What Is the ACT Exam?
The ACT, or American College Testing, is a standardized collegiate examination, similar to the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). In use since 1959, it is commonly used as an indicator of academic aptitude and readiness to enter college. Although the ACT is not as well-known as the SAT, it is almost as widespread; as of 2008, nearly all four-year colleges and universities in the United States accept the ACT, although every school factors the results into admission decisions differently.
The test itself consists of four subject multiple-choice examinations; the exams cover English, mathematics, science and reading. A fifth exam, an essay writing test, was added in 2005, though not all schools require the essay portion of the test. Questions on the ACT are based on testing standards developed by national governing organizations such as the American Educational Research Foundation, as well as national and state standards for education, such as those established per the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Textbook reviews and national surveys of teachers and other educators are also used in determining exam content.
Like the SAT, the ACT is given only at set time periods during the year, generally four to six times per year, depending on the state where the testing takes place. Testing must be scheduled in advance, and is only available on certain Saturdays. However, students with religious prohibitions against Saturday events can apply to take the examination on Sunday. Accommodations can also be made for students with disabilities. The amount of time allotted for the standard exam is roughly 3.5 hours, which generally includes two 15-minute breaks. Students that take the ACT Plus Writing exam, which includes the essay writing portion, are allotted just over four hours for testing. Students who take the ACT can send their score reports to up to four different colleges or universities.
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