ACT (American College Test)

The ACT (American College Test) is a standardized test for measuring the ability to study. It is widely used as an admission criterion for universities and colleges in the USA and is generally accepted as an equivalent alternative to SAT. The abbreviation ACT originally stood for American College Test, although this advertised variant is no longer in use today.

Target group of the ACT

Many US universities and colleges require an ACT or SAT result from all applicants for a complete Bachelor’s degree in the USA. This requirement generally applies to both domestic and international applicants. The German Abitur certificate or the Austrian or Swiss Matura can therefore not replace the ACT.

However, if you have already started your studies and would like to transfer to a higher semester of a bachelor’s degree at an American university, you do not usually have to take the ACT any more.

Test contents and test structure of the ACT

The ACT examines the following four areas:

  • English (English test)
  • Mathematics (Mathematics Test)
  • Read (Reading Test)
  • Natural Sciences (Science Test)

Some U. S. universities require an extended exam version, ACT Plus Writing. Participants must also write an essay here.

In the basic version, the ACT takes a total of 2 hours and 55 minutes and consists exclusively of multiple-choice questions.

ACT English Test

The ACT English test lasts 45 minutes. In addition to punctuation, grammar and sentence construction, it also examines the areas of approach (related to adequacy with regard to the purpose and target group of the text), text organization and expression.

ACT Mathematics Test

The ACT Mathematics Test lasts 60 minutes and contains questions on algebra and geometry in the context of school mathematics. It is allowed, but not mandatory, to use a calculator. However, only the use of certain devices is permitted.

ACT Reading Test

The ACT Reading Test takes 35 minutes. The examination consists of four thematically differentiated parts in which the participants have to answer questions on longer or shorter passages of text. The texts come from the four disciplines of social sciences, humanities, natural sciences and literature.

ACT Science Test

The ACT Science Test also takes 35 minutes. Skills in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, problem solving and logical thinking are required in the scientific context. The multiple-choice questions are based on schematic representations of data (e. g. graphs and tables), descriptions of experiments or contradictory hypotheses on a research question. In this part of the exam it is not allowed to use a pocket calculator.

ACT Plus Writing

For the additional ACT Plus Writing test, an essay must be written within 30 minutes. The task describes a problem and two different perspectives on it. The candidate must present his own position on this subject in writing. He can either take one of the two predefined positions or develop his own.

Rating scale of the ACT

Each of the four areas of the American College Test is rated from 1 (low) to 36 (high). The composite score is the average of the four individual scores.

Within the areas English, Mathematics and Reading there are subscores for the respective test components. They are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 18 points.

The ACT Plus Writing exam is awarded 2 to 12 points. Together with the score in the English exam, this results in an additional combined English/Writing score on a scale of 1 to 36 points. However, the assessment of the essay is not included in the overall assessment of the ACT examination.

It is possible to repeat the ACT to improve the score.

Test centres and examination dates for the ACT

There are test centres around the world that offer ACT and ACT Plus Writing. These test centres are usually located in international schools.

In test centres outside the USA, there are usually five or six examination dates per year. There will be one examination date in each of the following months:

  • February (only every two years)
  • April
  • June
  • September
  • October
  • December

An up-to-date overview of the test centres and examination dates can be found on the ACT website.

Placing the ACT outside of a regular test centre (arranged testing) is only possible in strictly regulated exceptional cases and must be accompanied by a qualified supervisor.

Time of registration for the ACT

Registration for ACT and ACT Plus Writing is online and must be completed at least four weeks before the respective examination date.

Costs and payment options

The basic ACT version currently costs US$ 36.50; for ACT Plus Writing US$ 52.50 are payable. In addition, in both cases there is a fee of currently US$ 33 for examinations outside the USA, which means that the total price will be enclosed:

  • US$ 69.50 for the ACT
  • US$ 85.50 for ACT Plus Writing

If the ACT is to take place in a test center outside the USA, payment must be made by credit card.

Official website of the ACT: