ACT Exam: Eligibility, Important Dates & Format

ACT (American College Testing) is a standardized examination that is taken by high school students to secure admission to their desired colleges in the United States of America (USA) and some English-speaking countries. The test measures students’ readiness to enter college and provides colleges the necessary data to evaluate undergraduate applicants. The ACT exam comprises four sections, namely English, Math, Reading, and Science. There is also an optional Writing test, which an aspirant may be required to take depending on the admission criteria set by the college/university.

ACT exam highlights:

Sections English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing (Optional)
Total number of questions 215
Range of score 1-36
Negative marking No
Test duration 2 hours 55 minutes (without optional writing test), 3 hours 40 minutes (with writing test)
Purpose of exam Admission to colleges and ACT scholarships
ACT score validity 5 years
Organizing body ACT, Inc.
Format Computer-based test (for international students)

Who can take the ACT test?

There is no age limit or requirement for the ACT test-takers. However, it is mostly taken by high school graduates to enter college. It can also be taken by students from grades 6 to 9.

ACT exam eligibility:

  • High school graduates have to mandatorily take the test to prove their readiness to enter college.
  • Students in grades 6, 7, 8, and 9 can also take the test.
  • Those below 13 years of age can’t register for the test and hence can’t take it.
  • There is no upper age limit prescribed by the organizer of the exam.  
  • Applicants must have a valid passport. This serves as an identification card.
  • Candidate or parent/guardian must possess an international Debit/Credit card to pay the test charge.
  • Applicants must take the test at least two months prior to the college/university deadline. This is suggested as the result is declared between two to eight weeks after the ACT test.

How to register for the ACT exam?

Read below to find out how to register for the ACT exam in India and other non-US territories:

A candidate will have to register for the test online, and it will approximately take him/her 30 minutes to complete the process. All you will need is a credit card/voucher, list of grades and courses, and an email address.

  • Create a MyACT account on www.global.act.org
  • Sign in to MyACT account and fill the application form
  • Pick a test session
  • Select your desired date
  • Make the payment

 

ACT 2021-22 important dates:

Morning and afternoon sessions will be offered for each of the two ACT exam dates.

Test Date Registration Deadline Late Fee Required Photo Upload Deadline
8-9 October 2021 10 September 24 September 1 October
10-11 December 2021 12 November 29 November 3 December
11-12 February 2022 14 January 28 January 4 February
1-2 April 2022 4 March 18 March 25 March
10-11 June 2022 13 May 27 May 3 June
15-16 July 2022 17 June 1 July 8 July

ACT fee:

The ACT test fee is non-refundable, except for the optional writing test fee which is refundable if requested through a written document.

ACT fee with no writing option $168.50 (INR 12, 310)
ACT fee with writing option $188.50 (INR 13,771)

The fee is inclusive of a report for the candidate, his/her school, and four colleges of choice, only if codes were provided for them during the registration.  

Additional charges:

The additional fee is added to the test charge. 

Late registration fee $36 (INR 2,630)
Test date or center change $36 (INR 2,922)
Score reports for 5th and 6th colleges $16 (INR 1,169)

ACT exam pattern and syllabus:

Since the ACT test comprises four compulsory sections and one optional section, let us understand each of them in terms of the number of questions asked and time allotted: 

Sub-categories No of questions Time allotted Types of questions
English 75 multiple-choice questions 45 minutes Tests sentence structure, punctuation, grammar, and rhetorical skills.
Reading 40 multiple-choice questions 35 minutes Four paragraphs, from the genres prose fiction, humanities, social studies, and social sciences, with 10 questions each.
Science 40 multiple-choice questions 35 minutes Science-based paragraphs are presented with research summaries, graphs, tables, and charts.
Math 60-multiple choice questions 60 minutes Geometry, Trigonometry, Algebra I and II.
Writing (Optional) 1 essay prompt 40 minutes Complements the English and Reading tests.

ACT English syllabus:

The English section of the exam tests two skills: Usage and Mechanics, and Rhetorical skills. The latter tests your comprehension, and ability to work on the passages’ style. Usage and Mechanics test understanding of the sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation. The section contains five passages, having 15 questions each.

ACT Reading syllabus:

Critical reasoning and referring skills will be put to test under this section. The ACT Reading test will have five types of questions that will evaluate a candidate based on the following: Vocabulary, implied ideas, function and development, detail, and main idea. The reading section will include passages from natural science, social science, literary function, and humanities.

