Effective through the 2011—2012 testing year.
■ Full-Length Practice Tests, including
a Writing Test
■ Information about the
Optional Writing Test
■ Strategies to Prepare for the Tests
■ What to Expect on Test Day
This booklet is provided free of charge.
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1. General Preparation for the ACT® Tests . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
2. Strategies for Taking the ACT Tests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
ACT Online Prep™: The only online test preparation
3. What to Expect on Test Day . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
program designed exclusively by ACT test
development professionals. ACT Online Prep has
4. Taking the Practice Tests. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
practice test questions, a practice essay with real-time
Practice Multiple-Choice Tests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
scoring, a diagnostic test, and a personalized Study
Practice Writing Test . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
Path. You can access ACT Online Prep via
5. Scoring Your Tests. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59
the Internet anywhere and at any time. Order at
How to Score the Multiple-Choice Tests . . . . . . . . 59
How to Score the Writing Test . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67
The Real ACT Prep Guide is the official print guide
to the ACT. This book includes three complete practice
6. Sample Answer Document . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
tests previously used in actual administrations—each
Multiple-Choice Tests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
with an optional Writing Test, with explanations for
Writing Test . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
all right and wrong answer choices. Order at
A Message to Students
for the ACT® Tests
This booklet, which is provided free of charge, is intended
to help you do your best on the ACT. It summarizes general
Choosing a Test Option
test-taking strategies, describes the content of each test,
Students may register for one of two Test Options: the
provides specific tips for each, and lets you know what to
ACT (No Writing), which includes the four required multiple-
expect on test day. Included in this booklet are complete
choice tests, or the ACT Plus Writing, which also includes a
practice tests—“retired” ACT questions that were
30-minute Writing Test. The optional ACT Writing Test
administered to students on a national test date, including
complements the ACT English Test. The combined results
a writing prompt—a sample answer document, answer
from both tests provide information about your
keys, and self-scoring instructions.
understanding of the conventions of standard written
Read this booklet carefully and take the practice tests well
English and your ability to produce a direct sample of your
before test day so you will be familiar with the tests, what
writing. Taking the ACT Plus Writing will provide you with
they measure, and the strategies you can use to do your
two additional scores: a Writing subscore and a Combined
best on test day.
English/Writing score. Taking the ACT Writing Test does not
affect your subject area scores or your Composite score.
ACT is committed to representing the diversity of our
society in all its aspects, including race, ethnicity, and
Not all colleges require or recommend taking the ACT
gender. Thus, test passages, questions, and writing
Writing Test. Check directly with the colleges you are
prompts are deliberately chosen to reflect the range of
considering to find out their requirements, or ask your high
cultures in our population.
school counselor which Test Option you should take. You
can also check www.actstudent.org for a searchable list
We also are committed to ensuring that test questions and
of colleges that have provided information to us about their
writing prompts are fair—that they do not disadvantage any
policies—whether they require, recommend, or do not need
particular group of examinees. Extensive reviews of the
results from the ACT Writing Test. Consult this list before
fairness of test materials are rigorously conducted by both
you register, so you will know which Test Option to select.
ACT staff and external consultants. We also employ
statistical procedures to help ensure that our test materials
The ACT Plus Writing is available within the United States,
do not unfairly affect the performance of any group.
U.S. territories, and Canada on all established test dates
and for Special and Arranged Testing during designated
testing windows. The ACT Plus Writing is available
internationally on all test dates except February.
ACT endorses the Code of Fair Testing Practices in Education and the Code of
© 2010 by ACT, Inc. All rights reserved.
Professional Responsibilities in Educational Measurement, guides to the conduct
of those involved in educational testing. ACT is committed to ensuring that each
NOTE: This booklet is covered by federal copyright laws that prohibit the
of its testing programs upholds the guidelines in each Code. A copy of each Code
reproduction of the test questions without the express, written permission of
may be obtained free of charge from ACT Customer Services (68), P.O. Box
1008, Iowa City, IA 52243-1008, 319/337-1429.
Choosing a Test Date
Read each question carefully.
Before you choose a test date, check the application
It is important that you understand what each question
deadlines of the colleges and scholarship agencies you are
asks. Some questions will require you to go through several
considering. It will normally take three to eight weeks after
steps to find the correct or best answer, while others can
a test date for ACT to mail your score report to you and to
be answered more quickly.
your college or scholarship choices.
Answer the easy questions first.
Many colleges and scholarship agencies recommend that
The best strategy for taking the tests is to answer the easy
students take the ACT during the spring of their junior year.
questions and skip the questions you find difficult. After
By this time, students typically have completed most of the
answering all of the easy questions, go back and answer
coursework covered by the ACT. There are a number of
the more difficult questions if you have time.
advantages in taking the ACT then:
Use logic on more difficult questions.
