ACT test for US students explained

What is the ACT and how is the ACT scored? Relocate takes a look at this national college admissions examination in the United States.

The American College Test (ACT) is a standardised test for college admission in the United States. Like the SAT, it assesses high-school students' general academic aptitude and a student’s ability to complete higher-education-level work.The tests are multiple choice and cover four areas: English, mathematics, reading and science. They also include an optional, 40-minute writing test, which measures a student’s skill in planning and writing a short essay. Some colleges require students to take the optional essay, others do not take the essay score into consideration.
The English test is a 75-question, 45-minute test that measures a student’s understanding of the conventions of standard English (punctuation, usage and sentence structure), production of writing (topic development, organisation, unity and cohesion) and knowledge of language (word choice, style and tone).The maths test is a 60-question, 60-minute test designed to assess the mathematical skills that students have learned up to the beginning of Grade 12.The reading test is a 40-question, 35-minute test that measures reading comprehension. The test asks students to derive meaning from several texts by using referring and reasoning skills to determine main ideas; locate significant details; understand sequences of events; make comparisons; and analyse the author’s narrative, among other things.The science test is a 40-question, 35-minute test that measures the interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning and problem-solving skills required in the natural sciences. The content covers biology, chemistry, physics and the Earth/space sciences, including geology, astronomy and meteorology.

Can students retake the ACT?

Most students will take their ACT test for the first time in the spring of their junior year (Grade 11). This allows them to retake the test in the autumn of their senior year (Grade 12) if they are unhappy with the result. Some will take the ACT in the autumn of Grade 11, to allow them two or three chances to retake the test. Students are able to sit the tests six times throughout the year, in September, October, December, February, April and June.In 2015, 57 per cent of students increased their score on the retest; 21 per cent retained the same score; and 22 per cent decreased their score.
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ACT scores

ACT scores range from 1–36. Each test carries a maximum score of 36 points, and the overall score is an average of the four test results. The optional writing test is also marked out of 36 but is not included in the final score. The national average score for the ACT is between 20 and 21.The score report includes national rankings where students can compare their performance against students across the state and across the country. Students also receive subscores in English, mathematics and reading that range from 1–18. These scores provide more detail about each test but are not used by colleges or universities.A student’s ACT or SAT score plays a significant role in a college’s decision as to whether the offer a student a place. However, other factors that colleges consider are the student’s grade point average (GPA), academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, interviews and personal essays.The ACT tends to be more popular in the Midwest and the south; however, colleges accept both ACT or SAT scores in equal measure, and so it is down to each student to decide which test to take.

Is the ACT or SAT more popular?

According to the ACT, nearly two-thirds of 2016 graduating seniors – nearly 2.1 million students – took the ACT, a record high. This compares with 59 per cent in 2015 and 52 per cent in 2012.Around 38 per cent met the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in at least three of the four core subject areas, indicating they have a strong readiness for college coursework. However, this represents a decrease from 40 per cent in 2015.The ACT has explained that this decrease is a result of seven more states funding the ACT for all pupils in Grade 11 as part of their state testing programmes. The scores went down significantly in those seven states, driving down the national average.“This year’s ACT-tested class is more representative of the student population than any we’ve ever had,” said ACT chief executive officer Marten Roorda. “We have likely added many more underrepresented students who may not have been preparing to go to college. Research clearly shows that scores initially decrease when states adopt the ACT for all students, but access and opportunities increase.”For the 2015/2016 school year, 20 states in the US have a contract with ACT to provide free ACT testing to some or all high school juniors at public schools.This article was originally published in September 2016.

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