ACT Science syllabus:

Around five to seven passages related to physics, chemistry, earth science, and biology may be given under this section. Interpretative questions will be asked based on graphs, charts, tables, and research summaries. Topics include conflicting viewpoints, data representation, high school-level biology, earth or physical science, and research summaries.

ACT Math syllabus:

Questions based on trigonometry, pre-algebra, intermediate algebra, elementary algebra, coordinate geometry, and plane geometry carrying 20-25% weightage each will be asked in this section. 

ACT Writing syllabus:

The section assesses a candidate’s ability to analyze arguments and put different opinions together in a coherent essay. A short passage along with three varying perspectives will be given. The test taker will be required to evaluate the three viewpoints and relate them to the original passage. Grammar, punctuation, sentence structure along with other English writing skills will be put to test in this section.

How is the ACT score calculated?

Step 1: Correctly answered questions are counted for each section. These scores are called raw scores. Each question carries one mark and there is no negative marking.

Step 2: The raw scores are changed into scale scores. Scale score is the final score and ranges from 1 (lowest) to 36 (highest). It is important to note that raw score doesn’t translate to scale score. The conversion of the raw score into scale score is an equating process and is done to ensure consistency of scores across all test dates, irrespective of the level of the examination.

Step 3: The average of scale scores (as calculated for all four sections) is called composite score. The composite score, if in fraction, is rounded off to the nearest whole number.

Each ACT test has a different raw score to scale score conversion chart, depending on the level of the examination.

Sample ACT scoring chart:

Find below the sample ACT scoring chart, as available on the testing agency’s website:

Scale Score Raw Scores Scale Score
  English Mathematics Reading Science  
1 0-2 0 0 0 1
2 3-4 1 2
3 5 1 2 1 3
4 6-8 2 4
5 9-10 2 3 5
6 11-13 4 3 6
7 14-15 3 5 4 7
8 17-19 6 5 8
9 20-22 4 7 6 9
10 23-24 5 8 7 10
11 25-26 6-7 9-10 8 11
12 27-28 8-9 11-12 9 12
13 29 10-11 13 10 13
14 30-32 12-14 14-15 11 14
15 33-34 15-18 16-17 12 15
16 35-37 19-23 18 13 16
17 38-39 24-26 19 14-15 17
18 40-41 27-28 20-21 16 18
19 42-44 29-30 22 17-18 19
20 45-47 31-32 23-24 19-20 20
21 48-50 33 25 21-22 21
22 51-52 34-35 26 23 22
23 53-55 36-37 27-28 24-25 23
24 56-57 38-40 29 26-27 24
25 58-59 41-42 30 28-29 25
26 60-61 43-44 31 30 26
27 62-63 45-46 32 31-32 27
28 64-65 47-48 33 33 28
29 66 49 34 34 29
30 67 50-51 35 35 30
31 68 52 36 36 31
32 69 53 37 32
33 70 54 37 33
34 71-72 55-56 38 38 34
35 73-74 57-58 39 39 35
36 75 59-60 40 40 36

Scoring ACT Writing test: The ACT Writing test is scored on a scale of 2 (lowest) to 12 (highest). The average writing score ranges between 6 to 7.

How to check ACT exam results?

Once the scores are revealed, aspirants can check them using their MyACT account.

Steps to check the scores:

  • Scores of multiple-choice questions can be seen two business days after the test for those who have taken the computer-based test. Candidates who had taken the test through pen-and-pencil format can check their scores two to 10 weeks after the exam.
  • Scores for the Writing test are available two to three weeks after the release of multiple-choice scores.

Tips on how to prepare for a high ACT score:

  1. Prepare your own strategy for each section:  Don’t rely on others to chalk out a plan for your ACT exam preparation. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and customize a plan to tackle each section in your own unique way.
  2. Don’t leave any questions:There is no negative marking. So, take your chances, even if you are unsure. You might not know the correct answer, but you can cross out the wrong ones to ultimately make an informed guess about the correct answer. 
  3. Decide a target score: Analyze the cut-offs for previous years to come up with your target score. Aim for that target score even while taking practice tests. 
  4. Use high-quality study material:Especially if you are preparing at home, ensure that you have the best preparation book or material available. Seek help from those who have already achieved a good ACT score. 

5.    Take practice exams: Take full-length practice exams regularly to check your progress and to familiarize yourself with the pattern and instructions for each section.

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