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ACT FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions about the ACT Exam, Registration Dates, and submitting scores

  1. What is the ACT?
  2. Who creates the ACT?
  3. When is the ACT given?
  4. When should I register for the ACT?
  5. How do I register?
  6. How much does it cost to take the ACT?
  7. How long does it take to get my scores back?
  8. What if I take the ACT and mess up?
  9. How many times can I take the ACT?
  10. What is a good score on the ACT?
  11. What is the difference between SAT and ACT?
  12. Why is Testmasters the best choice for ACT preparation?
  13. When should I start preparing for the ACT?
  14. How much high school math do I need before I can start preparing for the ACT?
  15. Should I use an educational consultant?
  16. How do I find out about scholarships?
  17. Does having a summer job help or hurt me?
  18. Should I go to a public or private college?
  19. What are Dual Degree Programs?
  20. Why should I consider a Dual Degree Program?
  1. What is the ACT?

    The ACT is a nationally-recognized college entrance examination available to students as part of the college application process. The exam covers four subject areas: English, Mathematics, Reading and Science. The ACT Plus Writing exam includes an additional Writing section, which some colleges require for admission. To see if your college requires the Writing Test, click here. The exam typically takes 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete with breaks (or just over 4 hours with the optional writing test).

  2. Who creates the ACT?

    The ACT is created by the ACT, Inc. (originally known as the American College Testing Program), headquartered in Iowa City, Iowa. The ACT was developed according to the:

    • Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing, American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, & National Council on Measurement in Education (1985)
    • Code of Professional Responsibilities in Educational Measurement, National Council on Measurement in Education (1995)
    • Code of Fair Testing Practices in Education, Joint Committee on Testing Practices (1988)
  3. When is the ACT given?

    The ACT is offered nationally in the same five months every year. These months are October, December, February, April and June. In selected states, the ACT is also administered in late September. You can learn about this calendar year’s upcoming ACT test dates here.

  4. When should I register for the ACT?

    There is no set time to take the ACT. Students usually take the exam in the spring semester of 11th grade, because the exam content covers class materials up to that time. Most students find it helpful to have their ACT scores in hand when they begin the application process. In addition, taking the exam during 11th grade leaves ample time for preparation and retakes if your first score is unsatisfactory.

  5. How do I register?

    There are three ways you can register for the ACT. The most convenient way is registering online. Paper registration packets are also available at your college counselor’s office. If you have registered for the ACT within the last two years, you can use telephone registration (319-337-1270).

    For more information, click here.

  6. How much does it cost to take the ACT?

    The ACT costs $29.00 + $14.00 (optional writing test) + $19.00 (if registered late). Other fees may apply depending upon situation.

    For more information, click here.

  7. How long does it take to get my scores back?

    Your scores will be available online for early viewing about 2 weeks after the test date. There is an $8.00 viewing fee. Paper score reports usually arrive 4-7 weeks after test date at your high school counselor’s office. If you took the Writing Test, your score report will not be mailed until your Writing score has been added to your record. You can view your scores here once they have been uploaded.

  8. What if I take the ACT and mess up?

    If you would like to remove scores from your records, you must submit a letter requesting to delete your score. You must include your name and home address, and you will be sent a form to complete and return to ACT:

    ACT Records
    P.O. Box 451
    Iowa City, IA 52243-0451

    Keep in mind also that there is no limit to the number of times you can retake the ACT, and that the colleges of your choice will ONLY see the score you choose to send.

  9. How many times can I take the ACT?

    You may take the ACT as often as you like. A separate score record is kept for each administration of the exam. Only the score record from the test date requested will be sent to a college. You can request for more than one test date report to be sent to a college.

  10. What is a good score on the ACT?

    The maximum score for each of the four tests is 36. The composite score is the average of the four scores. Students who took the ACT Plus Writing test will receive two additional scores: a Writing score (0-12) and an English/Writing composite score (1-36).

    A good score is one that will get you into the college of your choice, so the answer depends on where you want to go to college. The average score is 20. While class rank, extracurricular activities, major, recommendations, essays, and other factors also come into play in college admissions, below is an estimate of what score is needed on the ACT for various colleges:

    University Name

    Score Required

    Duke University*

    30 or above

    Harvard University*

    31 or above

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

    31 or above

    New York University (NYU)*

    29 or above

    Princeton University*

    31 or above

    Rice University*

    30 or above

    Stanford University*

    30 or above

    University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA)*

    27 or above

    University of Colorado*

    23 or above

    University of Houston

    21 or above

    University of Southern California (USC)*

    29 or above

    University of Texas – Austin*

    26 or above

    *require ACT Plus Writing

  11. What is the difference between SAT and ACT?

    Both the ACT and the SAT are nationally administered standardized tests that help colleges evaluate candidates. Most colleges and universities accept both. Below is a chart summarizing the differences:

    ACT

    SAT

    Length

    3 hours, 25 minutes (including the 30-minute optional Writing Test)

    3 hours, 45 minutes

    Sections

    4 test sections (5 with the optional Essay, known as the Writing Test)

    10 Sections

    Areas Tested

    English, Math, Reading, Science, Writing (optional)

    Critical Reading, Math, Writing (includes the Essay), Experimental (unscored)

    Reading (ACT) / Critical Reading (SAT)

    Reading comprehension passages (vocabulary not tested)

    Reading Comprehension and Sentence Completion questions (vocabulary tested)

    Science

    Science Reasoning (analysis, interpretation, evaluation, problem solving)

    Science not included

    Math

    Math accounts for 1/4 of overall score

    Topics Covered: Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry

    Math accounts for 1/3 of overall score

    Topics Covered: Basic Geometry and Algebra II

    Essay

    Last section (optional);

