The ACT: A Basic Breakdown

Many of you aren’t quite as familiar with the ACT as you are with the SAT, but for some of you the ACT could certainly be worth taking. Here’s a quick look at the basic breakdown of the ACT.

The ACT is composed of 4 sections (called “tests”), plus an optional 5th:

  1. ENGLISH 75 questions in 45 minutes. Multiple choice grammar and usage questions.
  2. MATH 60 questions in 60 minutes. Multiple choice math questions.
  3. READING 40 questions in 35 minutes. Multiple choice reading comprehension questions.
  4. SCIENCE 40 questions in 35 minutes. Multiple choice data interpretation questions.
  5. WRITING (Optional) 30 minute essay. If taken, will be combined with English score.
  • You will get a score from 1 to 36 on each of the four main tests.
  • If you choose to take the Writing test, your score will be combined with your English score.
  • Your Composite Score is the average of your four test scores, rounded to the nearest whole number.
  • The English, Math, and Reading tests also have subscores in different categories. Each subscore is scored from 1 to 18.
  • Like the SAT, the ACT is scored by calculating a raw score based purely on the number of right answers, then translating that raw score into a final score using a scoring table. Also like the SAT, each test has its own unique scoring table in order to adjust for slight difficulty differences among tests.
  • Unlike the SAT, the ACT does not take off points for wrong answers. This means that random guessing will not count against you. Most multiple choice questions have FOUR choices instead of five. The only exception is the Math test, which does have five choices.
  • The letters of the answer choices alternate ABCD/FGHJ every other question. On the Math test, choices alternate ABCDE/FGHJK


ACT prep? Don't forget your #2 pencil, and Vocab Videos!

Remember: The best way to determine whether the SAT or the ACT is a better fit for you, is to take both SAT and ACT practice tests. So, if you’re struggling with the SAT, be sure to give the ACT a shot.