ACT Study Guide/Printable version

ACT Study Guide

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Dates And Times


ACT tests are given six times a year on Saturday mornings, usually at 8:00 am. For students who aren’t able to take the test on a Saturday due to religious restraints, there are non-Saturday test dates, although there aren’t nearly as many locations for non-Saturday tests.

When To Take The Test


Students normally take the ACT as a junior or senior. There are a couple main considerations for deciding if you want to take it as a junior or a senior. The first main consideration is application date for schools. The other consideration is application dates for scholarships. If you take the ACT as a junior, it gives you more time to make decisions and you can always retake the test if you do poorly.

How To Register


Registering By Mail


To register, get a packet from your high school counselor's office. If your counselor is out, you can contact ACT to request a packet. The registration contact information is:

(319) 337-1270 Mon.–Fri., 8:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m., central time


ACT Registration P.O. Box 414, Iowa City, IA 52243-0414

You can also request a packet here.

The registration packet includes a booklet called Registering for the ACT Assessment and a booklet that contains a practice test. You will need to fill out the form and send it to ACT in the envelope.

Registering Online


To register online, go here. You will need a MasterCard or Visa. You cannot register online if you are:

  • Testing outside the US
  • Requesting testing accommodations for a disability
  • Requesting a fee waiver
  • Using a state-funded voucher to cover the basic fee
  • Enrolled in 6th, 7th, 8th, or 9th grade and younger than 13 (you can register online anyway if you are 13 or older)
  • Requesting arranged testing (Go here for more information.)


  • Test $31.00
  • Writing Test $15.00
  • Reports for a 5th and 6th College
    • Regular $7.00 per extra report
    • Priority $12.00 per extra report
    • Mailgram $17.00 per extra report
  • Late Fee $20.00
  • Test Date Change $20.00
  • Test Location Change $20.00
  • Stand-By Testing $40.00
  • Test Information Release $14.00
  • Viewing Scores Early FREE
  • Testing Outside of the US $18.00
  • Telephone Registration $12.00

ACT gives a limited number of fee waivers to those who cannot afford to pay the testing fee. To apply for a fee waiver, see the information on this web page.



The basic ACT

Writing Test


The ACT Writing Test

Reports for a 5th and 6th College


You are given the opportunity to send score reports to four colleges free of charge. If you want to send score reports to a 5th or 6th college, you can order an extra report. If you need expedited service, Priority reports arrive in three business days and Mailgram reports arrive in one or two business days.

Late Fee


If you have missed the original application date you can pay the late fee and still be guaranteed a seat on that day if you register by the late registration deadline.

Test Date Change


This fee is given when you request to be tested on a different date when you are absent the first date. If you request the change after a set deadline, you will also be charged a fee.

Test Location Change


Change your location but keep the same date

Stand-By Testing


After all registered students are seated, you can be given a seat if there are still enough seats, test booklets, and proctors to oversee your test. You are not guaranteed a seat.

Test Information Release


If you pay for this service you will receive your answers, the test questions, a list of the correct answers, and scoring instructions. This service isn’t given for every test date.

Viewing Scores Early


This allows you to see your scores online about two weeks after the test.

Testing Outside of the US


You must register in the manner laid out here. The writing test is not offered outside of the US.

Telephone Registration


By calling (319) 337-1270 you can register for the ACT if you have taken it in the past two years. ACT claims that this is the fastest way to register for the test.

After You Register


After you register, you should receive a admission ticket that gives specific information about the testing center, what time the test is, etc. Make sure that the information on your ticket is correct. If it is not, follow the instructions given on the ticket as to what you should do.


  • ACT [1]
  • ACT Question of the Day by Number 2 [2]
  • ACT Student Website [3]

What To Take On Test Day

On the day of the test, there are some items that you must take and there are some items that are helpful, but not required. The things that are absolutely necessary are listed under the necessary heading and the items that are optional are listed under optional. Items that are expressly prohibited are under the heading of not allowed.


