The ACT Test
About the ACT Test
The gold standard in standardized assessments
The ACT® test motivates students to perform to their best ability. Test scores reflect what students have learned throughout high school and provide colleges and universities with excellent information for recruiting, advising, placement, and retention.
Many times, students who are not considering higher education rethink their plans when they see their ACT test results. This is especially true for underrepresented students. To support college and career planning, the ACT also offers a career exploration component to help students identify career options.
Did You Know?
- More than 2.1 million high school students in the graduating class of 2016 from all 50 states and many other countries took the ACT.
- The ACT is the leading college admissions test in the United States, with more students taking the test every year.
- ACT test scores are accepted by all four-year US colleges and universities, including highly selective institutions.
- The ACT is not an aptitude or an IQ test. Questions are directly related to what students have learned in high school courses.
- The ACT is administered on six national and five international test dates each year, plus additional state and district testing dates.
- The ACT is approved for use in state models for federal and state accountability
The ACT College and Career Readiness Standards are the backbone of ACT assessments. The standards are empirically derived descriptions of the essential skills and knowledge students need to become ready for college and career, giving clear meaning to test scores and serving as a link between what students have learned and what they are ready to learn next.
When students take the ACT test, high school educators and counselors receive valuable information for guidance and curriculum development. K-12 professionals use ACT reports to
- Guide students toward college and career readiness
- Assist students with college and career planning
- Evaluate the effectiveness of instruction
- Plan changes and improvements in curriculum
The ACT Test User Handbook for Educators offers the most comprehensive information for K-12 professionals about the ACT Test. In addition to detailed information about updates to the test, accommodations, and reports, the handbook offers helpful tips about
- Preparing for and Taking the ACT
- ACT Reports and Services
- Uses of ACT Data
Looking for information to help a student?
For detailed information about the ACT test, testing locations, dates, scores and more please visit The ACT Test for Students.
What the ACT Measures
The ACT contains four multiple-choice tests—English, mathematics, reading, and science—and an optional writing test. These tests are designed to measure skills that are most important for success in postsecondary education and that are acquired in secondary education. The score range for each of the four multiple-choice tests is 1–36. The Composite score is the average of the four test scores rounded to the nearest whole number.
The ACT English test measures understanding of the conventions of standard English, production of writing, and knowledge of language.
The ACT mathematics test assesses the skills students typically acquire in courses taken through grade 11. The test questions require the use of reasoning skills to solve practical problems in mathematics. Knowledge of basic formulas and computational skills are assumed, but recall of complex formulas and extensive computation is not required.
The ACT reading test measures reading comprehension. The questions require the use of referring and reasoning skills to determine main ideas; locate and interpret significant details; understand sequences of events; make comparisons; comprehend cause-effect relationships; determine the meaning of context-dependent words, phrases, and statements; draw generalizations; and analyze voice and method.
The ACT science test measures the interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem-solving skills required in the natural sciences. Scientific information is conveyed in one of three formats: data representation, research summaries, or conflicting viewpoints. Questions require recognition and understanding of the basic features of, and concepts related to, the provided information; the critical examination of the relationship between the information provided and the conclusions drawn or hypotheses developed; and the generalization of given information to gain new information, draw conclusions, or make predictions.
The optional ACT writing test is an essay test that measures writing skills taught in high school English classes and entry level college composition courses. The test describes an issue and provides three different perspectives on the issue. Each student must (1) analyze and evaluate the given perspectives, (2) state and develop a perspective on the issue, and (3) explain the relationship between that perspective and those given. Colleges may view student essays using the free ACT Essay View tool.
Complete information about the ACT test is available in the technical manual.
ACT High School Report
The ACT High School Report provides comprehensive information about a student's needs, interests, background, and abilities. The report includes the following sections:
- Identifying Information
- Scores and Predictive Data
- College Readiness
- Information about Colleges
- College Selection Items
- Educational and Vocational Plans
- Educational Needs and Interests
- Interest Inventory Scores and Map Regions
See sample high school reports:
- Sample report for tests taken on or after September 2016 (PDF)
- Sample report for tests taken between September 2015 and June 2016 (PDF)
- Sample report for tests taken prior to September 2015 (PDF)
See the questions that students answer when they register to take the ACT test:
For training on how to use data from the ACT test for advising and curriculum development, see the list of available videos, webinars, and workshops that ACT offers.
Electronic Score Reporting
Data from the ACT High School Report are available in ASCII flat file format, delivered on encrypted CD-ROM for high schools and districts to import into any system set up to receive the data. Records are aggregated and delivered monthly. Full-year reporting is also available.
The student record layout is the key to interpreting the file you receive from ACT. It identifies location, field name, and field content for each data element.
Other reference documents for 2016–2017:
- Test File for the High School Student Record Layout - June 2016 Update (Text)
- Student Profile Section (SPS) items and response values (PDF)
- Country Code List (PDF, 1 page)
- Advance Notice High School Cover Letter - March 2016 (PDF, 1 page)
- Advance Notice High School Cover Letter - June 2016 (PDF, 1 page)
Help your students do their best on test day
ACT offers several ways for students to prepare for test day, including:
- ACT® Kaplan® Online Prep Live — An interactive virtual classroom experience that delivers engaging online live instruction on ACT test subjects.
- ACT Online Prep—The only online program designed exclusively by ACT test development professionals, featuring real questions from previous tests.
- The Official ACT Prep Guide—An ACT-authorized prep book, with three practice tests, each with an optional writing test, plus access to hundreds of additional questions online.