You will receive test scores and other information that
When you return to the more difficult questions, try to
will help you plan your senior year of high school.
use logic to eliminate incorrect answers to a question.
Many colleges begin contacting prospective students
Compare the answer choices to each other and note how
during the summer before their senior year.
they differ. Such differences may provide clues as to what
If you do not score as well as you believe you can,
the question requires. Eliminate as many incorrect answers
there will be opportunities to retake the ACT in the fall of
as you can, then make an educated guess from the
your senior year and still have your new scores
available in time to meet admission and scholarship
Answer every question.
Your score on the tests will be based only on the number of
NOTE: You cannot plan on receiving your scores
questions that you answer correctly; there is no penalty
from one test date in time to register for the next.
for guessing. Thus, you should answer every question
within the time allowed for each test, even if you have to
guess. Your supervisor will announce when you have five
minutes remaining on each test.
Strategies for the ACT
Review your work.
The ACT contains multiple-choice tests in four areas:
If there is time left after you have answered every question in
English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. Each of
a test, go back and check your work on that test. Check to be
these tests contains questions that offer either four or five
sure that you marked only one response to each question.
answer choices from which you are to choose the correct,
You will not be allowed to go back to any other test or mark
or best, answer. The following suggestions apply to all
responses to a test after time has been called on that test.
Be precise in marking your answer document.
Be sure that you properly fill in the correct ovals on your
The time limits set for each test give nearly everyone enough
answer document. Check to be sure that the number of the
time to finish all the questions. However, because the
line of ovals on your answer document is the same as the
English, Reading, and Science Tests contain a considerable
number of the question you are answering and that you
amount of text, it is important to pace yourself so you will not
mark only one response for each question.
spend too much time on one passage. Similarly, try not to
spend too much time puzzling over an answer to a specific
problem in the Mathematics Test. Go on to the other
If you want to change a multiple-choice answer, be sure to
questions and come back if there is time. Your supervisor
use a soft eraser that will not leave smudges and erase the
will announce when you have five minutes remaining on
unintended mark completely. Do not cross out answers or
use correction fluid or tape; you must erase. Correction
fluid/tape, smudges, or unintended marks may cause
Read the directions for each test carefully.
errors in scoring.
Before you begin taking one of the tests, read the
directions carefully. The English, Reading, and Science
To students approved to test at national test centers
Tests ask for the “best” answer. Do not respond as soon as
with extended time:
you identify a correct answer. Read and consider all of the
answer choices and choose the answer that best responds
You will be allowed up to 5 hours total to work on the
to the question.
multiple-choice tests at your own pace, including breaks
between tests. If you are taking the ACT Plus Writing,
The Mathematics Test asks for the “correct” answer. Read
you will be allowed up to 5 hours and 45 minutes total to
each question carefully to make sure you understand the
work on all five tests. You will need to pace yourself
type of answer required. Then, you may want to work out
through each test in order to complete all tests within the
the answer you feel is correct and look for it among the
total time allowed. Your supervisor will provide time
choices given. If your answer is not among the choices
updates every hour. When you complete each test, you
provided, reread the question and consider all of the
must notify your supervisor that you are ready to begin
the next test.
General Test-Taking Strategies
Preparing for Test Day
for the ACT Writing Test
Although what you know will determine how well you do on
The ACT Writing Test lets you show your skill in planning
the ACT, your attitudes, emotions, and physical state may
and composing a short essay. It measures writing
also influence your performance. The following tips will help
proficiencies that are taught in high school and are
you do your best:
important for readiness to succeed in entry-level college
Be confident in your ability to do well on the ACT. You
can do well!
Be prepared to work hard.
The following general strategies will help if you take the
ACT Writing Test.
Know what to expect on test day. Familiarize yourself
with the information in this booklet, and at
You will have 30 minutes to write your essay. It is important
NOTE: Most procedures in this booklet refer to testing
to pace yourself in the way that best suits your personal
on an established ACT test date at an ACT test center.
writing strategy. Many writers do best when they spend part
Procedures may differ slightly if you test at another
of their time planning the essay, most of their time writing
location. For example, for most administrations, you
the essay, and the last part of their time reviewing the essay
won’t be allowed to use scratch paper because each
to make corrections and small revisions. There is no
page of the Mathematics Test has a blank column that
formula for the best proportion of time to spend planning,
you can use for scratch work.
writing, and reviewing: writers, topics, and occasions differ
Take the practice tests in the exact order they are
too widely for a universal rule to apply. Keep in mind,
presented. Review your responses so you will feel
however, that you are unlikely to have time to draft, revise,
comfortable about the approaching test day.
and recopy your essay. Therefore, taking a few minutes to
Prepare well in advance for the tests. Do not leave
plan your essay is a much better strategy than writing a
preparation to the last minute.
draft with the intent to copy it over for the final essay.
