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ACT Assessment at a Glance

The ACT Assessment - contains four curriculum-based tests that measure academic achievement in the areas of English, mathematics, reading, and science. The specific knowledge and skills selected for evaluation are determined through a detailed analysis of three sources of information. First, the objectives for instruction for grades seven through twelve are examined for all states in the United States that have published such objectives. Second, textbooks on state-approved lists for courses in grades seven through twelve are reviewed. Third, educators at the secondary and postsecondary levels are surveyed and consulted to determine the knowledge and skills taught in grades seven through twelve that are prerequisite to successful performance in postsecondary courses.

ACT Assessment English Test

The English Test measures the student's understanding of the conventions of standard written English (punctuation, grammar and usage, and sentence structure) and of rhetorical skills (strategy, organization, and style). Spelling, vocabulary, and rote recall of rules of grammar are not tested. Three scores are reported: a total test score, a sub-score in Usage/Mechanics, and a sub-score in Rhetorical Skills.

ACT Assessment Reading Test

The Reading Test measures the student's reading comprehension as a product of referring and reasoning skills. The test items require the student to derive meaning from several texts by (1) referring to what is explicitly stated and (2) reasoning to determine implicit meanings and to draw conclusions, comparisons, and generalizations. The test comprises four prose passages that are representative of the level and kinds of writing commonly encountered in college freshman curricula. The passages are selected from published sources. Three scores are reported: a total test score, a sub-score in Arts/Literature reading skills (based on the prose fiction and humanities sections), and a sub-score in Social Studies/ Sciences reading skills (based on the social studies and natural sciences sections).

ACT Assessment Mathematics Test

The Mathematics Test assesses the mathematical skills that students have typically acquired in courses taken up to the beginning of grade twelve. The test requires students to use their reasoning skills to solve practical problems in mathematics. The problems assume knowledge of basic formulas and computational skills but do not require memorization of complex formulas or extensive computation. The use of calculators is permitted on the Mathematics Test. Four scores are reported: a total test score and a sub-score in Pre-Algebra/Elementary Algebra, Intermediate Algebra/ Coordinate Geometry, and Plane Geometry/Trigonometry.

 ACT Assessment Science Test

The Science Test measures the student's interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem-solving skills required in the natural sciences. The test is made up of seven sections, each of which consists of some scientific information (the stimulus) and a set of test items. The scientific information is conveyed in one of three different formats. One score, a total test score, is reported for the ACT Science Test.

 *Strategies for Pacing Yourself on the ACT

  1. Use the time-per-question guidelines to pace yourself during the exam. * (Page 21) - English-30 sec.; Mathematics-1 min.; Reading-35-40 sec.; Science-30 sec.
  2. Answer the easier questions first and skip over the more difficult questions.
  3. Answer the more difficult questions next.
  4. Make sure you answer every question even if you have to guess; there is no penalty for guessing.
  5. If time is available after answering all of the questions on a test, go back and check your work on that test.
*All strategies from "The ACT Assessment Preparation Reference Manual for Teachers and Counselors".

Summary: Strategies for the English Test

Suggested strategies for taking the English Test are summarized below:

  1. Practice pacing yourself on the test. Taking the practice test will help you feel more comfortable with the pace at which you should work.
  2. Be aware of the writing style used in the passages. Consider the writing style when selecting a response.
  3. In responding to questions cued by a number or numbers in a box, carefully consider the writing decision described in the question.
Strategies 1 through 6 below are for questions with an underlined portion:

  1. First check to see if a stated question precedes the answer choices. If so, carefully consider the writing decision described.
  2. Carefully note what is included in the underlined portion of the passage. Determine what aspects of writing are included there.
  3. Read the text before and after the underlined portion to get a sense of the writer's intent and the passage's organization at that point.
  4. Determine the best phrasing for the underlined portion and look for it among the answer choices.
  5. Note all the differences in the answer choices. Do not select a response that corrects one error but causes a different error.
  6. Reread the section of the passage, substituting each alternative response for the underlined portion of the text.
Summary: Strategies for the Mathematics Test

Suggested strategies for taking the Mathematics Test are summarized below:

  1. Practice pacing yourself on the test. Taking the practice test will help you feel more comfortable with the pace at which you should work.
  2. If you use a calculator, use it wisely. All of the mathematics problems can be solved without using a calculator. In fact, some of the problems are best done without a calculator. Use good judgment in deciding when, and when not, to use a calculator.
  3. Read the problem carefully, paying particular attention to the question being asked. Glance over the answer choices.
  4. Solve the problem first and then look for your answer among the answer choices. Working backwards from the responses often takes longer than solving the problem directly.
  5. Think about your answer to make sure it is reasonable given the question asked.
  6. If your answer is not included among the answer choices, carefully reread the problem to determine whether you missed important information. Pay careful attention to the question being asked.
  7. If the question asks for an equation or expression, check to see if your answer can be transformed into one of the answer choices.
  8. Eliminate any answer choices that are not reasonable before guessing the answer to a question.
  9. Check your work if you have time.
Summary: Strategies for the Reading Test

