What is the ACT?

many students and parents start their college admission with the primary step of considering their ACT score, in this article you can learn about what is the ACT, how is it scored, what are the colleges available for your ACT score and more.

Updated by Selva Kumar on 6th February 2020

 The ACT (American College Testing) is a standardized entrance test which is followed by many colleges in the United States to make an admission decision.

The ACT is considered as a part of the admission process, where the ACT scores determine the eligibility of a student whether or not to get into colleges/universities. This test also has an impact on the scholarships as it is one of the candidate's financial aid eligibility determining elements.


The ACT Test

This test has five subject areas namely English, Maths, Science, Reading, and Writing. Out of which writing section is optional, the students taking the ACT test may or may not take the writing section. However the writing section is considered in the composite score, but still, the writing section has its own perks, which we’ll be seeing later.

There is one good news that the test takers should keep in mind is that there is no negative marking, so even if you don’t know the answer, try covering all the questions by guessing it.


ACT Format

The ACT test composes of multiple-choice questions for the four sections, which are English, Maths, Science, and Reading sections.

And the writing section includes one essay and the total time allowed is 3 hours 35 minutes.

The following table shows the breakdown of each section with the time limit and content covered in each section.

Section

Number of Questions

Total Time

Content Covered

English

75 questions

45 minutes

Grammar, sentence structure, organization & style

Maths

60 questions

60 minutes

Trigonometry, coordinate geometry & plane geometry and Algebra 1, 2 and 3

Science

40 questions

35 minutes

Problem-solving, interpretation analysis, evaluation, and reasoning.

Reading

40 questions

35 minutes

Reading and comprehension of what is implied indirectly or directly stated.

Writing (optional)

1 essay

40 minutes

Writing skills

Total

215 question and 1 essay

215 minutes

 


How is the ACT Scored?

Now, As you know the ACT test format and total time, you may also have to know how the ACT is scored, because by understanding how the scoring mechanism works, it gives you the advantage to set clear goals and focus on it without distraction, also helps you score more by being aware of where to focus and how.

There are four sections, also known as the subject areas, each section is given a scaled score ranging from 1 to 36. These ACT scores are then averaged to arrive at the composite score which also ranges between 1 and 36. The composite score is the final score which the colleges/universities take into consideration.

The scaled scores are nothing but the raw scores from each section which are being converted using a standard scaling system.

These raw scores are the total number of questions answered correctly in each section.

How are the raw scores calculated?

Many standardized tests such as the ACT, SAT uses the scaled scores to make sure that their scores are consistent throughout the multiple test dates.

The following table shows the categories based on which the raw scores are calculated for each section.

Sections

Categories

Marks per category

English

Production of Writing (POW)

23

 

Knowledge of Language (KLA)

12

 

Conventions of Standard English (CSE)

40

Mathematics

Preparing for Higher Math (PHM)

35

 

Integrating Essential Skills (IES)

25

Reading

Key Ideas & Details (KID)

25

  Craft & Structure (CS) 11
  Integration of Knowledge & Ideas (IKI) 4
Science Interpretation of Data (IOD) 18
  Scientific Investigation(SIN) 12
  Evaluation of Models, Interferneces & Experimental Results (EMI) 10

 

Now if you are thinking about how are the scaled scores calculated from the raw scores, the following chart shows the raw scores to a scaled score conversion.

Source: act.org


What is ACT Percentiles?

The ACT percentiles are rankings used for the comparison of your ACT score with other test takers by letting you know and compare how many other students score higher than or lower than or even equal to you.

For example, if you get 65th percentile, then that means you have scored more than 65% of other test-takers. But remember that percentiles are not grades, they don’t represent your position out of 100.

The following table shows the percentile for each section along with the composite score percentile comparison

National Norms for the ACT Test Scores

English

Math

Reading

Science

Composite

Score

100

100

100

100

100

36

99

99

99

99

99

35

96

99

97

98

99

34

94

98

95

97

98

33

93

97

92

96

97

32

91

96

90

95

95

31

90

95

87

94

93

30

88

93

84

92

91

29

86

91

82

90

88

28

84

88

80

88

85

27

82

83

77

85

82

26

79

79

74

82

78

25

75

74

71

77

74

24

70

69

66

70

69

23

65

65

61

64

64

22

59

60

54

57

58

21

54

57

49

50

52

20

48

53

43

43

46

19

44

47

38

37

40

18

40

40

32

30

33

17

36

31

27

24

27

16

30

19

22

18

20

15

23

10

18

13

14

14

18

3

13

9

9

13

14

1

9

6

4

12

11

1

5

4

1

11

6

1

2

2

1

10

3

1

1

1

1

9

1

1

1

1

1

8

1

1

1

1

1

7

1

1

1

1

1

6

1

1

1

1

1

5

1

1

1

1

1

4

1

1

1

1

1

3

1

1

1

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

1

Mean

20.2

20.5

21.3

20.8

__


Number of Trials Allowed for the ACT

The applicants are allowed to take the test maximum up to 12 times in total, irrespective of the time and test date, the ACT test is administered about seven times a year mostly in the months of September, October, December, February, April, June, and July.

It is an option for the applicants to take the test 12 times, but it is not mandatory for you to do that unless you want to waste your time and money by attempting one exam after the other.

But it is recommended that you take the test at least two times, as the first attempt can be considered as a trial in order to get a sense of how the ACT test looks like so that you can plan and prepare yourself timewise and knowledge-wise efficiently.


How to Prepare for the ACT?

It makes sense if you panic thinking about entrance exams, we all do. One primary reason is when you don’t have a proper preparation guide for the ACT. Well don’t worry, here are a few tips that help you prepare for the ACT test, and most importantly it might help build your confidence towards the ACT test.