  • Admission Ticket
  • ID (Name and Photo Must Appear)
    • Current Photo ID
      • Driver's License
      • School ID
      • Non-Driver's License
      • Passport
    • Photograph with First and Last Name
      • Yearbook
      • Newspaper
    • Notarized Statement (The notary cannot be a relative.)
    • Letter
      • Must Be on School Letterhead
      • Must include age, gender, height, race, and hair and eye color or a recent photo with principal's signature or school seal on the photo
      • Copies are okay as long as the school seal is on the copy
      • The letter must be signed by the student and a school official in ink. The student must sign in the presence of the school official.
      • Transcripts work too if they conform to the procedures listed above
    • The following items are listed on as unacceptable ID
      • "ACT admission ticket
      • Learner or beginner driver's permit without an official photo, even though it may include a physical description and signature
      • An expired photo ID (like an expired passport or driver's license).
      • Charge, bank, check-cashing, or credit cards with or without photo
      • Photo ID issued for promotional purposes (e.g., amusement parks)
      • Birth certificate
      • Social Security card
      • Report card or diploma
      • Organization membership card
      • Police report of a stolen purse or wallet
      • Traffic ticket, even though it may include a physical description and signature
      • Your parent's photo ID
      • Recognition by anyone not working as test center personnel
      • Telephone call to counselor or school official to identify you by talking to you on the phone or describing you over the phone
      • Graduation picture or family portrait
      • Fishing or hunting license
      • ChildFind ID Card
      • Web page with photo"
  • Pencils


  • Money for a Vending Machine
  • Earplugs
  • A Sweatshirt (In case the testing center is cold.)
  • An Extra Eraser
  • A Calculator - Only allowed on the math test.

Prohibited calculators: calculators with built-in computer algebra systems, QWERTY layout input, writing pads or pen-input devices, or calculators built into cellular phones or other electronic communication devices. See currently restricted calculators here: [4]

Not Allowed

  • Books
  • Dictionaries
  • Thesauri
  • Radios
  • Cell Phones
  • Food
  • Anything With An Alarm



This page is meant for the question of the day. Hopefully we will have a question of the day or a question of the week that is written by a contributor to Wikibooks. If it changes to a question of the week, the address will change to Until then, you can follow this link to the Number 2 ACT Question of the Day.


The ACT (American College Test) is a standardized college entrance exam taken by many United States high school students in their 11th or 12th year of standard schooling. Although the United States is not the only place to take the ACT, it is the main country in which students take the test. The highest score possible is a 36. The subsections have a high score of 18. You are also shown your percentile rank. Students decide what colleges they want to have their scores sent to. The colleges then look at the test scores and use them as one of many factors for admission. Another major college entrance exam in the US is the SAT. If you wish to prepare for the SAT you can read the SAT Study Guide.

The ACT has four main sections. These sections are English, Math, Reading, and Science. Below you can find the amount of time give, the number of questions, and the subscore categories.

The information below is taken from Getting Into the ACT copyright 1990 and 1997 by ACT, and from the 2004/2005 student score report.


  • Time
45 Minutes
  • Questions
  • Subscores
Usage and Mechanics (40 Questions)
Rhetorical Skills (35 Questions)


  • Time
60 Minutes
  • Questions
  • Subscores
Pre-Algebra (14 Questions)/Elementary Algebra (10 Questions)
Intermediate Algebra (9 Questions)/Coordinate Geometry (9 Questions)
Plane Geometry (14 Questions)/Trigonometry (4 Questions)


  • Time
35 Minutes
  • Questions
  • Subscores
Arts/Literature (20 Questions)
Social Studies/Sciences (20 Questions)


  • Time
35 Minutes
  • Questions
  • Subscores
  • Question Content
Data Representation (15 Questions)
Research Summaries (18 Questions)
Conflicting Viewpoints (7 Questions)


For the English section, you are given 45 minutes to read five selections and then answer a total of 75 multiple-choice questions about them. This gives you an average of nine minutes per passage and 15 questions. These questions are broken down into two subcategories. The first subcategory usage and mechanics. This covers punctuation, grammar, etc. The second subcategory is rhetorical skills, which covers the areas of sentence order, style, etc. There are 40 usage and mechanics questions and 35 rhetorical skills questions. Spelling and vocabulary are not tested directly, but there are some questions that ask you to figure words out by the context. Obviously, these questions are a lot easier if you already know the word ahead of time, but you don't have to. After you read the passage, you can go back and re-read it as you answer the questions.

One tip that deals specifically with the English section is that after you choose your answer, read through the sentence or paragraph with your answer choice and see if it sounds good. If it does, you know you've made the right choice.