Suggested strategies for responding to the Reading Test questions are summarized below:

  1. Practice pacing yourself on the test. Taking the practice test will help you feel more comfortable with the pace at which you should work.
  2. Carefully read the passage before attempting the test questions. Be conscious of relationships between or among ideas. Underline or make notes about major ideas in the passage.
  3. Answers to some of the questions will be found by referring to what is explicitly stated in the text. Other questions will require you to determine implicit meanings and to draw conclusions, comparisons, and generalizations. You should refer to the passage before you answer any question.
Summary: Strategies for the Science Test

Suggested strategies for responding to the Science Test questions are summarized below:

  1. Practice pacing yourself on the test. Taking the practice test will help you feel more comfortable with the pace at which you should work.
  2. Carefully read the scientific information and the questions before attempting to answer the questions. Underline or make notes about major ideas in the material presented.
  3. When reading the scientific material presenting conflicting viewpoints, make notes that briefly summarize the varying perspectives. This may help you compare the viewpoints.
  4. Unless a question specifically directs otherwise, you do not have to determine whether a viewpoint is correct; instead, you will be asked to identify similarities and differences between or among viewpoints.
  5. Read the material describing experiments carefully and consider the experimental design, including the controls and variables. Questions are likely to cover these topics.
Now that you've Taken the ACT:

Should you test again?

There are no limitations on how many times you can take the ACT, but there are some restrictions on how often you can test. For example, you can test only once per national test date. You should definitely consider retesting if you had any problems during the test, such as misunderstanding the directions or not feeling physically well. You may also want to consider retesting if you are not satisfied that your scores accurately represent your abilities in the areas tested. If you see a discrepancy between your ACT scores and your high school grades, or if you subsequently complete coursework or an intensive review in the areas covered by the ACT Assessment@, retesting may be beneficial.

How will you do on a retest?

Recent ACT research shows that of the students who took the ACT more than once:

  • 55% increased their composite score
  • 23% decreased their composite score
  • 22 % had no change in their composite score
How can you prepare for a retest?

If you decide to retake the ACT for any reason-including trying to raise your scores to meet requirements for certain scholarships, colleges, or programs - it is important that you take action on any problems you've identified.

  • Review a copy of Preparing for the ACT Assessment, which describes the content of the test and includes a complete practice test. Your high school has copies of this free booklet.
  • Check out the sample questions and explanations of correct answers on ACT's website (
  • Check your library or bookstores for a copy of Getting Into the ACT, the official guide to the ACT Assessment, published by Harcourt Brace. This book contains test- taking information and is the only commercial preparation guide that includes actual retired ACT tests.
  • Read the "Standards for Transition@" on pages 4-7 of the booklet Using Your ACT Assessment Results that came with your score report to analyze what knowledge and skills you need to develop.
  • Students who test on the December, April, or June test dates have the option of ordering Test Information Release (TIR) materials. For a fee, you can request a copy of your test questions, a list of your answers, a list of the correct answers, and scoring information. For a fee, you can also get a copy of your answer document. These materials can help you analyze your errors so you can focus your review as you prepare to retest. If you ordered TIR when you registered, you will receive your materials 6 to 8 weeks AFTER the test date. If you want to order TIR now, use the order form at the bottom of page 12 of using Your ACT Assessment Results.
  • ACTive Prep: The Official Electronic Guide to the ACT Assessment is an interactive, multimedia CD-ROM that includes real ACT tests to help you prepare for the ACT Assessment. Order it through the ACT website at ACTive Prep is the only test preparation software developed by ACT. System requirements are described on the website. The ACTive Prep Personal Version allows two users to take the placement test and each of the two practice tests once.

How can you REregister for another test date?

ACT offers several ways for you to REregister:

  • Online REregistration at - You can REregister for any national test date via the Web. After you create your record, you can take up to 72 hours to complete and submit it to ACT. If you REregister via the Web, you will receive your admission ticket about one week earlier than if you register by paper folder.
  • Telephone Reregistration - There is an additional fee for this expedited service.
  • Additional information about REregistering via the Web or telephone is provided on side two. To use either service, you must pay by VISA or MasterCard.
  • By Paper Folder - Registration packets will arrive at your high school in August. You don't have to complete the entire registration folder; instead, follow the "REregistration Tips" in the booklet.