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About the ACT Exam

About the ACT Exam. The ACT test measures a student's ability to understand and process elements of mathematical, verbal, reading and scientific reasoning. The ACT scores are calculated based on each section's performance relative to other test-takers. The ACT is standardized test that colleges use to evaluate candidates. The ACT is the test used by most colleges to help decide whether to admit students or not (along with GPA, transcript, recommendations, etc.). Not all schools require the ACT, but the most do. 

The ACT consists of four, or five, sections:

  • Mathematics: One 60 minute section (60 questions)

  • English: One 45 minute section (75 questions)

  • Reading: One 35 minute section (40 questions)

  • Science: One 35 minute section (40 questions)

  • Optional Writing Test: One 40 minute prompt


Mathematics Section:

The ACT Mathematics Test is a 60-question, 60-minute test designed to measure the mathematical skills students have typically acquired in courses taken by the end of 11th grade. You need knowledge of basic formulas and computational skills to answer the problems, but you are not required to know complex formulas and perform extensive computations. Note that you may use a calculator on the test, but you are not required to use one. All of the problems can be solved without using a calculator.


English Section:

The English test is a 75-question, 45-minute test, covering: Usage/Mechanics (punctuation, grammar and usage, sentence structure) & Rhetorical Skills (strategy, organization, style). Spelling, vocabulary and direct rules of grammar are not tested. The test consists of five prose passages, each one followed by multiple-choice test questions. Different passage types are included to provide variety. For example: some questions refer to underlined portions of the passage and offer several alternatives to the portion underlined. Some questions ask about an underlined portion, a section of the passage, or the passage as a whole. You must decide which choice best answers the question posed.


Reading Section:

The Reading Test is a 40-question, 35-minute test that measures your reading comprehension. You’re asked to read four passages and answer questions that show your understanding of what is directly stated, and statements with implied meanings. The test comprises four prose passages that are representative of the level and kinds of reading required in first-year college courses; passages on topics in social studies, natural sciences, fiction, and the humanities are included. Final note: the test focuses on the complementary and supportive skills that readers must use in studying written materials across a range of subject areas.

Science Section:

The Science Test is a 40-question, 35-minute test that measures the skills required in the natural sciences: interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem solving. Calculators may not be used on the Science Test. The test assumes that students are in the process of taking the core science course of study (three years or more) that will prepare them for college-level work and have completed a course in Earth science and/or physical science, and a course in biology. The test presents seven sets of scientific information, each followed by a number of multiple-choice test questions.


Writing Test:

The Writing Test is a 40-minute essay test that measures your writing skills specifically those writing skills emphasized in high school English classes and in entry-level college composition courses. The test consists of one writing prompt that will define an issue and describe two points of view on that issue. You are asked to respond to a question about your position on the issue described in the writing prompt.

Standby Testing:

If you miss the late registration deadline, there's still a chance you can take the ACT as a standby. Test centers accept standbys on a first-come, first-served basis only if they have enough space, testing materials, and staff—so there is no guarantee that you'll be admitted to the test, but you can always try. Also note: There is a standby fee, which accompanies the basic exam fee. 

When can I take the ACT?

The ACT is given 6 times per year. Test dates, registration dates, and dates that scores will be available are listed on the following page.

Helpful Tips & Materials 

  • Get a good night's sleep the night before the test. Being well rested helps you function at your full capacity. 

  • Eat a good, solid breakfast. You'll be at the test center for several hours and you'll probably get hungry! 

  • Be sure to bring an acceptable photo ID, and do not forget your ACT Admission Ticket! 

  • Bring two No. 2 pencils and a good eraser — a pencil is required for the multiple choice questions and the essay. Mechanical pencils and pens are not allowed.

  • Make sure you use a No. 2 pencil on the answer sheet. It is very important that you fill in the entire circle darkly and completely. If you change your response, erase it as completely as possible. Incomplete marks or erasures may affect your score.

  • Bring a calculator and, if battery operated, make sure you have new batteries.

  • Bring some snacks. You will get a short break at the end of each hour of testing time. You can eat or drink any snacks you have brought with you during these breaks. A healthy snack will go a long way toward keeping you alert during the entire test.

  • Unless otherwise instructed, you need to arrive at your assigned test center by 7:45 a.m. Testing should be completed between 11:45 and 12:00 p.m.


Bright Horizons Academic Assistance  |   2019-2020    ACT Dates

Register at

                                        Test Dates                                        Regular Deadlines                  Late Registration (fee applies)

                                    September 14, 2019                         August 16, 2019                          August 17-30, 2019

                                    October 26, 2019                             September 20, 2019                 September 21-October 4, 2019

                                    December 14, 2019                          November 8, 2019                    November 9-22, 2019

                                    February 8, 2020                             January 10, 2020                      January 11-17, 2020

                                    April 4, 2020                                     February 28, 2020                    March 9-25, 2020

                                    June 13, 2020                                   May 8, 2020                               May 9-22, 2020

                                    July 18, 2020*                                   June 19, 2020                             June 20-26, 2020


*Test not offered in California or New York on this date.


Which exam is best for you?  Learn about the two below!


Though in the past there have been significant differences between the SAT, developed by Educational Testing Services on behalf of the College Board, and the ACT, developed by American Testing Services, the two have slowly converged. Slight changes to the ACT (the addition of a paired passage to the Reading section, more time for the essay) and the most recent overhaul of the SAT (optional essay, passage based Writing & Language section, more charts and graphs) mean that the two are as alike as ever in terms of structure and content. However, a few notable differences remain:

SAT v ACT (Sept 2017) -price update (cha
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