Usage and Mechanics


These questions always refer back to an underlined sentence, phrase, or word. Most of the u/m questions that you see will have an answer choice of NO CHANGE. If you pick that answer, it means that you think the sentence or phrase is fine as written. You will also be given three other choices.





Commas are used:

To separate items in a series

  • I bought bananas, oranges, and apples.

If all of the items are separated by conjunctions, then no commas are used

  • I bought bananas and oranges and apples.

To set off appositives

  • I asked the coach, Alan Freeman, if I could miss practice because of my hurt knee.

If the appositive is a one-word familial relationship, no comma is used.

  • My cousin Bob is in the Army.

To separate words used as a direct address

  • Albert, bring me that bucket.

To set off parenthetical expressions

  • By the way, I don't think he should have done it.

To separate two numbers

  • After day 26, 75 people were still missing.

To separate out-of-place modifiers

  • The players, exhausted and sore, piled onto the bus.

To separate titles or degrees from the rest of the sentence

  • Harold Whitman, J.D., is the new law professor.

No commas is used between the name and a roman numeral showing generations

  • Henry VIII had a total of six wives.

Wherever needed to keep you from misreading the sentence

  • Below, the water shined.



Apostrophes are used:

To form the singular possessive, add an apostrophe and then an s.

  • Mother's dress
  • The mouse's cheese

To form the plural possessive, add an apostrophe if the plural ends in an s. If the plural does not end in an s, add and apostrophe and then an s.

  • The mothers' dresses
  • The mice's cheese collection

If the possessive is hard to pronounce when written correctly, you can drop the s and just leave the apostrophe, unless the singular is just one syllable. Then you have to keep the s.

  • In Jesus' name we pray... (Loberger 174)

To omit parts of a date

  • The war ended in '45.

To form contractions

  • Don't
  • Haven't

To form plurals of numbers, letters, and words that are used as nouns

  • I got six 100's on my tests.
  • I put six m's where there should have been n's.

To indicate worth or work

  • A penny's worth
  • A hard day's work



Colons are used:

Before lists introduced by the following or any other phrase used to demonstrate what is

  • You are accused of the following: stealing, bribery, and robbery.
  • Of the sisters, I knew four: Bertha, Roberta, Andrea, and Joyce.

Before a long statement

  • To the jury, the lawyer said: "The last four things I want to share with you..."

Before a second clause explaining or restating the first clause

Verbs are not to be used:

  • After a form of to be or a linking verb
  • After a preposition



Hyphens are used:

For words joined as a modifier

  • The sixty-third runner
  • The out-of-date records

A hyphen should not be used for a verb phrase modifying a noun

  • The quickly disappearing land

Fractions used as a modifier

  • Six-tenths of the nation

Numbers from 21-99 (Excluding multiples of ten)

  • Thirty-one

Anywhere when needed to prevent misreading

  • The re-creation vs. the recreation



Semicolons are used:

To separate main clauses not joined by and, or, for, nor, but, so, or yet (Loberger 165)

  • I have reason to believe that you cheated; nevertheless, I must let you go because I don't have evidence to corroborate my argument.

To separate main clauses that are joined by and, or, for, nor, but, so, or yet, but have a comma in one or both of the main clauses

  • I, Mr. Jones, own a Porsche; and I also own a Ferrari.

To separate items in a list when one or more of the items have commas in them



Parentheses are used:

With question marks to show historical uncertainty

  • Harriet Tubman lived from 1820(?) to 1913.

Around parenthetical remarks

  • The painting (which I thought was ugly) was in a plastic case.

Around numbers after the number is spelled out

  • There are three-hundred sixty-five (365) days in a year.

Question Marks


Question marks are used:

To show historical uncertainty

  • Harriet Tubman lived from 1820(?) to 1913.

After each part in a series of incomplete questions

  • Did you travel by boat? By car? By plane?



Subject-Verb Agreement

  • Incorrect: He run the race.
  • Correct: He ran the race.



Singular pronouns should replace singular nouns. Each, every, someone, and many are all commonly confused. They are all singular and should be used with singular nouns

  • Incorrect: Each person took their share.
  • Correct: Each person took his share.

Some pronouns are also commonly replaced by other words that are not pronouns.

