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  • Willyanisse Ocasio

Unlocking Success: Your Comprehensive Guide to Acing the ACT

Hey Jags!

ACT testing season is just around the corner, with juniors and seniors taking this exam Tuesday, October 3rd. However, for freshmen and sophomores, the ACT may still be and unfamiliar exam. By the end of this blog, you should understand what the ACT is, its purpose, and the benefits of taking it.

ACT 101

The ACT is an acronym for "American College Testing," and it's an entrance exam used by most colleges and universities in the United States to make admissions decisions . It is a multiple-choice, pencil-and-paper test administered by ACT, Inc. The ACT is a test high school students take to determine their college readiness. There are four sections on the ACT: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. There is also an optional Writing section at the end, which some colleges require when you apply so make sure to research the testing requirements of each university of your choice.

The ACT is a national exam, meaning all high school seniors and juniors take the ACT on the same date at the same time, similar to an AP exam (be on the lookout for a blog about AP exams!). Since it is a national exam, you are required to sign up for this exam. Additionally, you must pay for this exam, or request a fee waiver. Prices for the ACT range between $52-$98! However, IDEA Judson waives this fee for all students.

The Sections

As mentioned above, the ACT is an exam composed of four mandatory sections and one optional section. The four mandatory sections are English, Math, Reading, and Science. All these sections are multiple choice. The optional section is the writing part; in this section, as the name implies, you will have to write an essay where you discuss your perspective on a given issue/topic.

All of these sections are timed:

  • The English section is 45 minutes, and you have 75 questions.

  • The Math section is 60 minutes, and you have 60 questions.

  • The Reading section is 35 minutes, and you have 40 questions.

  • The Science section is 35 minutes, and you have 40 minutes.

  • The Writing section is 40 minutes, and you have to write one essay,

The time they give you do the test is approximately 2 hours and 55 minutes. Including the optional writing test, the total testing time is approximately 3 hours and 35 minutes.

Also, once time is called for a section, you are not allowed to go back or forward! For example, if you finish the Reading section early, you are not allowed to return to the English or Math sections or advance to the Science section. If you are caught going back or skipping ahead, your exam may be confiscated and your test will be voided.

For tips on how to tackle these sections head to our blog, "Mastering the ACT: Proven Tips and Strategies for Success".


The ACT exam is scored on a scale of 1-36, with 1 being the lowest and 36 being the highest. The writing section is scored separately on a scale of 1-12; with 1 being the lowest and 12 being the highest.

At IDEA Judson, the goal for every student who takes the ACT is to earn a score of at least a 21. However, earning a higher score makes you a competitive applicant in college applications, as a higher score indicates college readiness and makes you more likely to earn financial aid. Additionally, many colleges offer merit-based scholarships; these scholarships are awarded based on merit, meaning if you have a good academic standing (including a high ACT score), colleges may award you scholarships, ranging from as low as a few hundred dollars to full-tuition!

Generally, though, a score of 27 is considered competitive for most colleges. However, if you are thinking of applying to an Ivy League, such as Harvard or Yale, you should have an ACT score of at least a 33.

ACT Benefits

The ACT exam measures skills that are important for success in college and university. It allows you, as a high school student, to get a glimpse of what the academic rigor is like at college. Additionally, most colleges require your ACT score. However, many colleges are changing their testing-policy and shifting to a test-optional system. If a school is test-optional, it means the college does

not require you to submit your standardized test scores (such as the ACT). Still, if you believe your ACT score is a good indicator of your academic capabilities, you are welcome to submit your score. Also, if you choose to submit your ACT score to a test-optional college and the score falls below the college's standards, the admissions officers will choose to ignore or omit this section of your application.

That concludes our blog about the basics of the ACT. Hopefully you now have a better understanding of the ACT and are looking forward to acing it!

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