Get plenty of rest the night before the tests so you will
In general, budget your time in the way that feels best to
be in good physical condition for taking them.
you based on your experience in taking essay tests in
➤ Bring the following items with you to the test center:
school and in other circumstances when you’ve done
Your admission ticket (if you test on a National or
writing within a time limit. Your supervisor will announce
International ACT Test Date).
when you have five minutes remaining on the Writing Test.
Acceptable identification. Your admission ticket is
Read the directions carefully.
not identification. See details on your admission
Before you begin the Writing Test, read the directions
ticket or at www.actstudent.org. If you do not
carefully. They tell you the aspects of writing on which your
present acceptable identification at the time of
essay will be evaluated and give instructions on how to
check-in, you will not be admitted to test. You will
write your essay in the answer folder.
have to pay a Test Date Change fee to transfer
your registration to a different test date if you
Read the writing prompt carefully.
choose to reschedule. If you have any questions
It is important that you understand exactly what the writing
about acceptable ID, call ACT Test Administration
prompt asks you to do. A firm grasp of the assignment is as
(319/337-1510) before test day.
crucial for the ACT Writing Test as it is for writing essays for
Sharpened soft lead No. 2 pencils with good
class. Be sure you have a clear understanding of the issue
erasers (no mechanical pencils; no ink, ballpoint,
in the writing prompt and of the question you must respond
or felt-tip pens). Do not bring highlight pens or
to before you start to plan and write your essay.
any other writing instruments; you will not be
Write (or print) legibly in the answer folder.
allowed to use them. If you have registered to take
If your readers cannot read what you have written, they will
the ACT Plus Writing, your essay must also be
not be able to score your essay. You may write or print your
completed with a soft lead No. 2 pencil.
essay, whichever you prefer—but you must do so legibly.
A watch to pace yourself. Do not bring a watch
You must write your essay using a soft lead No. 2 pencil
with an alarm. You will not be allowed to set an
(not a mechanical pencil or ink pen) and only on the lined
alarm because it will disturb other students. If your
pages in the answer folder. You may not need all the lined
alarm sounds during testing, you will be dismissed
pages, but to ensure you have enough room to finish, do
and your answer document will not be scored.
not skip lines.
Your supervisor will announce when you have five
minutes remaining on each test.
Make corrections clear.
A permitted calculator for the Mathematics Test,
If you make corrections by using erasures or cross-outs,
if you wish to use one. (See shaded section on
do so thoroughly and legibly. You may write corrections or
page 5 and details about prohibited models and
additions neatly between the lines of your essay, but do not
features at www.actstudent.org.)
write in the margins of the lined pages.
For students testing on National or International ACT Test Dates:
If you register online, you must print your admission ticket
2Strategies for Taking
from your ACT Web account. If you submit a registration
the ACT Tests
folder, look for your admission ticket in the mail about
2 weeks after you mail your folder.
The ACT measures the knowledge, understanding, and
skills that you have acquired throughout your education.
If you misplace your admission ticket or have not
Although the sum total of what a person has learned cannot
received it by 10 days before the test date, log in to
easily be changed, your performance in a specific area can
your ACT Web account to print a copy, or call ACT
be affected by adequate preparation, especially if it has
Registration at 319/337-1270 for assistance
been some time since you have taken a course in that area.
(8:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m., M–F, central time).
Check your admission ticket for your Test Option and
There are three strategies that can help you to prepare
the location of your assigned test center. Pay attention
yourself for the content included in the ACT:
to any special messages on your ticket such as what
Familiarize yourself with the content of the ACT tests.
building to go to, what entrance to use, where to park,
etc. If you are unfamiliar with the location, do a practice
Review the information about the tests that is provided on
run to see how to get there and how much travel time
the following pages. Note which content areas make up a
you will need to arrive by the time shown on the ticket.
large proportion of the tests and which do not. The specific
topics included in each content area are examples of
If you are late, you may not be admitted to test. If you
possible topics; they do not include all of the possibilities.
arrive earlier than 7:45 a.m., you will probably have to
wait outside until testing personnel have completed
Refresh your knowledge and skills in the content areas.
Review those content areas you have studied but are not
Be prepared for testing to start after all examinees
fresh in your mind. Spend your time refreshing your
present at 8:00 a.m. have been checked in and seated.
knowledge and skills in the content areas that make up
Dress comfortably. To conserve energy, your test center
large portions of the tests.
may be considerably warmer or cooler on weekends
than during the week. Please dress so that you will be
comfortable in a variety of temperatures.