    30 minutes

    Not included in composite score

    First section;

    25 minutes

    Included into overall score (1/3)

    Scoring

    Total composite score of 1-36 (based on average of 4 tests)

    4 scores of 1-36 for each test
    Additional score of 0-12 for the optional Essay

    Total score out of 2400

    3 scores of 200-800 for each section
    Essay (0-12) included in the Writing section score (200-800)

    Wrong Answer Penalty

    No penalty

    Yes, 1/4 point per wrong answer (except for Math Grid-in questions)

    Sending Scores

    You decide which score to send

    Your entire score history will be sent automatically

     

  12. Why is Testmasters the best choice for ACT preparation?

    • Testmasters ACT Courses offer an intensive program with 12 classes of 3 hours each over 4 – 5 weeks. Testmasters Courses offer unique and extremely effective strategies not taught anywhere else, by highly experienced, dynamic instructors.
    • Highest Score Increase Guarantee – if you do not improve by at least 4 points, we will provide you with an extra-help course free of charge.
    • All exams administered in class are official ACT Practice Exams. The answers are run through our computer systems to analyze your strengths and weaknesses on the ACT.
    • Course materials include our Testmasters ACT Manual with tricks and tips to do well on the ACT and a copy of The Real ACT Prep Guide.
    • Tutoring help (in-person or on the phone) is available for students during and after their Testmasters course at a very competitive fee.
    • We offer a $1000 college scholarship to any student who completes our course and receives a perfect score of 36 on the ACT.
    • Tens of thousands of Students have taken Testmasters Courses from all across the country.
  13. When should I start preparing for the ACT?

    Because the ACT is an important test for college admissions, it is always best to start preparing as early as possible. This allows more preparation time to achieve score goals. A student should start by the summer before 11th grade, to maximize the effectiveness of our program because there are no distractions such as school homework, projects, exams, or any other school activities. Students should start preparing for the ACT no later than the summer before 12th grade.

  14. How much high school math do I need before I can start preparing for the ACT?

    The ACT Mathematics Test contains 60 questions covering six content areas: pre-algebra, elementary algebra, intermediate algebra, coordinate geometry, plane geometry and trigonometry.

  15. Should I use an educational consultant?

    Educational consultants counsel students and their families in the selection of educational programs based on the student’s individual needs and talents. The need for an educational consultant can vary based on the student; we recommend starting with arranging a meeting with your counselor as a research base, as they can give you some general information as a starting point for your research. If your school counselors spend many hours counseling the students through the admission process and they have received special training through workshops or if you have access to information through a college career center, then you may not need an educational consultant. You can also approach the career services or counseling departments within the institutions that you are considering applying to. You may want to find out how much they charge ahead of time before committing to a service.

  16. How do I find out about scholarships?

    To find out more about scholarships, their availability and requirements, click here. For information on financial aid, click here. You should also ask the companies that your parents are employed at for any scholarship opportunities.

  17. Does having a summer job help or hurt me?

    Summer jobs are a great way to earn some money, and they also provide an excellent opportunity to gain experience. Work experience demonstrates your abilities such as time management, responsibility level, character, and leadership potential. Work experience can be anything from paid or volunteer work, after-school or summer program participation, to internships. You should inquire with your parent’s employers for any internships or summer job opportunities. Internships, whether paid or not, give you a first-hand look at specific careers as a way to identify career interests. In whatever programs you participate in, whether if it’s a job, an internship, or helping out at home, your experience is an important way to demonstrate key qualities. The participation in the various activities may even help you find a topic for your college essays. Whatever qualities that you develop by this experience will help you build your resume and enhance your college applications. The summer before your 12th grade is the best time for summer employment, which is why we recommend Testmasters after 10th grade, if possible. You may want to start looking for a summer job in the spring of your 11th grade, which is when most employers start hiring for the summer. Remember, the quality of your experience is much more important than the number of dollars you can earn at any job!

  18. Should I go to a public or private college?

    State and community colleges, also known as public colleges, are generally less expensive than private colleges. Public colleges receive funding from their respective states in order to make the cost of education affordable to the greatest number of people. Most states offer in-state residents a significantly lower tuition price. At community colleges, your tuition rate is based on your district. If you live within a particular community college district, you can take courses for a lower price than students who live outside of the district.

    Private colleges, on the other hand, do not receive the same type of funding, so they rely more heavily on tuition, endowments, and other private sources of revenue. Private colleges are usually more expensive than public colleges, but may offer smaller class sizes or additional scholarships and grants that are not available at public schools.

    Your decision on which school to attend or even to narrow down your search to generally depends on the following two criteria: money (scholarships and financial aid) and your choice of major(s). If you know your major then you should apply to the best school for that major that you can get into. If you are unsure of your major, then you should apply to a very well-rounded school, where you can explore different career options and fields of study. Only you can decide which institutions are right for you, based on your specifications and the programs that you are interested in. Remember to do as much research as possible to make a well-informed choice.

  19. What are Dual Degree Programs?

    Dual Degree Programs differ from university to university. In general, universities may offer a Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in your field of study in a shorter amount of time than if you pursued the two degrees independently (varies by university). They may also offer different variations such as offering an Associate Degree and Bachelor’s Degree or two different Master’s Degrees.

  20. Why should I consider a Dual Degree Program?

    Students who successfully complete the program earn two degrees: Associate and Bachelor’s, Bachelor’s and Master’s, or Master’s and Master’s (depending on which degrees you pursue and what options the school offers). With the Dual Degree Program, one year of school and its financial costs are saved; also, having two degrees will give you an edge in the interview process when applying for employment over other candidates.