ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

What is the ACT Test?

“The ACT or the American College Testing is a standardized test designed to measure your critical thinking skills and to assess your ability to apply knowledge and logic when solving problems. The authors of the ACT insist that the ACT is an achievement test, meaning that it is designed to measure your readiness for college instruction.”

Above is the most well-defined meaning and purpose of the ACT. Basically, the ACT is an entrance examination utilized by various colleges and universities to support and make admission decisions. Based on the aforementioned definition, the purpose of the ACT is to measure high school students’ aptness for college. In addition, the ACT also serves as the primary benchmark or point system used by college admission counselors to compare applicants.

College admissions officers will then evaluate your standardized ACT scores alongside your high school GPA, letters of recommendation from your teachers, the classes you attended, extracurricular activities, personal essays, admission interviews, etc. Moreover, the overall importance of your ACT scores may vary from school to school. But regardless of this fact, keep in mind that your score on the ACT can grant you more options when you applying in college institutions or universities across the state.

ACT Exam Format and Structure

The ACT consists of four test sections: 1.) English, 2.) Mathematics, 3.) Reading, and 4.) Science Reasoning. The English test is composed of 75 questions, which has a 45-minute test time. The Mathematics test contains 60 questions and can last up to 60 minutes or an hour. The Reading test has 40 questions and a 35-minute time limit. Lastly, the Science Reasoning test has a total of 40 questions and an allotted time of 35 minutes. All test sections are in multiple-choice.

Please refer to the table below for the complete format and structure of the ACT test:

ACT Exam Format & Structure
English Test 45 minutes 75 questions
Mathematics Test 60 minutes 60 questions
Reading Test 35 minutes 40 questions
Science Reasoning Test 35 minutes 40 questions
Total Testing Time/Questions 175 mins (2 hrs & 55 mins) 215 questions

Important Note: The ACT test also gives an optional essay writing.

ACT Scoring System

The ACT is administered by the American College Testing Program and the scores from each of the test sections are scored from 1 to 36, with a mean score of 18. Additionally, the sub-scores within the sections are scored from 1 to 18, with a mean score of 9. The composite score for the ACT is from 1 to 36. 

To further explain, the highest score you can earn on the ACT is 36. The score you get for each subject area (1 to 36) is a scaled score. Your scaled score is then converted from your raw score. Your raw score is the total number of questions you answer correctly in each section. Moreover, scaled scores are being utilized to make sure that all scores are consistent across multiple ACT test dates.

Please refer to the table below for the 

Section Overall Score Range Sub-Score Breakdown
English 1-36 Usage/Mechanics (1-18)

Rhetorical Skills (1-18)

Essay (2-12)

Math 1-36 Pre/Elementary Algebra (1-18)

Algebra/Coordinate Geometry (1-18)

Plane Geometry/Trigonometry (1-18)

Reading 1-36 Social Sciences/Sciences (1-18)

Arts/Literature (1-18)

Science 1-36 No sub-scores on the Science test!

Some of the questions regarding the ACT scoring system are as follows:

How to know if colleges received my ACT scores?

You can simply use your ACT login credentials and access your online account. Once you have successfully logged in, you can confirm if the score has been sent to your chosen college or university. If you will receive a notification saying that the information you provided is incomplete, that’s an indication that your recipient did not receive your ACT scores. Therefore, always make sure to review all necessary and relevant information before sending your application.

Should I retake the ACT with a score of 34?

Since the highest score for the ACT is 36, getting a score of 34 automatically ranks you in the top 1% of all ACT test-takers. Thus, there is no need for you to retake the exam.

What does getting a high ACT score (35 out of 36) signify?

Getting an ACT score of 35 out of 36 is a remarkable feat. This means that you are amongst the very few who managed to almost get a perfect score in the exam. An ACT score of 35 should be able to get you into top tier schools of your choice.

What is the ACT score range?

