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The ACT is a computer-delivered test that is used for admission to undergraduate programs of universities and colleges in the US. It is designed to measure a student’s academic achievement with the help of five test components-Reading, Mathematics, English, Science and Writing(optional). The entire test lasts for 2 hours and 55 minutes without essay, and for 3 hours and 35 minutes if you choose to attempt the essay. ACT scores range from 1-36, in 1-point increments and are an average of the four compulsory test components.

A typical ACT question has four or five choices out of which one is correct. The difficulty level of questions asked is that of high school standard and most Indian students are comfortable with it. There is no negative marking for a wrong attempt so it makes sense to attempt all the questions. Take a look at ACT test format:

The ACT Test Format




Reading 40 35
Mathematics 60 60
English 75 45
Science 40 35
Writing (optional) 1 essay 40

Most students wonder whether they should take the ACT or not. All universities, including the famed Ivy League, accept ACT scores and do not discriminate between SAT and ACT scores. So, the answer depends on your personal preference, strengths and course choice.

Here are some pointers to help you decide whether you should take the ACT or not:

  1. Time Management

    A careful look at the ACT Test Format would reveal that the test taker has a minute or less to solve each question. While most questions are of an average difficulty level, some of the more difficult ones would be as much a test of your nerves, as they would be of your problem-solving methods. So, if you’re a person who stays calm under pressure and are well versed in time-saving methods and strategies, by all means go ahead and showcase your competence.

  2. College Requirement

    As stated before, almost all colleges in the US accept both SAT and ACT scores. Some colleges though require you to take 2 or more SAT Subject Tests along with the SAT. For some students, this can be stressful and cumbersome. In this respect, ACT is hassle-free; if you score well on this test, you don’t have to appear in any other test.

  3. Application Deadline

    Most Indian students apply under regular decision for the fall (September/October) intake of universities in the US. Ideally, you should be ready with your scores and your application essays nearly a year before (in November) so that you can send them within the application deadlines of the colleges that you’re interested in. Along with the SAT, you can also take the ACT in December to make the most of your last chance to apply for the fall session. Check out ACT test dates 2021-2022.

  4. Choice of Course

    As you may have noticed, ACT has a science section. Though the questions asked test your understanding of the science-based passage and don’t directly check your scientific knowledge, it helps to be familiar with a certain topic. For students with a science background, ACT is an excellent choice for applying to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses. However, many students with commerce and arts background also choose to take the ACT simply because it gives them an alternative opportunity to showcase their skills.

  5. Writing Skills

    ACT has a writing section which is optional. We do advise students to take this section. The writing section of the ACT gives you three different perspectives and asks you to evaluate them and state your own opinion. If you are good at debates and can back up your opinion with convincing examples, you stand a chance to excel this section.

    If you are still in doubt, we recommend that you take both SAT and ACT, and then send the better score to your college of choice. Good luck!

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