Use of Calculators on the ACT Mathematics Test
It is your responsibility to bring a permitted calculator. We
On Test Day
regularly update information about which calculators are
Be sure your calculator is working and has reliable
prohibited and provide the most current information only
batteries. You may bring a backup calculator and extra
via the Web or phone.
batteries to the test center. Testing staff will not supply
To be certain your calculator will be permitted on test day,
batteries or calculators. You will not be allowed to share
check www.actstudent.org or call 800/498-6481 for the
calculators during testing.
most up-to-date information on permitted and prohibited
Testing staff will check your calculator to verify it is
devices. If you use a prohibited calculator, you will be
permitted, and they will monitor your use of your calculator
dismissed and your answer document will not be scored.
to ensure that you:
You may use a calculator on the ACT Mathematics Test (but
use it only during the Mathematics Test;
not on any of the other tests in the ACT). You are not required
use your backup calculator only after it has been
to use a calculator. All the problems can be solved without a
checked by a member of the testing staff;
calculator. If you regularly use a calculator in your
do not share your calculator; and
mathematics work, you may wish to use one you are familiar
do not store test materials in your calculator’s memory.
with as you take the Mathematics Test. Using a more
powerful, but unfamiliar, calculator is not likely to give you an
If your calculator has characters one inch high or larger, or
advantage over using the kind you normally use.
a raised display, testing staff may seat you where no other
examinee can see your calculator.
You may use any four-function, scientific, or graphing
calculator, unless it has features described in the current
list of prohibited devices at www.actstudent.org. Other
models may be permitted if you modify some of the
calculator’s features, such as removing paper tape, turning
off sounds, removing power cords, or covering infrared
Identify the content areas you have not studied.
Examine the underlined portions of the passage.
If unfamiliar content areas make up major portions of the
Before responding to a question with an underlined portion,
tests, consider taking coursework to help you gain
carefully examine what is underlined in the text. Consider
knowledge and skills in these areas before you take the
the elements of writing that are included in each underlined
ACT. Because the ACT measures knowledge and skills
portion. Some questions will ask you to base your decision
acquired over a period of time, it is unlikely that a “cram”
on some specific element of writing, such as the tone or
course covering material that is unfamiliar to you will help
emphasis the text should convey. Some questions will ask
you improve your scores. Longer-term survey courses will
you to choose the alternative to the underlined portion that
be most helpful to you, because they aim to improve your
is NOT or LEAST acceptable. The answer choices for each
knowledge through sustained learning and practice.
question will contain changes in one or more of those
elements of writing.
ACT English Test
Be aware of questions with no underlined portions.
The ACT English Test is a 75-question, 45-minute test that
You will be asked some questions about a section of the
measures your understanding of the conventions of
passage or about the passage as a whole, in light of a
standard written English (punctuation, grammar and usage,
given rhetorical situation. Questions of this type are often
and sentence structure) and of rhetorical skills (strategy,
identified by a question number in a box located at the
organization, and style). Spelling, vocabulary, and rote
appropriate point in the passage. Questions asking global
recall of rules of grammar are not tested. The test consists
questions about the entire passage are placed at the end
of five essays, or passages, each of which is accompanied
of the passage and introduced by a horizontal box
by a sequence of multiple-choice test questions. Different
enclosing the following instruction: “Questions ___ and ___
passage types are employed to provide a variety of
ask about the preceding passage as a whole.”
rhetorical situations. Passages are chosen not only for their
appropriateness in assessing writing skills but also to
Note the differences in the answer choices.
reflect students’ interests and experiences.
Many of the questions in the test will involve more than one
aspect of writing. Examine each answer choice and how it
Some questions refer to underlined portions of the passage
differs from the others. Be careful not to select an answer
and offer several alternatives to the underlined portion. You
that corrects one error but causes a different error.
must decide which choice is most appropriate in the
context of the passage. Some questions ask about an
Determine the best answer.
underlined portion, a section of the passage, or the
Two approaches can be taken to determine the best answer
passage as a whole. You must decide which choice best
to a question in which you are to choose the best alternative
answers the question posed. Many questions offer “NO
to an underlined portion. In the first approach, you can
CHANGE” to the passage as one of the choices. The
reread the sentence or sentences, substituting each of the
questions are numbered consecutively. Each question
possible answer choices for the underlined portion to
number refers to a correspondingly numbered portion
determine the best choice. In the second approach, you can
underlined in the passage or to a corresponding numeral in
decide how the underlined portion might best be phrased in
a box located at the appropriate point in the passage.
standard written English or in terms of the particular question
Three scores are reported for the ACT English Test: a total
posed. If you think the underlined portion is the best answer,
test score based on all 75 questions, a subscore in
you should select “NO CHANGE.” If not, you should check to
Usage/Mechanics based on 40 questions, and a subscore
see whether your phrasing is one of the other answer
in Rhetorical Skills based on 35 questions.
choices. If you do not find your phrasing, you should choose
the best of the answers presented. For questions cued by a
Tips for Taking the ACT English Test
number in a box, you must decide which choice is most
appropriate in terms of the question posed or the stated
The ACT English Test contains 75 questions to be
completed in 45 minutes. If you spend 11⁄2 minutes
Reread the sentence, using your selected answer.
skimming through each passage before responding to the
Once you have selected the answer you feel is best, reread
questions, then you will have 30 seconds to answer each
the corresponding sentence(s) of the passage, inserting
question. If possible, spend less time on each question and
your selected answer at the appropriate place in the text to
use the remaining time allowed for this test to review your
make sure it is the best answer within the context of the
work and return to the questions on this test that were most
difficult for you.