Here is a comprehensive flow chart for the ACT score range:

# of questions you answered correctly

Range from 1 to 36

Range from 1 to 36

English  🠊 Raw Score 🠊 Scaled Score = Composite Score
Math 🠊 Raw Score 🠊 Scaled Score
Reading  🠊 Raw Score 🠊 Scaled Score
Science 🠊 Raw Score 🠊 Scaled Score

ACT Test Registration
How to sign up for the ACT after graduation from high school?

The ACT registration period starts about 10 weeks before the test date and ends about 4 weeks before the test date. In order to register within this period, you need to acquire an ACT registration/information booklet from your high school counselor and simply follow the registration instructions provided in the handbook.

Furthermore, you can also follow the steps we’ve outlined below for your reference:

First-time Registration

If you are registering for the first time, there are two registration options that are available for you.

  1. Register by paper folder included in the registration bulletin.
  2. Register by utilizing the ACT’s website (

If you wish to register online, payment must be made through VISA or Mastercard.


If you are in high school and have attended or taken the ACT within the last 2 years on a national test date, you will not be required to complete the whole folder since your information has already been recorded on file. Unlike first-time registration, there are three methods to reregister for the ACT:

  1. Register by telephone.
  2. Register online.
  3. Register by paper folder (refer reregistrations steps)

For the telephone registration, you can use the toll-free number 1-800-525-6926. Please do note that payment must be settled via VISA or Mastercard. Also, there is a $10 additional fee for phone reregistration.

Registration Deadlines

All test-takers are encouraged to register before the deadlines, but there is a late registration period given for those who can’t register early. For late registrations, an additional fee will incur. If you happen to miss the registration deadline, you could try to take the test as a “standby.” You must arrive early (approximately before 8:00 A.M.) If space and materials are available, you will be admitted after the registered students have been successfully admitted.

Important Reminder: There is no guarantee that you will be admitted as a standby. Moreover, all standby test-takers are still advised to check the information bulletin for other relevant details about the test.

ACT Frequently Asked Questions

Will a high GPA compensate for a low ACT score?

It is very important to remember that a low ACT score does not mean that your chance of getting into college is zero.  While ACT and SAT scores are an important component for your admission, they are not the sole component that will determine your future in college.

How can someone with a high GPA have a low ACT/SAT?

Yes, it is possible for someone with a high GPA to have a low ACT score. The test essentially revolves around how well-prepared you are for the test. If you fail to prepare for the ACT, you are more likely to get a low score regardless of having a high GPA.

How much is the ACT?

The ACT is a less costly test to take in comparison to other admission exams. Moreover, it can be pretty expensive, especially for low-income families since there are additional costs associated with the test. The ACT registration fee without the Writing section is $49.50. If you prefer to have the Writing section included, the fee will be $58.50 For international students, the fee is $51.

Can you take the ACT after high school?

Yes, you can. Moreover, keep in mind that some colleges and universities will only consider ACT scores from students who took the test while they are still enrolled in high school. But in general, you are free to take the ACT after high school or shortly after you graduate.

May I take the ACT more than once?

Yes, you may. Moreover, it is highly advisable to try to take it once and do your very best to earn a good score. But if you do need to take a second ACT, you always have the option to reregister and take the exam again.

How to study for the SAT and ACT and get a high score?

There are plenty of online learning materials you can find on the internet. Specific ACT practice test materials are also available such as the following:

  • ACT Math Practice Materials
  • ACT English Practice Materials
  • ACT Reading Practice Materials
  • ACT Science Practice Materials
  • ACT Practice Test PDFs
  • Free ACT Practice Test
  • ACT Online Practice Test Questions

ACT Study Guide and Preparation Tips

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the ACT has a total of four main test sections. To help you better understand each of them, we have provided a short and concise outline below for your own reference:

The ACT English Test

The ACT English test focuses on your ability to revise and edit text from a variety of content areas. Please refer to the table below for the complete format of the ACT English Test:

