A Guide to the ACT

Preparation is half the battle! If you know what to expect and you’ve studied the materials, you can walk in on ACT test day ready for anything! To help you prepare for the big day, here’s a short guide to everything you need to know about the ACT.

How do I register for the ACT?

Visit ACT.org to register for the test. You’ll need to create a free online account. Regular registration typically ends five weeks before a test date, so register well in advance to avoid late fees!

What do I need to register?

Registration takes about 30 minutes. You’ll need a:

  • Desktop or laptop computer (mobile devices not recommended)
  • Credit card or a fee waiver
  • Information on your high school courses
  • Headshot photo

When should I take the ACT?

While there’s no perfect answer to this question, you should spend about 100 hours studying for your first ACT and give yourself enough time to take the test 2-4 times before submitting your college applications. Work backward from that scenario to determine your ideal time frame.

Also, it’s best to take the test after you’ve completed a majority of the following classes:

  • Algebra II
  • Geometry
  • Trigonometry
  • Three years of science (one year of physical science)

These classes cover concepts tested on the ACT, so it’s helpful to have exposure to them.

Think about your other commitments. If possible, schedule your ACT when your course load is lighter. There are seven test dates each school year, so you have some options!

How many times should I take the ACT?

ACT limits the fun to 12 attempts within your lifetime. If you are part of a program that takes the ACT in middle school, that test counts toward the total. Plan to take the test at least twice. To maximize your score, consider taking it 3-4 times. Some schools will accept your “super score,” or your best score in each section across test dates. Others may require you to send all scores from all dates, so make the most of each test.

How much does the ACT cost?

ACT costs vary each year. Visit their website for updated information on pricing. Check out the fee waiver requirements to see if you qualify.

What’s on the ACT?


The English portion of the exam tests you on grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and rhetorical skills.


The math section focuses on aptitude in algebra II, geometry, and some trigonometry.


The reading section focuses on comprehension. You may read passages in the following subject areas: social studies, natural sciences, literary narrative or prose fiction, and humanities.


The science section measures your interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem-solving skills in biology, chemistry, earth science, and physics.


This section is optional. If you decide to take it, there is an additional cost. Although it is optional, some colleges require it. Check the requirements of the schools you wish to attend to find out if it’s a requirement. We recommend registering for this section just to be safe.

What is the ACT score range?

The ACT scores range from 1-36. The number of correct answers converts to a score within that range. The composite score for the ACT is an average of your scores on the four required subjects. The writing test is scored by two graders on a scale of 1-6, for a maximum possible score of 12.

How can I prepare for the ACT?

ACT offers free online learning resources, including an ACT guide, subject practice questions, a study guide, and an official online practice test. If you’ve already taken the ACT or PreACT, you can add your previous scores and receive a customized study plan to help you improve.

For the most recent ACT information, please visit the ACT website. Good luck!