Most students fresh out of high school will typically aim to pursue higher education. And one of the standardized exams prospective degree-seeking students will encounter is the American College Testing (ACT).

So, what is the ACT all about? Well, it’s not just any entrance exam; Administered by ACT, Inc., It is an entrance exam used by most colleges and universities to make admissions decisions. With a four-part timed test, the ACT offers an opportunity to showcase your abilities to potential colleges, and scoring above the average can give you further benefits. That’s right, the higher your ACT score, the more likely you are to get scholarships and grants. So, if you’re looking to save money after getting admission to your desired college, the ACT is a great place to start.

With our help, you can ace the ACT and show colleges that you’re ready for the challenge. Start preparing today and read on!

When and Where Should I Take the ACT?

If you’re interested in this challenge, the ACT is offered seven times a year and across 600 test centers in the United States and abroad to cater to its global demand. This means that you have plenty of opportunities to take the test and look for a test center that’s convenient for you. When selecting a test date and location, you can easily look up available test dates and locations on the official ACT website, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, consider your schedule and responsibilities in mind to increase your chances of success. Then, choose a date that gives you enough time to prepare without feeling pressured. Keep in mind that some test centers may fill up rapidly, so register as soon as possible to guarantee your desired location. Lastly, don’t wait until the last minute to start preparing! Start preparing for the ACT at least 3 months in advance to score high on the challenging test.

Recommended ACT Score

As an integral part of this guide, it is now opportune to articulate on the highly anticipated information—the recommended ACT score! For college admissions, the national average ACT score hovers around 19 or 20 out of the score range of 1-36. If you get better than that, you’re off to a good start.

However, for highly selective schools, including Ivy League universities, applicants generally need significantly higher scores to stand out among the competitive pool of candidates. According to CollegeBoard, highly recognized Princeton University accepts students lying in the range of 33-35; whereas Harvard’s expectations can go for a maximum of 36. Scoring in this range demonstrates exceptional academic proficiency and enhances your chances of being noticed by these prestigious colleges.

But remember not to feel overwhelmed, an impressive ACT score is just one piece of the college application. Almost every recognized university considers other factors such as your GPA, extracurricular involvements, and other achievements in your admission process.

Cost of Taking ACT and Additional Fees

Service Fee Details
The full ACT (no writing) $181.50 Includes reports for you and up to four colleges (if codes are provided when you register).
The full ACT with writing $206.50 Includes reports for you and up to four colleges (if codes are provided when you register).
Test option change $25.00 You may add or remove the writing test through the late deadline in MyACT.
Late registration $36.00 Registration or test date change made during the late period.
Change fee $42.00 Includes making a Test Date Change or Test Center Change
Score reports to 5th and 6th college choices $16.00 Request online before the test date. Refundable on written request if you do not test.
Additional Score Reports $18.00 You can request additional score reports online after registration.

You can check the availability on the ACT website.

General Overview of ACT

1. English Section

The initial milestone on your path to mastering the ACT is the English section. This 45-minute, 75-question test assesses your grammar, usage, and reading comprehension skills. The section is divided into three parts, which test your ability to identify and correct errors in grammar, usage, and punctuation; your knowledge of grammar and usage rules; and your ability to focus and understand passages of text.

Mastering these skills and managing your time effectively are key to conquering this crucial aspect of the ACT. Practice answering questions by taking sample tests on ACT Website and using other resources.

2. Mathematics Section

Having known about the English section, the subsequent challenge in your ACT journey lies in the Mathematics section. With 60 multiple-choice questions in 60 minutes, you’ve only got a minute per question.

The Mathematics section of the ACT is a crucial and challenging segment. According to the ACT Description of the Math test, around 57%-60% of the content focuses on recent high school math, including algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. The remaining percentage includes modeling and complex problems that test your understanding and skills in the subject. Practicing both fundamental concepts and advanced problem-solving techniques will help you navigate this section successfully.

3. Reading Section

With the long sections now complete, it is time to focus on the Reading section of the ACT. Comprising multiple parts, this 35-minute segment features both one long prose passage and shorter prose passages. The passages cover various subjects, from humanities to social sciences, natural sciences, and literary fiction.

These passages are designed to mirror the levels and types of texts commonly encountered in first-year college curricula. In total, you’ll tackle 40 multiple-choice questions, testing your reading comprehension and critical thinking skills. Swiftly grasping the main ideas, supporting evidence, and the author’s purpose is essential to excel.

4. Science Section

The Science section of the ACT is the fourth hurdle on your way to acing the ACT. With the time and number of questions similar to the Reading section, this segment evaluates your scientific reasoning and data analysis skills. It presents sets of scientific information in graphs, tables, and passages for you to analyze and draw conclusions.

Students can expect assessment of scientific reasoning across various subjects such as biology, chemistry, Earth/space sciences (e.g., geology, astronomy, and meteorology), and physics. Rest assured, advanced knowledge in these areas is not required. Instead, the focus is on your ability to analyze and draw conclusions from the provided scientific information.

5. Writing Section (Optional)

The Writing section of the ACT is optional and is typically given when your preferred universities require it as part of their admissions process. For this section, you’ll be presented with a prompt on a contemporary issue, and your task is to construct a well-organized, persuasive essay presenting your viewpoint in a maximum of 40 minutes. This section tests your ability to develop a clear argument, support it with relevant evidence, and exhibit effective writing mechanics.

While it’s optional, taking the Writing section can strengthen your college application, whether or not your desired university requires it. Use this opportunity to showcase your writing prowess and leave a lasting impression on admissions committees.

Tips on How to Prepare for ACT

1. Eliminate and Skip to Save Time

During the ACT, time is of the essence, and employing the strategy of eliminating and skipping can be a game-changer, especially in the Math section. With 60 questions to answer and only a minute allocated for each, time management is vital.

Start by quickly scanning the answer choices, eliminating obviously incorrect options to narrow down your possibilities. If you encounter a challenging problem, don’t get stuck; instead, skip it and tackle easier questions first. For example, if you face a complex algebraic equation, skip it and answer simpler arithmetic questions first. By strategically managing time, you increase your chances of answering more questions accurately, ultimately enhancing your overall ACT performance.

2. Take Timed Practice Tests

To improve your ACT performance, incorporate timed practice tests into your preparation routine. Simulate the actual testing environment and set time restrictions for each part to reflect the actual test conditions. After you’ve finished each section of the test, review your answers and see where you missed questions. This will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, and focus your studying on the areas that need the most work.

Taking timed practice exams not only introduces you to the format and speed of the exam but also trains you how to utilize your time effectively throughout the exam. So next time you’re preparing for the ACT, be sure to include timed practice tests in your study routine!

3. Stay Relaxed and Don’t Give Up!

As test day approaches, it’s natural to feel nervous and overwhelmed. However, staying relaxed and confident can positively impact your performance. Prioritize self-care, get enough rest, and trust in your preparation. During the test, if you encounter a difficult question, take a brief pause, and move on to the next.


So take your time, stay focused, and don’t give up! Keep your determination high, and tackle the ACT with tenacity and self-belief!


We hope this Complete Guide to ACT article has been informative, especially for first-time degree-seeking undergraduate students! Make sure to also check out our Scholarships Page for different information on scholarships and universities across the globe!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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