ACT Exam: Full Form, Syllabus, Eligibility, Fee, Pattern, Duration, Registration, Score, Tips

Updated on: Mar 19, 2024

ACT Exam

What is ACT Full Form?

ACT Stands for “American College Testing”. It is a computer-based or paper-based test that covers four academic areas: English, mathematics, reading, and science. It also has an optional writing section. The ACT is used for university and college admission in the US.

While it's not entirely as well known as the famous SAT exam, it's equally valuable for showing that you can study at a US college or university.

Click here to read: SAT vs ACT: Which should you take?

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This article explains everything you need to know about the ACT, how to prepare for it, and all the vital details, including registrations, fees, and eligibility. 

At a glance: What is the ACT?

ACT Full FormAmerican College Testing
Conducted byACT (Non-NGO)
DurationTwo hours, 55 minutes (additional 40 minutes with writing)
Question TypeMCQ
Official Website 

The ACT is a test usually completed in the final year or two of high school, and its purpose is to gauge whether or not you are capable of studying at college. 

The ACT, meanwhile, has four sections: English language (grammar & usage), reading, mathematics, and science. These four areas are all multiple-choice. There's also an optional essay section, but many colleges do not require this.

The ACT has 215 questions and takes 2 hours and 55 minutes. However, if you take the optional ACT essay, you can add another 40 minutes to the total time.

ACT eligibility: Who can take the test?

ACT eligibility is very open. Anyone can apply for the ACT regardless of an academic degree or grade. 

As the results of the ACT examinations are authorised in many American universities, it is usually taken by anyone over 13 or high school graduates. Although the ACT has no qualifying requirement, students must meet the criteria for course eligibility specified by the selected university/college.

ACT syllabus

The ACT syllabus is based principally on secondary education topics - English, Math, reading, science and writing (optional). 

Syllabus of ACT English

The ACT English curriculum contains sections that test rhetoric, structure,  usage and mechanics skills. 

That all sounds quite complex, but it's not! It tests your ability to understand both the overall meaning of a piece of written English, as well as the tone and grammar. 

The English test consists of five passages, each including 15 questions. Most of the questions require candidates to choose a grammar and style response that is best suited; or the answer that best matches the passage tone. 

The subsections include:

  1. MechanicsUsagee – 40 questions
  2. Usage of grammar - 12 Questions
  3. Structure of sentence - 18 Questions
  4. Rhetoric skills – 35 questions
  5. Strategy - 12 Questions
  6. Organisation - 11 Questions
  7. Style - 12 Questions

ACT Mathematics

  1. Around 14 pre-algebraic questions
  2. Ten basic algebraic questions
  3. Nine medium-algebraic questions
  4. Nine coordinate-based geometrical questions
  5. 14 geometrical questions on a plane 
  6. Four trigonometric questions include the math test. 

Syllabus for the ACT reading

The reading test comprises four passages in four genres – prose fiction, social sciences, humanities and natural sciences. Ten questions follow each passage. 

Syllabus of ACT science

The ACT science test examines your reasoning, logic and analysis based on science-related passages rather than on actual learned scientific knowledge. 

This test will have approx:

  1. 2-3 diagrams
  2. 2-3 passages in science experiments
  3. 1 or 2 passages on scientists with 5 to 7 questions.

Syllabus of ACT Writing (optional)

The written test is optional and must be done if the test score is required by the university to which you apply. The test taker is given one writing prompt on a fairly complex issue and 40 minutes to write a well-reasoned response.  

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ACT exam pattern

ACT is equipped with four test sections: English, Math, Reading and Science, With a 3-hour duration. 

The writing portion is optional and increases the duration by 40 minutes. It is an MCQ based on a total of 215 queries.

Each part has scores ranging from 1 and 36. 

ACT exam sectionsQuestions(MCQ) Duration(Minutes)Subsections
  • Usage/Mechanics
  • Punctuation
  • Usage of grammar
  • Structure of sentence
  • Rhetoric skills
  • Strategy
  • Style
  • Geometry coordination
  • The geometry of the plane
  • Pre-algebra
  • Basic algebra
Reading4035Four passages, per section, such as social studies, natural sciences, fiction and humanities 
  • Data display like tables and graphs
  • Summaries of research
  • Challenging views
Writing (optional)1 (essay)40A quick writing

ACT preparation tips

Luckily for you, we've written an entire article on this; check out ten proven methods to pass your ACT exam! But for the time being, here's a glance at those tips!

  • Plan ahead of time
  • Get to know the format
  • Create a study schedule (and stick to it)
  • Do practice test
  • Do the most straightforward questions first
  • Write on your booklet
  • Focus on the wrong answers
  • Answer every question
  • Take care of your answer sheet
  • Leave time to review!

Related article: 10 Best ACT Books for Preparation

When should you take the ACT?

The ACT usually happens seven times a year (September, October, December, February, April, June, July)

Students who apply for competitive universities should generally take the ACT once in spring and autumn before using it. 

However, the optimal time to take the ACT depends on several like colleges, deadlines for applying, and the students interests. 

In short, take it well ahead of time!

ACT Application

The easiest way to apply for the ACT is online, but it's also possible to do it by mail. Since you're reading this, we'll assume you've got internet access, so register online!

ACT Online registration

How do you register for the ACT exam?

Online registration can be made on the official ACT website. 

It's a straightforward process, and you must follow the steps below to finish the online test registration.

  1. Check out the official website.
  2. Create an account. This account permits the applicant to register, mail or view scores and register for further examinations (if you decide to appear for it the second or third time).
  3. Note the ID and password.
  4. Head to Test Registration.
  5. Select the Test Option and Date. The student is routed to the test registration once the profile is selected.
  6. Enter the grades, classes and GPA of your high school.
  7. Choose the college to send your data to. Your scores are shipped free of charge to 4 institutions. 
  8. Select your nearest testing centre.
  9. Confirm the details. All information you fill out should be carefully monitored and confirmed once done.
  10.  Pay the fee.
  11.  Upload your picture. The picture should be in portrait mode and should be less than 5MB. Follow the formats JPEG, JPG, BMP and PNG.

ACT exam fees

The ACT exam fees are as follows:

ACT Exam ( without writing )$ 166.50 / INR 12,366
ACT Exam ( Writing )$ 188.50/ INR 13,834

ACT exam dates and test location

The ACT exam is conducted on around 6 or 7 dates year-round worldwide. Depending on your site, the exam dates and exact locations are subject to change, so check out the ACT website to look for a test centre near you. 

ACT results and scores

Each section of the ACT -- English, Math, Reading & Science -- is scored from 0-36. Your ACT score is your average across all four sections. The median ACT score out of 36, by the way, is around 20, while 25 would be considered excellent. 

Your results are usually made available to you within 2-3 weeks of your test date, and you'll be able to find these by logging into your official ACT account.

Also Read: ACT Results & Score Chart

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Can you retake the ACT?

You can take the ACT up to twelve times. Many students complete the test 2-3 times before university entrance, to ensure as high a score as possible. 

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