ACT Registration

The first thing to keep in mind is that register for the ACT test, based on the date which is at least 3 months away from the date of registration, and location which convenient enough for you to travel to the test center without any pressure.

Set a Goal

A person without a goal is like a bird without wings, wasn’t that well said? Yes set a clear goal and focus on it you can even score the highest if your goal is fixed to that.

Plan a Study Schedule

Creating a study schedule is as important as setting a goal. Though you can take the test 12 times, you need not waste your time and money. So planning the limited time properly can help score as well.

Work on your Weakness

Learn to identify your weakness, try to analyze which section you’re bad at and try working on it until you’re no longer bad at it. And also adapting strategies would help you in times of need.

Practice

It won’t matter how long and hard you study, the test preparation is incomplete with a practice test. Because practice is the only thing that can truly improve your skill and scores in the test.

Take Rest

Once you’re ready for the ACT Test, calm yourself down and try to take good sleep the previous day, remember a good sleep is different from oversleeping. We are talking about good sleep here. And also don’t forget to have a balanced protein-filled breakfast.


Also, Read How to Prepare for the ACT Test?


How to score high for the ACT?

The ACT test score ranges from 1-36, one being the lowest and 36 being the highest score possible in the ACT. though the 36 may look a small number. But don’t underestimate the ACT test.

According to ACT.org Every year out of millions of test-takers, hardly a few students get into the top scorer list.

scores

Number of Students

Percentage of the test-takers

36

3,741

0.195%

35

14,928

0.780%

34

21,836

1.140%

33

26,930

1.406%


ACT Score for Colleges and Universities

A good ACT score may vary depending on the colleges/universities that you’re aiming for, because a good score for college may not be considered as a good score by another college.

For example: if you’re aiming to join Arizona State University, then 28 is considered a good score, but if you’re aiming to join the Yale University 30 or 31 is considered a good ACT score.

The following are the list of most popular colleges for your ACT score with acceptance rate.

30 ACT Score

Rank

College Name

ACT 25th Percentile

ACT 75th Percentile

Acceptance Rate

1

Stanford University

31

35

5

2

University of Southern California

30

33

17

3

Harvard University

32

35

5

4

Northeastern University

31

34

29

5

University of Pennsylvania

32

35

9

6

Cornell University

31

34

29

7

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

33

35

14

8

Rice University

32

35

15

9

Columbia University

32

35

7

10

Duke University

31

34

9

11

Brown University

31

34

9

12

University of  California-Berkeley

31

34

17

13

Yale University

32

35

6

14

Boston University

30

33

31

15 

Washington University in St.Louis

32

34

17


25-29 ACT Scores

Rank

College Name

ACT 25th Percentile

ACT 75th Percentile

Acceptance Rate

1

New York University 

29

33

32

2

The University of California-Los Angeles

28

33

18

3

The University of Michigan- Ann Arbour

29

33

29

4

The University of Texas- Austin

26

32

40

5

Penn State

25

29

56

6

Boston University 

28

32

29

7

University of Florida

27

31

46

8

The University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill

28

33

30

9

University of  Virginia

29

33

30

10

University of Georgia

26

31

54

11

Tulane University 

29

32

26

12

Purdue University 

25

31

56

13

University of Washington

26

32

45

14

Syracuse University 

25

29

52

15

University of Miami

28

32

38


20-24 ACT Score

Rank

College Name

ACT 25th Percentile

ACT 75th Percentile

Acceptance Rate

1

Texas A&M University

24

30

67

2

James Madison University

22

27

72

3

Temple University

22

28

52

4

Michigan State University

24

29

66

5

San Diego State University

23

28

35

6

The University of California-Irvine

24

30

41

7

Arizona State University

22

29

70

8

University of Delaware

22

29

70

9

California State University- Long Beach

20

26

32

10

Indiana University- Bloomington

24

30

79

11

University of San Francisco

23

28

71

12

The University of Alabama

23

31

53

13

High Point University

21

26

79

14

University of Central Florida 

24

28

50

15

Liberty University

21

28

24


16-19 ACT Score

Rank

College Name

ACT 25th Percentile

ACT 75th Percentile

Acceptance Rate

1

San Francisco State University

18

24

68

2

California State University- Fullerton

19

24

48

3

California State University-Chico

19

24

65

4

North Carolina A&T State University

18

23

48

5

California State University-Northridge

16

23

48

6

Old Dominion

18

25

85

7

California Baptist University

19

24

64

8

Florida A&M University

19

24

31

9

Stockton University

19

24

77

10

California State University- Sacramento

17

22

72

11

Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

18

23

78

12

Western Michigan University

19

25

82

13

La Salle University

19

25

77

14

Portland State University

19

25

89

15

Clark Atlanta University

18

21

72


ACT Score below 16

Rank

College Name

ACT 25th Percentile

ACT 75th Percentile

Acceptance Rate

1

California State University- Los Angeles

15

20

64

2

Prairie View A&M University

15

19

85

3

Virginia State University

15

19

94

4

California State University- Dominguez Hills 

15

19

48

5

Texas Southern University

15

19

51

6

Bowie State University

15

19

41

7

Alabam State University

15

19

46

8

Bethune-Cookman University 

15

18

64

9

New Jersey City University

15

17

85

10

Dean College

15

17

85

11

Lincoln University of Pennsylvania

15

19

87

12

Coppin State University

15

18

40

13

South Carolina State University

14

17

86

14

Fort Valley State University

10

19

26

15

Central State University

15

18

42