Taking the ACT
About the Test
The standard ACT is made up of four multiple-choice sections:
- "English" — tests grammar and usage.
- "Math" — covers pre-algebra, algebra, geometry and trigonometry.
- "Reading" — tests your comprehension of provided texts.
- "Science" — tests your ability to interpret and analyze scientific texts and data, as well as apply scientific reasoning.
You may also choose to take the "ACT Plus Writing", a test which adds a written essay. A prompt is provided, and you are given 30 minutes to respond in essay format: this section tests how well you can construct a persuasive argument.
Getting Ready for the Test: How to Study
One of the best ways to prepare is to take a practice test. You can try sample questions from each section here, take a longer practice test online from McGraw-Hill, or check out Cracking the ACT from the library — just scan the questions or mark your answers on another sheet to avoid marking in the book. Another free online practice test is available from the Princeton Review (they will ask you to register, but no credit card information is asked for), and there are books with practice tests available for purchase.
You can also familiarize yourself with study strategies designed specifically for the ACT. A free PDF of study tips is available here (originally from studyguidezone.com), and the physical books mentioned above will also contain study tips. If you're prepared to pay for more focused help, the ACT website's own online test prep system is $24.95 for one year's access and can be found here.
Taking the Test: Best On-the-Spot Tips
- Read all instructions and questions carefully. Know what is being asked.
- Pace yourself. If you find yourself taking too long on a question, leave it and move on. Try to answer all the easy questions first and then circle back to the harder ones when you have more time to think about them.
- Eliminate all the answers you can. Then make an informed guess from what's left.
- Guess using the same letter on questions where you have no idea and can't make an informed guess. (For example, whenever you're really stumped, always guess 'C'. This improves the odds of some of your wild guesses being correct.)
- ALWAYS recheck your work if you complete a section early.
Register for the ACT
Go to the ACT's website here and follow the instructions for registration. If you have any difficulty with this process, feel free to stop into the library for assistance. Please be aware that there is a fee to register ($39.50 for the ACT and $56.50 for the ACT plus written exam), and you should be ready to print your confirmation ticket.