ACT Overview

Unlike the SAT, the ACT has remained fairly consistent in format and scoring over the years.

Format

The ACT consists of four required sections and an optional essay.

Section 1: English– multiple-choice grammar (45 minutes; 75 questions)

Section 2: Math (60 minutes; 60 questions– all multiple-choice; calculators allowed)

Section 3: Reading (35 minutes; 40 questions)

Section 4: Science– data interpretation (35 minutes; 40 questions)

Optional: Essay (40 minutes)

Test Content

ACT Writing tests: 

  • ability to edit writing and correct grammar & usage errors
  • understanding of main ideas & effective evidence
  • skill with editing the ideas and organization of another writer

ACT Math tests:

  • skills and concepts from Algebra I, geometry, and basic trigonometry
  • basic, intermediate, and HARD math
  • (ACT math is relatively straightforward)

ACT Reading tests:

  • comprehension of college-bound text
  • command of evidence / ability to find proof in the passage
  • ability to find details and draw appropriate conclusions

ACT Science tests:

  • ability to read charts & graphs
  • data analysis and comprehension

 

Scoring

Students receive a score from 1 to 36 on each of the four sections. Those results are averaged to produce a student’s composite score. Many students benefit when scores are averaged because they can “bring up” results in a weaker subject by scoring better in other sections.

The essay receives numerical evaluations which are NOT part of the total SAT score.

The best way to compare ACT and SAT scores is to use the official concordance tables provided by the test corporations. You can see a 2016 version here. Here are a few quick conversions:

  • 50% SAT is 1020-1050 which is the same as a 20 on the ACT
  • 75% SAT is 1200 – 1230 which is the same as a 25 on the ACT
  • 90% SAT is 1310 – 1340 which is the same as a 28 on the ACT
  • 95% SAT is 1390 – 1410 which is the same as a 30 on the ACT

Final note: when comparing scores use the SAT user percentile (the lower of the two you receive). It is the accurate number to use when comparing ACT and SAT results.