Content Covered by the ACT English Test
Be aware of the writing style used in each passage.
Six elements of effective writing are included in the English
The five passages cover a variety of topics and are written
Test: punctuation, grammar and usage, sentence structure,
in a variety of styles. It is important that you take into
strategy, organization, and style. The questions covering
account the writing style used in each passage when you
punctuation, grammar and usage, and sentence structure
respond to the questions. In responding to a question, be
make up the Usage/Mechanics subscore. The questions
sure to understand the context of the question. Consider
covering strategy, organization, and style make up the
how the sentence containing an underlined portion fits in
Rhetorical Skills subscore. A brief description and the
with the surrounding sentences and into the passage
approximate percentage of the test devoted to each
as a whole.
element of effective writing are given on the next page.
Tips for Taking the ACT Mathematics Test
Punctuation (13%). Questions in this category test your
knowledge of the conventions of internal and end-of-
The ACT Mathematics Test contains 60 questions to be
sentence punctuation, with emphasis on the relationship of
completed in 60 minutes. You have an average of 1 minute
punctuation to meaning (for example, avoiding ambiguity,
per question. If possible, spend less time on each question
and use the remaining time allowed for this test to review
Grammar and Usage (16%). Questions in this category test
your work and return to the questions on this test that were
your understanding of agreement between subject and
most difficult for you.
verb, between pronoun and antecedent, and between
If you use a calculator, use it wisely.
modifiers and the word modified; verb formation; pronoun
Remember, all of the mathematics problems can be solved
case; formation of comparative and superlative adjectives
without using a calculator. In fact, some of the problems are
and adverbs; and idiomatic usage.
best done without a calculator. Use good judgment in
Sentence Structure (24%). Questions in this category
deciding when, and when not, to use a calculator. For
test your understanding of relationships between
example, for some problems you may wish to do scratch
and among clauses, placement of modifiers, and shifts in
work to clarify your thoughts on the question before you
begin using a calculator to do computations. For many
problems, you may not want to use a calculator.
Solve the problem.
Strategy (16%). Questions in this category test how well
you develop a given topic by choosing expressions
For working out the solutions to the problems, you will
appropriate to an essay’s audience and purpose; judging
usually do scratch work in the space provided in the test
the effect of adding, revising, or deleting supporting
booklet, or you will be given scratch paper to use. You may
material; and judging the relevancy of statements in
wish to glance over the answer choices after reading the
questions. However, working backwards from the answer
choices provided can take a lot of time and may not be
Organization (15%). Questions in this category test how
well you organize ideas and choose effective opening,
transitional, and closing sentences.
Locate your solution among the answer choices.
Once you have solved the problem, look for your answer
Style (16%). Questions in this category test how well you
among the choices. If your answer is not included among
choose precise and appropriate words and images,
the choices, carefully reread the problem to see whether
maintain the level of style and tone in an essay, manage
you missed important information. Pay careful attention to
sentence elements for rhetorical effectiveness, and avoid
the question being asked. If an equation is to be selected,
ambiguous pronoun references, wordiness, and
check to see whether the equation you think is best can be
transformed into one of the answer choices provided.
ACT Mathematics Test
Make sure you answer the question.
You may use a calculator on the Mathematics Test.
The solutions to many questions in the test will involve
See www.actstudent.org for details about prohibited
several steps. Make sure your answer includes all of the
necessary steps. Frequently, questions include answer
choices that are based on incomplete solutions.
The ACT Mathematics Test is a 60-question, 60-minute test
designed to assess the mathematical skills students have
Make sure your answer is reasonable.
typically acquired in courses taken up to the beginning of
Sometimes an error in computation will result in an answer
grade 12. The test presents multiple-choice questions that
that is not practically possible for the situation described.
require you to use reasoning skills to solve practical
Always think about your answer to determine whether it is
problems in mathematics. Most questions are discrete, but
on occasion some may belong to sets of several questions
Check your work.
(e.g., several questions based on the same graph or chart).
You may arrive at an incorrect solution by making common
Knowledge of basic formulas and computational skills are
errors in the problem-solving process. Thus, if there is time
assumed as background for the problems, but recall of
available before the end of the Mathematics Test, it is
complex formulas and extensive computation is not
important that you reread the questions and check your
required. The material covered on the test emphasizes the
answers to make sure they are correct.
major content areas that are prerequisites to successful
performance in entry-level courses in college mathematics.
