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ACT Explore®

Year Introduced


Note: ACT Explore and ACT Plan® will be available ONLY for the remainder of the 2013–2014 testing year and will not be available after June 2014. The ACT Grade 8 and Grade 10 assessments will be migrating to ACT Aspire™.


  • ACT Explore serves as the entry measure of academic progress in the ACT continuum.
  • ACT Explore is a curriculum-based achievement exam that measures the skills and knowledge that are taught in schools and deemed important for success in first-year coursework at postsecondary institutions.
  • Through ACT Explore, students’ strengths and weaknesses can be identified early in their educational development, when they have the greatest opportunity to establish a program of studies that will help them achieve their career and educational goals.
  • Just as with the ACT® college readiness assessment, ACT Explore comprises subject area tests in:
    • English (40 questions, 30 minutes)
    • Math (30 questions, 30 minutes)
    • Reading (30 questions, 30 minutes)
    • Science (28 questions, 30 minutes)

Intended Users

There are four distinct users of ACT Explore score reports and data:

  1. Students in Grades 8 and 9 who take the assessment.
  2. Parents/families of these students gain early insight into a student’s level of preparedness for college and career by high school graduation.
  3. Educators can identify areas of academic risk, allowing for early intervention. Teachers and counselors may use ACT Explore results as a valuable advising tool when reviewing students’ academic progress.
  4. District and school administrators receive reports designed to help them advance student achievement and improve instructional tools. These reports provide the first step toward longitudinal student monitoring.

Volume/Number of Users

Number of Grade 8 and 9 students who took ACT Explore:


Growth in usage over the above period: 46.3%

Additional Facts

  • Each of the four subject area tests is multiple choice.
  • Each of the four subject area tests is scored on a scale of 1–25. A Composite ACT Explore score is provided, along with an estimated range the student is likely to score on ACT Plan in Grade 10.
  • ACT Explore is ordered and administered by schools or school districts. The school counselor may know whether ACT Explore is offered to eighth- and ninth-grade students in that school.
  • ACT Explore includes an interest inventory that asks questions about the types of work tasks students would/would not like to do. This career exploration component is designed to stimulate students’ thinking about future plans and helps them explore personally relevant career options.
  • ACT Explore standards, like all ACT college readiness standards, are aligned to Common Core.
  • The individual score report provided to students and their families indicates for each of the four subject areas:
    • How many questions were answered correctly
    • How many questions were omitted (there is no penalty for guessing, so an omitted item is marked as incorrect)
    • How many questions were answered incorrectly
    • Prescriptive suggestions on how to improve each of the key skills measured by ACT Explore
    • How the student’s ACT Explore score in each subject area compares to established benchmark scores (below/at/above) indicating the likelihood of being ready for first-year college courses
  • Students who take ACT Explore and ACT Plan earn higher average scores on the ACT test than those who don’t.