What in the World is the ACT?


Graphic Credit: Justin Fenimore

Rachel Fuka


Standardized Tests. The mere mention of them can send quite a few of us into a mild panic of trying to remember every random factoid we’ve ever learned. (“The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell…”) If you’re a junior, it can be intimidating to figure out what the difference between each of them is and just how important they actually are. It doesn’t help that there are so many that you can take, so here’s some basic information about ONE: the ACT.

So what even is the ACT?

The ACT, or American College Test, is just that. It just so happens to make a nice acronym. The test is used to gauge your learning and proficiency in Reading, Mathematics, English, and Science. As the name implies, it tests your readiness for college-level courses. There is also a new additional (and optional) writing section, which costs extra to take. Some colleges may or may not require the ACT Writing section, so it’s best to find out if your dream university requires it as soon as possible. The ACT test here at Aloha will include the writing section free of charge.  The test takes approximately 3 and a half hours, and you are allotted anywhere between 35 to 60 minutes to complete each section of the test. The results come back after around three months, and scores are range from 1 to 36. There is the overall composite score (an average of your 4 scores from the subjects listed above) and composite scores for each subject, as well as the recent additions of your STEM and ELA composite scores so you may end up getting 6 or 7 scores out of a test. Colleges usually use your overall composite score when considering admissions.


You may now be wondering why the in the world there are two major standardized tests. (Maybe you’re just now learning there’s two). So what’s the difference between the SAT and the ACT? Well, not too much, to be honest. They take the same amount of time, cost around the same amount, do not penalize you for answering incorrectly, and are both used for testing college readiness. The devil is in the details. For starters, the SAT is offered by College Board, aka the bureaucratic agency who make the AP exams, whether this is good or bad is up to you. While the ACT has separate portions for Reading and English (grammar, sentence structure, etc.), the SAT combines the two into a single block. The SAT focuses on reasoning and interpretation rather than “correctness.” The redesigned SAT has a greater emphasis on trigonometry, and both focus on that as well as concepts from geometry, and Algebra I and Algebra II. While the ACT focuses mostly on proficiency and curriculum, the SAT tests more on aptitude, testing your reasoning skills. Either can be good or bad, as the curriculum is not always taught the same everywhere in the country.

Ok, why is it important?

So why should you care? Well, firstly, as an Aloha High School student, the ACT is paid for you. All non-seniors take either the actual ACT or a practice version of it (e.g., EXPLORE or PLAN). This is important to note if you have a specific dream college in mind, as many require a baseline score for admission. This is again where what kind of test you take may or may not matter, both tests are universally accepted by American colleges, but some prefer one over the other. Speaking of colleges, I bet that if you plan on attending college anytime soon you’re looking for scholarships. Many merit-based scholarships are based on GPA and/or your standardized test scores! If you ace either, you could qualify these scholarships. For example, if you wanted to qualify for the Presidential Scholarship, you must do well on your SAT/ACT!

What can I do to do well?

Be prepared! The ACT offers practice questions online for you to get a feeling of what the test will be like. Khan Acadamy also offers extensive SAT prep and numerous practice exams.You probably also received a paper practice test from the CCC a while back for you to flip through. ACTUALLY TRY IT, especially if you’re a junior!!! Not only will you feel more prepared for the test, you may actually find some stuff you need to study for the test. A lot is riding on these scores, so don’t push it off!


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