The ACT is a 3 hours and 35 minutes college entrance exam. The test contains an optional essay and four multiple choice sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science. Scores are reported for each of the sections, on a scale ranging from 1 to 36 (36 being the highest possible). The four section scores are averaged to produce a composite score ranging from 1 to 36, which is what most colleges and universities consider for admissions. The composite score also includes a percentile score, comparing the student’s performance to those of other ACT test-takers.

English: The reading test consists of 75 multiple-choice questions and is 45 minutes long. Questions are based on reading passages that contain errors in sentence structure, word choice, and punctuation. Students are asked to identify these errors as well as improve the overall quality and effectiveness of writing.

Math: The math test consists of 60 multiple-choice questions and is 60 minutes long. Questions draw from pre-algebra, elementary algebra, intermediate algebra, plane geometry, coordinate geometry, and elementary trigonometry. Many math questions come in the form of word problems; the ability to decode and translate them into math terms is key to success on this section. Being able to identify quickly which questions to attempt (while guessing on the rest) will also help the student maximize his or her score.

Reading: The reading test is 35 minutes long and consists of 40 multiple-choice questions based on four passages from literature, social science, humanities, and natural science. Students are asked to determine the author’s tone, understand the main idea, locate details, draw inferences, make comparisons, and understand vocabulary in context.

Science: The science test consists of 40 multiple-choice questions and is 35 minutes long. Students are asked to analyze conflicting scientific viewpoints, as well as evaluate scientific information based on charts, graphs, tables, and other research findings.

Optional Essay: Students have 40 minutes to respond to a prompt about a broad social issue. The essay is considered optional because many (though not all) colleges require it. The essay is scored independently and does not affect the composite score or the English section score.

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