  • Their vs. There
  • Who's vs. Whose

Sometimes the object pronoun is used and the subject pronoun and vice versa.

  • Incorrect: The present was for Carol and I.
  • Correct: The present was for Carol and me.

The first example sounds more sophisticated, but it uses I (subject form) as the object of a preposition.

Sentence Structure


Dangling Modifiers


e.g. Snuggled in the basement with my family, the hurricane was stronger than ever. This makes it sound like the hurricane is in the basement with your family. Instead, you could rewrite it as "I was snuggled in the basement with my family. The hurricane outside was stronger than ever."

Run-On Sentences

  • Incorrect: I had a lot of fun I hope you did too.
  • Correct: I had a lot of fun. I hope you did too.



Phrases need to have verbs to be a sentence.

Commonly Confused Words and Contractions

  • its and it's
  • who's and whose
  • their, there, and they're

Rhetorical Skills


This covers the less rule-bound areas of writing and includes strategy, organization, and style.



This includes:

  • Topic Sentences
  • Paragraph Transition
  • Adding Information



This includes:

  • Order
  • How the Passage Fits Together



This includes:

  • Word Choice
  • Getting Rid of Unnecessary Words
  • How You Phrase Things


The ACT Mathematics section is the second test on the ACT. It consists of 60 questions, which must be completed within 60 minutes. Unlike other sections of the ACT, calculators are allowed in this section. In addition, there are 5 multiple choices in the Math section, whereas there are 4 multiple choices in the other sections. It is not known why this is. Like the rest of the ACT, there is NO penalty for incorrectly answering a question. So, it is in your favor to do so. The ACT Mathematics exam tests the following six areas:

  • Pre-Algebra (approx. 14 questions)
  • Elementary Algebra (approx. 10 questions)
  • Intermediate Algebra (approx. 9 questions)
  • Coordinate Geometry (approx. 9 questions)
  • Plane Geometry (approx. 14 questions)
  • Trigonometry (approx. 4 questions)



Pre-Algebra is one of the essential topics to know for the math section.

Elementary Algebra


Intermediate Algebra


Coordinate Geometry


Plane Geometry




With only 4 questions, trigonometry is not one of the most important math topics on the ACT. However, if math is one of your better subjects or if you're shooting for a high score, read on:

SOHCAHTOA is the acronym for the trigonometric ratios. These are extremely important! If you don't remember this, SOHCAHTOA is: Sine=Opposite/Hypotenuse Cosine=Adjacent/Hypotenuse Tangent=Opposite/Adjacent

Graphs of trigonometric functions often make up one or two of the ACT Math Questions. Remember that the normal period for a sine/cosine function is 2π/360°, whereas the tangent graph has a normal period of π/180˚.




The ACT does not subtract points from your final score for incorrect answers, unlike the SAT. Therefore, on the ACT it is to your advantage to guess whenever you do not know what the answer is, even if you cannot eliminate any answers.

Miscellaneous Tips

This section includes miscellaneous tips that are of use during your test. These tips apply to the whole test unless otherwise noted.

Pace wisely


While taking the ACT, make sure to answer each question quickly and give yourself ample time to finish the test. This is especially true in the English section which has more questions than any other section in the test. For this purpose it is recommended that you bring a watch to the exam in order to pace your time. Make note of the length of time in each session as each session has different timing and glance at the watch every 5 questions or so to keep up with pace. Make sure the watch does not have any alarms set on it. Any alarms going off during the test will get you disqualified, so make sure that they are deactivated. Also, it may be preferable to lay the watch on the table opposed to wearing it, for the sake of comfort.

Attempt to finish questions in order


Time is used most conservatively when questions are answered in order. It is still acceptable not to answer a difficult question, but keep in mind that this is where most of your time is lost. If the question is too hard then move on, but if you have a conflict between two answers, make a guess quickly and then move on. Either way, it is important to make a decision and commit to it. If the question takes more than 2 guesses, you should immediately move to the next one. Either way, never linger on a question for more than 10 seconds.

Read materials first


When coming across a reading or science question always read through the materials before answering. This is especially important during the reading section. This is important, because if you do not read the materials, it will take you longer to answer the questions and you will have a greater chance of getting them wrong. Make sure you read, but read quickly, as the test does not allot you much time. For the science section, a quick skimming of the chart and graph heading should help you out while answering questions.