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The ACT® College Readiness Assessment

Year Introduced



  • The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement exam that measures skills and knowledge taught in school and deemed important for success in college.
  • The ACT comprises subject area tests in:
    • English (75 questions, 45 minutes)
    • Mathematics (60 questions, 60 minutes)
    • Reading (40 questions, 35 minutes)
    • Science (40 questions, 35 minutes)
    plus an optional Writing Test (1 prompt, 30 minutes)

Intended Users

The ACT is taken by high school students and college-bound individuals. The score results are used by colleges for admission, course placement and advising purposes, and by states, districts, schools, teachers, and students for diagnostic, monitoring, and intervention purposes.

Volume/Number of Users

Number (and Percent) of US high school graduates who took the ACT:

Growth in usage over the above period: 21.5%

Additional Facts

  • The ACT is taken in all 50 states and has been since 1960.
  • All four-year colleges and universities across the United States accept ACT scores.
  • The ACT is taken by the majority of high school graduates in 28 states.
  • Each of the four required ACT subject area tests is multiple choice.
  • Each of the four required ACT subject area tests is scored on a scale of 1–36.
  • The ACT Composite score, also scored on a scale of 1–36, is the average of the student’s four subject test scores.
  • Fewer than one-tenth of 1 percent of students who take the ACT earn a top score of 36.
  • The total testing time is 2 hours, 55 minutes for the ACT and 3 hours, 25 minutes for the ACT Plus Writing.
  • The optional Writing Test consists of one prompt that describes an issue and asks students to write an essay response about their position on the issue. It is scored on a scale of 2 to 12.
  • The basic registration fee for the traditional ACT exam is $36.50; the basic registration fee for the ACT Plus Writing is $52.50.
  • During registration test takers complete an interest inventory that provides information to help with career and educational planning and a student profile section that asks about a student’s work in high school and his or her future plans.
  • For the 2013–2014 school year, the ACT will be administered as part of statewide assessment programs to all public school eleventh grade students in 13 US states: Alabama, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming.
  • Of the 1.8 million 2013 high school graduates who took the ACT, only 26% met the College Readiness Benchmark scores in all four subject areas; 31% did not meet any of the benchmarks. The benchmarks are scores on the ACT subjectarea tests that represent the level of achievement required for students to have a 50% chance of obtaining a B or higher, or about a 75% chance of obtaining a C or higher, in corresponding credit-bearing, first-year college courses.