Content Covered by the ACT Mathematics Test
Four scores are reported for the ACT Mathematics Test: a
Six content areas are included in the Mathematics Test:
total test score based on all 60 questions, a subscore in
pre-algebra, elementary algebra, intermediate algebra,
Pre-Algebra/Elementary Algebra based on 24 questions, a
coordinate geometry, plane geometry, and trigonometry.
subscore in Intermediate Algebra/Coordinate Geometry
The questions covering pre-algebra and elementary
based on 18 questions, and a subscore in Plane
algebra make up the Pre-Algebra/Elementary Algebra
Geometry/Trigonometry based on 18 questions.
subscore. The questions covering intermediate algebra
and coordinate geometry make up the Intermediate
Algebra/Coordinate Geometry subscore. The questions
covering plane geometry and trigonometry make up the
cause-effect relationships; determine the meaning of
Plane Geometry/Trigonometry subscore. A brief description
context-dependent words, phrases, and statements; draw
and the approximate percentage of the test devoted to
generalizations; and analyze the author’s or narrator’s voice
each content area are given below.
and method. The test comprises four prose passages that
are representative of the level and kinds of text commonly
encountered in first-year college curricula. Each passage is
Pre-Algebra (23%). Questions in this content area are
preceded by a heading that identifies what type of passage
based on basic operations using whole numbers,
it is (for example, “Prose Fiction”), names the author, and
decimals, fractions, and integers; place value; square roots
may include a brief note that helps in understanding the
and approximations; the concept of exponents; scientific
passage. Each passage is accompanied by a set of
notation; factors; ratio, proportion, and percent; linear
multiple-choice test questions. These questions do not test
equations in one variable; absolute value and ordering
the rote recall of facts from outside the passage, isolated
numbers by value; elementary counting techniques and
vocabulary items, or rules of formal logic.
simple probability; data collection, representation, and
interpretation; and understanding simple descriptive
Three scores are reported for the ACT Reading Test: a total
test score based on all 40 questions, a subscore in Social
Studies/Sciences reading skills (based on the 20 questions
Elementary Algebra (17%). Questions in this content area
on the social studies and natural sciences passages), and
are based on properties of exponents and square roots,
a subscore in Arts/Literature reading skills (based on the
evaluation of algebraic expressions through substitution,
20 questions on the prose fiction and humanities
using variables to express functional relationships,
understanding algebraic operations, and the solution of
quadratic equations by factoring.
Tips for Taking the ACT Reading Test
The ACT Reading Test contains 40 questions to be
completed in 35 minutes. If you spend 2–3 minutes reading
Intermediate Algebra (15%). Questions in this content area
each passage, then you will have about 35 seconds to
are based on an understanding of the quadratic formula,
answer each question. If possible, spend less time on the
rational and radical expressions, absolute value equations
passages and the questions and use the remaining time
and inequalities, sequences and patterns, systems of
allowed for this test to review your work and return to the
equations, quadratic inequalities, functions, modeling,
questions on this test that were most difficult for you.
matrices, roots of polynomials, and complex numbers.
Read the passage carefully.
Coordinate Geometry (15%). Questions in this content area
Before you begin answering a question, read the entire
are based on graphing and the relations between equations
passage thoroughly. It is important that you read every
and graphs, including points, lines, polynomials, circles,
sentence rather than skim the text. Be conscious of
and other curves; graphing inequalities; slope; parallel and
relationships between or among ideas. You may want to
perpendicular lines; distance; midpoints; and conics.
make notes about important ideas in the passage, either in
the test booklet, or on scratch paper if it is provided.
Plane Geometry (23%). Questions in this content area are
Refer to the passage when answering the questions.
based on the properties and relations of plane figures,
Answers to some of the questions will be found by referring
including angles and relations among perpendicular and
to what is explicitly stated in the text. Other questions will
parallel lines; properties of circles, triangles, rectangles,
require you to determine implicit meanings and to draw
parallelograms, and trapezoids; transformations; the
conclusions, comparisons, and generalizations. Refer to
concept of proof and proof techniques; volume; and
the passage before you answer any question.
applications of geometry to three dimensions.
Content Covered by the ACT Reading Test
Trigonometry (7%). Questions in this content area are
based on understanding trigonometric relations in right
The Reading Test is based on four types of reading
triangles; values and properties of trigonometric functions;
selections: the social studies, the natural sciences, prose
graphing trigonometric functions; modeling using
fiction, and the humanities. A subscore in Social Studies/
trigonometric functions; use of trigonometric identities; and
Sciences reading skills is based on the questions on the
solving trigonometric equations.
social studies and the natural sciences passages, and a
subscore in Arts/Literature reading skills is based on the
ACT Reading Test
questions on the prose fiction and humanities passages.
