ACT Test

The weight placed on ACT scores varies from school to school. Other important factors that schools consider in their admissions decisions are your high school GPA, academic transcript, letters of recommendation, interviews, and personal essays.

The ACT test is offered nationally every year in October, December, February, April, and June. It is also given in September in selected cities.

What specifically does the ACT test?

The ACT has 4 tests: English, Reading, Math and Science, as well as, an optional 30 minute essay. Some schools may require the essay, so be sure to ask before you take the test. 

Should I take the SAT or the ACT?

SAT versus ACT. Is one harder? Is one better? More prestigious?  More useful? If only it were that simple. More about the SAT vs. the ACT.

How is the ACT scored?

You'll earn one ACT score (1 to 36) on each test (English, Math, Reading, and Science), and a composite ACT score, which is an average of these 4 tests. Usually, when people ask about your score, they're referring to your composite ACT score. The composite score falls between 1 and 36. The national average is about 21.

If, for example, you scored 31 on the English, 30 on the Math, 29 on the Reading, and 30 on the Science Test, your composite ACT score would be 30.

You'll receive sub-scores 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 sub-score and a Combined English/ Writing score. Visit for detailed information about how your ACT essay will be scored.

When should I take the ACT?

Students have traditionally taken the ACT in the spring of their junior year and, if necessary, again in the fall of their senior year. However, more and more 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, or to take the SAT or SAT Subject Tests.

How do I register?

Registration deadlines fall approximately five weeks before each test date. You can get registration materials from your school's guidance counselor, or call ACT, Inc. at 319–337–1270 and they'll send you a registration packet. You can also register online at

How can I prepare?

We can help. We have prep solutions for every student and every budget.

Colleges will accept either the SAT or ACT. So which should you take?
It's all about the numbers. Some students end up scoring substantially higher on the SAT- others do better on the ACT. The Princeton Review ME offers a free assessment to help you determine which test is best for you. 

To help you zero in on the right exam, here are seven key differences:


ACT questions tend to be more straightforward.
ACT questions are often easier to understand on a first read. On the SAT, you may need to spend time figuring out what you're being asked before you can start solving the problem. For example, here are sample questions from the SAT essay and the ACT Writing Test (their name for the essay):

SAT: What is your view of the claim that something unsuccessful can still have some value?
ACT: In your view, should high schools become more tolerant of cheating?


The SAT has a stronger emphasis on vocabulary.

If you're an ardent wordsmith, you'll love the SAT. If words aren't your thing, you may do better on the ACT.


The ACT has a Science section, while the SAT does not.

You don't need to know anything about amoebas or chemical reactions for the ACT Science section. It is meant to test your reading and reasoning skills, based upon a given set of facts. But if science isn't your thing, the SAT might be a better fit.


The ACT tests more advanced math concepts.

The ACT requires you to know a little trigonometry, in addition to the algebra and geometry you'll find on the SAT. That said, the ACT Math section is not necessarily harder, since many students find the questions to be more straightforward than those on the SAT.


The ACT Writing Test is not required.

The 25-minute SAT essay is required, and is factored into your Writing score. The 30-minute ACT Writing Test is optional. If you choose to take it, it is not included in your composite score—schools will see it listed separately.


The SAT is broken up into more sections.

On the ACT, you tackle each content area (English, Math, Reading, and Science Reasoning) in one big chunk, with the optional Writing Test at the end. On the SAT, the content areas (Critical Reading, Math, and Writing) are broken up into ten sections, with the required essay at the beginning. You do a little math, a little writing, a little critical reading, a little more math, etc. Will it distract or refresh you to move back and forth between different content areas?



College admissions officers care about how you did on each section of the SAT. On the ACT, they're most concerned with your composite score. So if you're weak in one content area but strong in others, you could still end up with a very good ACT score.

Attending a Princeton Review ME ACT free event is a great way for you to see our teachers in action and get a head start on success in college admissions.

Strategy Sessions for the ACT

Our Strategy Sessions offer you a general overview of the ACT and the role it plays in college admissions. You'll find out about the ACT, learn test-taking strategies, and receive tools for researching colleges and financial aid.

ACT Free Practice Test

This full-length practice SAT is given under simulated testing conditions. You'll learn about the endurance and skill needed to earn a strong score on the SAT. And you'll get a personalized score report from us.

Meet the Tutors

This intimate event is a great opportunity to both learn the details of our programs and to experience, first-hand, how these tutors' dynamic personalities and specialized knowledge help their students to meet and surpass their test scoring goals.


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