Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you had a crystal ball to look into the future and see exactly what questions will be asked on the ACT?
On the other hand, I suppose that would defeat the purpose of taking it…
That being said, there is plenty of available information to help you study for the ACT according to what has consistently been on the ACT in the past.
Here’s the most important thing to remember: like every test, the ACT is simply a tool.
It is a comparative measurement to give information to you, your prospective colleges, and your current high school about where you’re at in your educational journey.
It is not a reflection of how smart you are or your overall worth as a human.
It simply says, “This is how ready this person is for college-level learning.”
So walk right past the Wizard's Mystical Shoppe. You don’t need a fortune teller, a crystal ball, or even a magic eight ball to tell you what is on the ACT.
What you do need is to brush up on your skills and know what you’re facing to do the best you possibly can.
Let’s take a look at what is on the ACT (including what is on the online ACT) and what kinds of things you’ll be asked so you can make a plan of exactly what to work on and create realistic expectations for yourself regarding what ACT success looks like for you.
The Structure of the ACT
The ACT is composed of four main subject sections.
How Many Questions Are On The ACT?
The ACT has a total of 215 multiple-choice questions plus one optional essay.
These sections are always delivered in the above order and consist exclusively of multiple-choice questions.
There is also an optional Writing test available on every test date. (More on that in a moment.)
First, each subject area of the ACT is scored separately on a scale of 1-36.
To get that number, they take the raw score of how many questions you answered correctly in each section and convert it using their private ACT scoring chart.
Then, your four scaled section scores are combined and divided by 4.That overall average score from 1 to 36 is your ACT Composite Score.
Two essential things to remember about ACT scoring:
1. Points are NOT taken away for incorrect answers
You get one point for any question answered correctly and zero for every other question. So, if you’re at a loss for which answer to choose, you should fill in a bubble. (Believe it or not, I have a strategy for guessing, which you can learn - along with 34 other excellent strategies - in my free eBook, The Insider’s Guide to the ACT & SAT.)
2. Composite Scores are rounded to the nearest whole number.
If your average score has a decimal point of .5 or higher, your score will be rounded up. So, it doesn’t take a painful amount of work to raise your overall score. It takes simple planning and practice. One or two extra correct answers could be the difference between rounding your score up or rounding your score down.
To dive deeper into ACT scoring details, you can check out this article about how the ACT is scored.
Online ACT vs. Pencil And Paper ACT
Currently, ACT, Inc. has assured us that the online ACT and the good, old-fashioned No. 2 experience are the same.So keep learning all the existing tips and tricks for getting your highest possible ACT score because they apply!
As I mentioned above, there are 4 main ACT sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science.
Let's go through each in their testing order and learn more about what you'll be facing on your ACT exam date.
The ACT English section is always your first and seeks to test your writing, editing, and English language skills.
It has five passages to read and answer questions about in the English Section.
It consists of 75 questions, with 15 questions for each passage.
You have 45 minutes to complete it.
The questions in the ACT English section cover the nuances of basic grammar with questions on sentence structure, punctuation (especially commas), verb tense usage, pronouns, etc.
You will also be asked to comprehend and possibly improve an author’s transitions, redundancy, intent, and logic.
Read carefully through every bit of each passage, each question, and each answer choice.
Also, remember that one of the answers available to you will often be “No Change,” as in “no change is needed-- this sentence is written correctly.”
Don’t be afraid to select this option if you can’t identify any issues.
It’s correct more often than most students realize.
There are 60 total questions in the Math Section of the ACT, which you have 60 minutes to complete.
If you (unironically) do the math, you’ll notice this means one minute is allowed for each question in this portion of the test.
At first glance, that can sound intimidating.
But please don’t worry.
It’s a good thing.
The test-makers are not rooting for you to fail, so they believe this is plenty of time.
That means the questions included in the ACT math section will be relatively easy.
All of the problems are designed to be solved without a calculator.
(Though, note that certain types of calculators are permitted if you want one, even if simply as a lucky charm.)
Generally speaking, this section is organized in ascending order of difficulty. So, handle it like a hike: gain ground when it’s easy and pace yourself when it isn’t.
What Math Is On The Act?
The ACT Math Section tests your abilities in Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Statistics, and a little bit of trigonometry.
The questions will be focused on more than just calculating but also on reasoning about and interpreting numbers/graphs/etc.
.If math is not your strong suit, spend time preparing by memorizing basic math formulas.
They will likely not be referenced or given to you.
You’ll be expected to be able to remember foundational, high-school-level math concepts so be sure to dust off your facilities with calculating percentages and the formula for the area of a circle beforehand.
The Reading Section of the ACT contains four passages to read and respond to.
It is composed of 40 different questions. You have 35 minutes for this portion of the test.
Three of the passages will be single written pieces, and one of the passages will be a pair of excerpts.
The subjects of the passages will range from humanities to social sciences, natural sciences to literary narrative.
You won’t be expected to have expertise in these subjects or bring any outside knowledge.
The goal of this section is to assess your comprehension of the ideas that are presented
The test-makers will be looking for you to read closely, analyze the perspective of the author(s), and integrate information from multiple sources.
On the ACT, the Science Section is devised of six or seven passages for you to read and display an understanding of.
It has 40 questions. You have 35 minutes to answer them all.
Like the Reading section, the topics covered in the Science section vary.You could encounter astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics, or geology in the passages.
But, again, this is about more than memorized facts or expertise in these areas.
Instead, the topics in the ACT Science section are simply a jumping-off point for you to display your problem-solving skills, your ability to analyze and interpret data, as well as your facility with applying reasoning and understanding to scientific processes.
There’s one aspect of the test that we haven’t discussed yet: the ACT Writing Test.
This is an optional section of the ACT.
Should you choose to take it, it will be the only non-multiple-choice section.
It lasts 40 minutes and will ask you to respond to one writing prompt.
See what the test makers say about the ACT Writing Test here.
How To Prepare for the ACT
If you were able to look into the future, I think you’d see it’s looking hopeful.
Look at all these great resources and help you have at your fingertips:
If you need the best tips and tricks in the business, look no further than this article on immediate ways to raise your ACT and SAT scores.
If you have any other questions, please send me a message.
Let’s make your college and career dreams come true!
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