A brief description and the approximate percentage of
The ACT Reading Test is a 40-question, 35-minute test that
the test devoted to each type of reading selection are given
measures your reading comprehension. The test questions
ask you to derive meaning from several texts by
Social Studies (25%). Questions in this category are based
(1) referring to what is explicitly stated and (2) reasoning to
on passages in the content areas of anthropology,
determine implicit meanings. Specifically, questions will ask
archaeology, biography, business, economics, education,
you to use referring and reasoning skills to determine main
geography, history, political science, psychology,
ideas; locate and interpret significant details; understand
sequences of events; make comparisons; comprehend
Natural Sciences (25%). Questions in this category are
viewpoints. It may be helpful for you to make notes
based on passages in the content areas of anatomy,
summarizing each viewpoint, either next to that section in
astronomy, biology, botany, chemistry, ecology, geology,
the test booklet, or on scratch paper if it is provided. For
medicine, meteorology, microbiology, natural history,
questions that ask you to compare viewpoints, these notes
physiology, physics, technology, and zoology.
will help you answer more quickly.
Prose Fiction (25%). Questions in this category are based on
Content Covered by the ACT Science Test
intact short stories or excerpts from short stories or novels.
The content of the Science Test includes biology, chemistry,
Humanities (25%). Questions in this category are based on
physics, and the Earth/space sciences (for example,
passages from memoirs and personal essays and in the
geology, astronomy, and meteorology). Advanced
content areas of architecture, art, dance, ethics, film,
knowledge in these subjects is not required, but knowledge
language, literary criticism, music, philosophy, radio,
acquired in general, introductory science courses is
television, and theater.
needed to answer some of the questions. The test
emphasizes scientific reasoning skills over recall of
ACT Science Test
scientific content, skill in mathematics, or reading ability.
The scientific information is conveyed in one of three
The ACT Science Test is a 40-question, 35-minute test that
measures the interpretation, analysis, evaluation,
reasoning, and problem-solving skills required in the
Data Representation (38%). This format presents graphic
and tabular material similar to that found in science journals
and texts. The questions associated with this format
The test presents seven sets of scientific information, each
measure skills such as graph reading, interpretation of
followed by a number of multiple-choice test questions. The
scatterplots, and interpretation of information presented in
scientific information is conveyed in one of three different
formats: data representation (graphs, tables, and other
schematic forms), research summaries (descriptions of
Research Summaries (45%). This format provides
several related experiments), or conflicting viewpoints
descriptions of one or more related experiments. The
(expressions of several related hypotheses or views that
questions focus upon the design of experiments and the
are inconsistent with one another). The questions require
interpretation of experimental results.
you to recognize and understand the basic features of, and
Conflicting Viewpoints (17%). This format presents
concepts related to, the provided information; to examine
expressions of several hypotheses or views that, being
critically the relationship between the information provided
based on differing premises or on incomplete data, are
and the conclusions drawn or hypotheses developed; and
inconsistent with one another. The questions focus upon
to generalize from given information to gain new
the understanding, analysis, and comparison of alternative
information, draw conclusions, or make predictions.
viewpoints or hypotheses.
You are not permitted to use a calculator on the ACT
ACT Writing Test (Optional)
If you register for the ACT Plus Writing, you will take the
One score is reported for the ACT Science Test: a total test
ACT Writing Test (which must be completed in English)
score based on all 40 questions.
after you complete the four multiple-choice tests. Taking
Tips for Taking the ACT Science Test
the Writing Test will not affect your scores on the multiple-
choice tests or your Composite score. Rather, you will
receive two additional scores: a Combined English/Writing
The ACT Science Test contains 40 questions to be
score on a scale of 1 through 36 and a Writing subscore on
completed in 35 minutes. If you spend about 2 minutes
a scale of 2 through 12. You will also receive some
reading each passage, then you will have about 30 seconds
comments on your essay.
to answer each question. If possible, spend less time on the
passages and the questions and use the remaining time
The ACT Writing Test is a 30-minute essay test that
allowed for this test to review your work and return to the
measures your writing skills—specifically those writing skills
questions on this test that were most difficult for you.
emphasized in high school English classes and in entry-
level college composition courses. The test consists of one
Read the passage carefully.
writing prompt that will define an issue and describe two
Before you begin answering a question, read the scientific
points of view on that issue. You are asked to write in
material provided. It is important that you read the entire text
response to a question about your position on the issue
and examine any tables, graphs, or figures. You may want
described in the writing prompt. In doing so, you may
to make notes about important ideas in the information
adopt either of the perspectives described in the prompt,
provided, either in the test booklet, or on scratch paper if it
or present a different point of view on the issue. Your essay
is provided. Some of the information sets will describe
score will not be affected by the point of view you take on
experiments. You should consider the experimental design,
the issue. Prompts are designed to be appropriate for
including the controls and variables, because questions are
response in a 30-minute timed test and to reflect students’
likely to address this component of scientific research.
interests and experiences.
