT prep will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, thus allowing you to target them. For some good, accessible ACT prep, be sure to check out the free ACT practice test available here at Peterson's.

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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