American College Testing (ACT)


The term American College Testing refers to an achievement test, which is oftentimes used by colleges and universities as part of their admissions decision making process.  The ACT exam includes English, mathematics, reading, science and writing modules, with scores that range from one to thirty-six.


Originally known as American College Testing, ACT is used by the admissions departments of colleges and universities to identify prospective students, assess their strengths and weaknesses, help students select courses, as well as eligibility for scholarships and loans.

The test is administered three times a year (April, June, December), with results available for on-line viewing in as little as three weeks.  If taken, essay scores are available in five weeks after the exam.  The complete exam includes roughly 200 multiple choice questions and takes approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete.  The full test consists of five sections:

  • English: includes usage, punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, organization, style as well as strategy.
  • Mathematics: includes pre-algebra (23%), elementary algebra (17%), intermediate algebra (15%), coordinate geometry (15%), plane geometry (23%), and trigonometry (7%).
  • Reading: includes comprehension, reasoning skills, comparative skills, and the ability to understand and analyze voice and style.
  • Science: includes biology, chemistry, physics, geology, astronomy, and meteorology.  The exam tests the student's scientific reasoning skills as well as their ability to read and recall.
  • Writing: includes a written essay that prompts the student to define an issue and describe two points of view.

Scores can range from a low of 1 to a high of 36, and are a composite of high school scores achieved in the prior three years.  The numerical scores are a function of percentiles.  For example, a student receiving a 36 would have placed in the 99th percentile of student scores over the past three years.

Related Terms

associate's degree, bachelor's degree, master's degree, doctoral degree, Latin honors, dissertationSAT, LSATMCAT, GMAT, GREMAT, DAT, PCAT