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Everything you need to know to understand the test, master the problems, and improve your score.

ACT Prep Guide Plus

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What is the ACT?

The ACT is an exam to measure a what a student has learned in high school and gauge an individual’s academic college readiness. Most colleges and universities require reported scores ACT, SAT, or other standardized tests to help make admissions decisions. Isn’t that what grades are for, you ask? Yes, however, high school curriculum and grading policies vary from state to state. Additionally, independent and parochial schools are exempt from federal and state standards. By having students all take the same test, admissions officers can better compare compare applicants within their cohort.

What’s on the ACT?

The ACT is a multiple choice test containing four sections: English, Reading, Math, and Science. It also offers an optional Essay section. Some colleges require the ACT essay, so make sure check with the colleges to which you’re applying before deciding to opt out of the ACT Essay.

How is the ACT scored?

Each of the four sections of the ACT are scored on a 1 to 36 point scale, a 36 being a perfect score. Your total score is calculated based on the average of your four scores and is also on a 1 to 36 point scale. The writing test is scored separately.

Who takes the ACT?

Students who wish to attend college. Most students take the ACT in their third and/or fourth year of high school.

Should I prep for the ACT? How much?

The ACT is 3 hours long, almost 4 hours if you take the essay section. With anything of that magnitude, a little practice is in order. Plus, a higher score makes you a more competitive applicant for both colleges and scholarships. While everyone is different, Peterson’s recommends at least six weeks of preparation for test day, longer if you are looking for a substantial score increase. Peterson’s ACT test prep products all help students create a personalized study plan.

How do I register for the ACT?

ACT registration deadlines fall approximately 4 weeks before each test date. Register online on the ACT website at <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"></a>.
Why Petersons?

Peterson's - Improving Scores Since 1966

Why Peterson’s? Peterson’s is the world’s leading educational services company dedicated to furthering education after high school and beyond. From culinary school to medical school—and everything in-between–Peterson’s helps you discover, prepare for, and fund your education. Every year over 500,000 students use Peterson’s books, practice tests, and learning tools to ace their exams. We are also exceptionally proud to be the official test prep provider of the DSST which provides college credit by exam for our men and women in uniform across the globe.


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With digital and print prep guides for over 150 exams and tests, there’s nowhere you can’t go with Peterson’s by your side. Trusted since 1966 by institutions far and wide.

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