ACT English Test Format
Allotted Time 45 minutes
Questions 75 passage-based multiple-choice questions
Passages 5 single passages with 15 questions
Passage Length 300-400 words per passage

The ACT Math Test
The ACT Math test concentrates on mathematical skills usually learned in required math courses before the start of grad 12. Please refer to the table below for the complete format of the ACT Math Test:

ACT Math Test Format
Allotted Time 60 minutes
Questions 60 multiple-choice questions

The ACT Reading Test
The ACT Reading test focuses on test-takers’ comprehension and reasoning abilities when they are given challenging extended passages based on a wide range of content areas. Please refer to the table below for the complete format of the ACT Reading Test:

ACT Reading Test Format
Allotted Time 35 minutes
Questions 40 passage-based multiple-choice questions
Passages 3 independent passages and 1 set of paired passages or 4 independent passages.
Passage Length 750-1,000 words per passage

The ACT Science Test
The ACT Science test will concentrate on your ability when it comes to scientific reasoning, not your scientific knowledge. Please refer to the table below for the complete format of the ACT Science Reasoning Test:

ACT Science Reasoning Test Format
Allotted Time 35 minutes
Questions 40 passage-based multiple-choice questions
Passages 6 passages with 6-8 questions each
Passage Length 100-300 words depending on the passage type

ACT Preparation Tips and Strategies

The ACT is not similar to the tests you are used to taking in high school. With that being said, it is important for you to develop strategies and approaches to carry out the exam properly. To help you build a strong foundation when you take the exam, we’ve provided several pointers below that you can follow:

Strategy #1: Focus on the questions you know

This is probably one of the best strategies when it comes to maximizing your chances of earning a high score on the ACT. The main objective is to earn as many correct answers as you can. Thus, focusing on the questions you know is a surefire way of achieving the best possible score from the test.

Tip: Mark and return to the difficult questions once you have answered all the questions you know.

Strategy #2: Use the Process of Elimination

The power of deduction goes a long way, especially when you’re taking a test. If you can easily identify incorrect answer choices, it will be easier for you to sort the options and come up with the most appropriate answer. Some choices won’t make sense and are totally not related to what the question is pointing out. Look for clues and try to deduce the choices in a timely manner.

Tip: To eliminate incorrect answers, do your best to fully understand the question.

Strategy #3: Make a Guess

If you already exhausted all your efforts and still unable to answer a question, it’s time to make a good guess. Instead of closing your chances of earning a score by leaving an item unanswered, it is more logical to take a chance on a guess.

Tip: There is no wrong-answer penalty on the ACT. Therefore, don’t be afraid to make a guess.

ACT Sample Questions

Question #1

The weekly fee for staying at the Pleasant Lake Campground is $20 per vehicle and $10 per person. Last year, weekly fees were paid for v vehicles and p persons. Which of the following expressions gives the total amount, in dollars, collected for weekly fees last year?

  1. 20v + 10p
  2. 20p + 10v
  3. 10(v + p)
  4. 30(v + p)
  5. 10(v + p) + 20p

Question #2

A drop of nitrazine yellow solution was added to a flask containing 100.0 mL of the HCl solution. A probe that measures conductivity was placed in the solution. The NaOH solution was slowly added to the HCl solution in small increments. After each addition, the HCl solution was stirred and then the solution’s color and conductivity were recorded (see Figure 1).

In Experiment 1, the sample solution was yellow at which of the following values for the volume of titrant added?

  1. 0.80 mL
  2. 1.20 mL
  3. 1.60 mL
  4. 2.00 mL

Question #3

A copy machine makes 60 copies per minute. A second copy machine makes 80 copies per minute. The second machine starts making copies 2 minutes after the first machine starts. Both machines stop making copies 8 minutes after the first machine started. Together, the 2 machines made how many copies?

  1. 480
  2. 600
  3. 680
  4. 720
  5. 960