- Preparing for the ACT—This free booklet includes helpful test information, a complete practice test, and a sample writing prompt.
- Sample Test Questions—Practice questions to give you a taste of what to expect on the ACT test.
Help your students prepare for the ACT. The same research and expertise that has made the ACT the most widely used college entrance exam in the nation was used to develop ACT Online Prep. Benefits of the program for schools and districts include:
- Ability to monitor performance with the Administrator’s Dashboard—See how long your students are spending in the system, how they’re performing on the practice questions and tests, and the areas in which a whole class may need targeted help.
- Flexible, personalized learning paths—The ACT Online Prep system drives students through the courses so they can review independently, at their own pace, without falling behind.
- Confidence-building experiences—Using the practice questions and tests, students will familiarize themselves with the structure of the actual ACT test. There will be no surprises on test day for your students.
- A free mobile app for students so that they can review for the ACT anytime, anywhere.
Please note that ACT test preparation materials are copyrighted and may not be copied or distributed without ACT's prior written permission.
Purchase ACT Online Prep annual licenses for students in your school or district. Discounts are available for GEAR UP organizations and schools with more than 50% free and reduced lunch students.
After your order is processed, each school-level administrator will receive an email from ACT that includes a quick-start guide and instructions for activating their account. The administrator can then upload students, assign instructors, and create classrooms.
Are you a school or district already using ACT Online Prep?
Administration User Guide
The ACT Online Prep Administration User Guide provides all the information you need to set up classrooms, instructors, and students as well as to monitor performance.
ACT Essay View
High schools may use ACT Essay View to access images of the essays written in response to the ACT writing test. There is no charge for this service.
ACT provides a variety of materials you can use to help your students learn about, register, and prepare for the test.
School-Paid Registration Options
|Option 1: Prebilled Registration Voucher||Option 2: Paper Registration Packet|
|Simple Registration Process|
|Order Prebilled Registration Vouchers here.||Download Multiple Registration Procedures here.|
A student may complete a form on the web to request an individual paper registration packet if he or she:
- is younger than 13 years old, or
- does not have a credit card or serialized voucher/waiver to pay the fee
High School Codes
An ACT/SAT Common High School Code allows students attending your school to send official ACT and SAT scores directly and automatically to your school. Forms are available here to apply for a code, to request name or address changes, or to indicate a school is no longer in operation. No payment is required for these services.
Apply for a High School Code
If your high school does not yet have a code:
1. Download the High School Code Request (PDF).
2. Complete the form and either:
- Fax the form to ACT at 319.337.1735, or
- Scan the completed form and email to ACTHighSchoolCodes@act.org
High School Name/Address Changes
If your school already has a code, but you wish to submit changes or if your school has closed:
1. Download the High School File Change Form (PDF)
2. Complete the form and either:
- Fax the form to ACT at 319.337.1735, or
- Scan the completed form and email to ACTHighSchoolCodes@act.org
Still Have Questions?
Contact us via any of the options below.
- ACT Information Management-49
- PO BOX 168
- IOWA CITY IA 52243-0168
- Phone: 319.341.2365
- FAX: 319.337.1735
- Email: ACTHighSchoolCodes@act.org
Help students remove the guesswork in finding a test center. Your school can request to be a test center for students taking the ACT on a national test date. As a test center, your school provides:
- A staff member to serve as the Test Supervisor
- Other school staff willing to serve as room supervisors and proctors
- Space for testing on ACT National Testing dates
- Quiet areas—free from distractions and other events
- Classrooms, preferably, with full-sized desks
- Plenty of space between examinees, for security purposes
- A secure location to store test materials
There are currently more than 7,500 ACT test centers in operation around the world, and more than 80 percent of them are operated in local high schools.
Complete the ACT Test Center Request form if you would like your institution become an ACT Test Center.
More than three thousand colleges, universities, and scholarship agencies use ACT test scores to make decisions about admission, scholarship awards, and course placement. Because these institutions, as well as the examinees, rely on the integrity of ACT test scores, ACT takes seriously the importance of reporting valid test scores.
In addition to conducting our own internal score reviews, ACT regularly receives inquiries from college admissions officers, high school counselors, and others who have concerns about an individual examinee's score.
You can report concerns using ACT's Score Inquiry form. ACT will review the inquiry and investigate the validity of the scores. If you prefer, you may submit an inquiry anonymously online or by calling 855.382.2645 to use our dedicated Test Security Hotline.
If ACT initiates a score review, ACT will notify the examinee directly. For privacy reasons, ACT generally does not discuss the details of a score review with anyone other than the examinee unless the examinee expressly authorizes us to do so by executing an Authorization to Release Personal Information form.
Only official score recipients will receive notice of ACT’s decision regarding the validity of the scores. For your institution to be an official score recipient, the examinee must request that ACT send the score report to your institution. An examinee can send official scores by logging into his/her ACT web account and choosing "Send Your Scores."
For complete details of ACT's score review process, please see Procedures for Investigating Testing Irregularities and Questioned Test Scores (PDF).
- Authorization to Release Information (PDF)
- Procedures for Investigating Testing Irregularities and Questioned Test Scores (PDF)
- Official Score Review FAQ (PDF)
Contact Test Security
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Test Security Phone: 319.337.1371
- Fax: 319.341.2303
- Mail: ACT Test Security (53) P.O. Box 168 Iowa City, IA 52243-0168
General ACT Test Information
- ACT Test Help Page
- Phone: 319.337.1270