What is the ACT Test and When Should Students Take It?

Posted: July 19, 2021 | Author: Southern Utah University | Read Time: 3 minutes

What is the ACTThe ACT test is a standardized test that provides an overview of high school student's preparedness for attending college. Typically taken later in high school, the ACT measures skills that are important for success in college.

What is the ACT Test?

The ACT test consists of four multiple-choice tests in English, mathematics, reading and science, and also includes an optional writing test. The test takes 2 hours and 55 minutes when taking the four main sections and 3 hours and 35 minutes if you add the writing test.

Why should I take the ACT?

The ACT is an entrance exam used by many colleges to support admissions decisions because it provides one data source that can be used to compare students. However, at Southern Utah University, there is no requirement for the ACT or SAT for admission. Students have the chance to use either their unweighted GPA or their ACT/SAT score to apply to the university and merit-based scholarships.

How is the ACT scored?

The ACT score provides a score from 1-36 on each test (English, mathematics, reading and science) and a composite ACT score, which is an average of these four tests. Usually, when people ask about your score, they're referring to your composite ACT score. The composite score falls between 1 and 36.
If, for example, you scored 31 on the English, 30 on the math, 29 on the reading, and 30 on the science sections, your composite ACT score would be 30.

You'll receive subscores in English, math and reading that range between 1 and 18. These scores provide you with more detail about your performance, but they are not actually used by colleges or universities.

The ACT includes an optional essay, known as the writing test. If you take the writing test, you will receive a writing test subscore and a combined English/writing score. Visit www.ACT.org for detailed information about how your ACT writing test will be scored.

When should I take the ACT?

Most students take the ACT in the spring of their junior year and, if necessary, again in the fall of their senior year. This is encouraged so scores can be ready for scholarship deadlines your senior year. Some students are choosing to take their first ACT earlier, such as during the fall of their junior year. This gives them more flexibility to retake the ACT test one or more times if needed.

Make sure to pick up a registration packet from your high school’s counseling office.

Are you ready to take the ACT?

The makers of the ACT offer a free practice test and study guide, as well as test prep events to help you prepare for the test. Visit act.org to get an overview of the ACT and what to expect.

How much does the ACT cost?

Most fees are nonrefundable, so planning ahead to make sure you can afford testing is a great idea. Currently, the full ACT (without the writing portion) costs the student $60. This includes a report for you, your high school, and up to four colleges that you are looking to apply at. If you register for the full ACT with the writing portion, the fee is $85 and you’ll receive the same reports.

Additionally, there may be fees for late registration, standby testing, changes to the location or date of your test, and reports to more than four colleges. Plan ahead for all options by visiting the ACT’s fee website.


As you learn what the ACT test is and whether or not it's the best choice for your education, remember that the ACT is a great way to prepare for college and take the next step in your educational career. If you have any questions about the ACT or how SUU uses your score, contact the Admissions Office.

Tags: High School College Prep

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