Note different viewpoints in passages.
Some material will present conflicting points of view, and
the questions will ask you to distinguish among the various
Your essay will be evaluated on the evidence it gives of
Vary the structure of your sentences, and use varied and
your ability to do the following:
precise word choices. Make logical relationships clear by
express judgments by taking a position on the issue in
using transitional words and phrases. Do not wander off the
the writing prompt;
topic. End with a strong conclusion that summarizes or
maintain a focus on the topic throughout the essay;
reinforces your position.
develop a position by using logical reasoning and by
Is it advisable to organize the essay by using a formula, like
supporting your ideas;
“the five-paragraph essay”? Points are neither awarded nor
organize ideas in a logical way; and
deducted for following formulas, so feel free to use one or
use language clearly and effectively according to the
not as best suits your preference. Some writers find
conventions of standard written English.
formulas stifling, while other writers find them vital. The
exact numbers of words and paragraphs in your essay are
Your essay will be scored holistically—that is, on the basis
less important than the clarity and development of your
of the overall impression created by all the elements of the
ideas. Writers who have something to say can usually
writing. Two trained readers will score your essay, each
express their ideas at reasonable length and in the right
giving it a rating from 1 (low) to 6 (high). The sum of those
number of paragraphs.
ratings is your Writing subscore. If the readers’ ratings
disagree by more than one point, a third reader will
Review your essay.
evaluate your essay and resolve the discrepancy.
Take a few minutes before time is called to read over your
essay. Correct any mistakes in grammar, usage,
Tips for Taking the ACT Writing Test
punctuation, and spelling. If you find any words that are
hard to read, recopy them so your readers can read them
The ACT Writing Test gives you 30 minutes to read and
easily. Make any corrections and revisions neatly, between
think about the issue in the prompt, and to plan and write
the lines. Do not write in the margins. Your readers take into
your essay. When asked to write a timed essay, most
account that you had only 30 minutes to compose and
writers find it useful to do some planning before they write
write your essay. Within that time limit, try to make your
the essay, and to do a final check of the essay when it is
essay as polished as you can.
finished. It is unlikely that you will have time to draft, revise,
and recopy your essay. Therefore, taking a few minutes to
There are many ways to prepare for the ACT Writing
plan your essay is a much better strategy than writing a first
Test. You may be surprised that these include reading
draft with the intent to copy it over for the final essay.
newspapers and magazines, listening to news analyses on
television or radio, and participating in discussions and
Some writers like to plunge right in, but this is seldom a
debates about issues and problems. These activities help
good way to do well on a timed essay. Prewriting gets you
you become more familiar with current issues, with different
acquainted with the issue, suggests patterns for presenting
perspectives on those issues, and with strategies that
your thoughts, and gives you a little breathing room to
skilled writers and speakers use to present their points
come up with interesting ideas for introducing and
concluding your essay. Before writing, then, carefully
Of course, one of the best ways to prepare for the ACT
consider the prompt and make sure you understand it—
Writing Test is to practice writing different kinds of texts, for
reread it if you aren’t sure. Decide how you want to answer
different purposes, with different audiences in mind. The
the question in the prompt. Then jot down your ideas on the
writing you do in your English classes will help you. So will
topic: this might simply be a list of ideas, reasons, and
practice in writing essays, stories, poems, plays, editorials,
examples that you will use to explain your point of view on
reports, letters to the editor, a personal journal, or other
the issue. Write down what you think others might say in
kinds of writing that you do on your own. Because the ACT
opposition to your point of view and think about how you
Writing Test asks you to explain your perspective on an
would refute their argument. Think of how best to organize
issue in a convincing way, writing opportunities like
the ideas in your essay. Do your prewriting in your Writing
editorials or letters to the editor of a newspaper are
Test booklet. You can refer back to these notes as you write
especially helpful. Practicing a variety of different kinds of
your essay on the lined pages of your answer folder.
writing will help make you a versatile writer able to adjust to
different writing occasions and assignments.
Once you’re ready to write your essay in the answer folder,
It is also a good idea to practice writing within a time limit.
proceed with the confidence that you have prepared well
This will help build skills that are important in college-level
and that you will have attentive and receptive readers who
learning and in the world of work. Taking the practice ACT
are interested in your ideas. At the beginning of your essay,
Writing Test in this booklet will give you a good idea of what
make sure readers will see that you understand the issue.
timed writing is like and how much additional practice you
Explain your point of view in a clear and logical way. If
may need. You might want to take the practice ACT Writing
possible, discuss the issue in a broader context or evaluate
Test even if you do not plan to take the ACT Plus Writing,
the implications or complications of the issue. Address
because all the writing you do contributes to your skill in
what others might say to refute your point of view and
present a counterargument. Use specific examples.