What Is The ACT And Who Uses The Results?

 The ACT is a standardized test, administered and sponsored by ACT, Inc.  It is taken by millions of HS students across the country and overseas.  Like the SAT standardized test, it is usually taken in the spring of the junior year and again in the fall of the senior year. The real HS academic “go-getter” students who want to attend UC  Universities, Ivy League Colleges and the like, start preparing for the ACT (and the SAT as well) in their HS Freshman or Sophomore years!! Most universities (but not “Community Colleges”) use a student’s ACT and SAT scores as an important part of the college admissions process.

Who Administers The ACT?

ACT, Inc. administers and sponsors the ACT.  Their website is www.actstudent.org.  It offers the ACT 6 times a year, from early in September to the beginning of June.  Any student who wants to take the ACT registers with ACT, Inc. @ www.actstudent.org.


About Standardized tests – like the ACT and SAT?

“Standardized tests, like the ACT have very little in common with the tests you might take in school.  In school, tests have a lot to do with your ability to memorize a lot of information ahead of time and then recall that material on test day. But doing well on the ACT is much more about being able to understand a set of standardized rules and patterns, and then recognizing those rules and patterns in action and responding accordingly on test day, in a highly repetitive way.  The skills that you need to do well on the ACT simply aren’t the same skills you’ve developed in school, for the most part” – Mike Barrett, author of:  The ACT Prep Black Book.

Are The ACT and SAT Similar?

“The SAT and the ACT are fundamentally the same.  They are both internationally administered standardized test for HS students that primarily test basic reading and math skills in ways that differ from those used by ‘normal’ classroom tests.  In fact, most of the questions that appear on either could  also appear on the other one, because most of the rules on the two tests allow the same types of questions in many situations.  There are exceptions to this, of course – each test also has question types that don’t ever appear on the other test.  But the principles underlying the design of individual questions on both tests are still largely similar.” – Mike Barrett, author of: The ACT Prep Black Book.

Is the ACT important for College Acceptance?

“There is a lot of controversy surrounding Standardized tests like the ACT.  For that reason, many Colleges like to pretend that the ACT and similar tests aren’t that important when it comes to the admissions process; but this isn’t true.  If you look at any highly competitive College, and you find out the average ACT and SAT scores of the people who go there, you’ll pretty much always find that those scores are well above average – for some schools, the average scores are in the top few percent nationwide.  Think about it: if schools didn’t care about your ACT scores, they wouldn’t ask for those scores, and they wouldn’t spend the time necessary to consider them.  The ACT certainly isn’t the only piece of the admissions puzzle, especially for more competitive schools, but standardized test scores matter a lot, whether we like it or not.”  –Mike Barrett, author of:  The ACT Prep Black Book.

What does the ACT measure and how is the test scored?

  •  The first section of the test is English. There are 75 questions, with a time limit of 45 minutes. The Raw Score, - that is the # correct out of 75 - is converted to a scaled score out of 36.   
  •  The second section is Mathematics. There are 60 questions, with a time limit of 60 minutes. The Raw Score - # correct out of 60 - is converted to a scaled score out of 36.
  •  The third section is Reading. There are 40 questions, with a time limit of 35 minutes. The Raw Score - # correct out of 40 - is converted to a scaled score out of 36.
  •  The fourth section is Science. There are 40 questions, with a time limit of 35 minutes. The Raw Score - # correct out of 40 - is converted to a scaled score out of 36.
  •  The 4 scaled scores are added together and then divided by 4.  This is the final score. Maximum score on the ACT is 36. Any score over 30 is a great score!!
  •  The fifth section is the Essay.  It is optional, but most Colleges expect it. The time limit for the Essay is now 40 minutes.  (It was 30 minutes) So – the Essay is important for most colleges!!


 1. Precise Reading 

“I almost always start students off on the Reading section, for a few reasons.  The first reason is that careful, precise Reading is the most important skill on the entire ACT (yes, even on the Math and Science sections). - Mike Barrett, author of:  The ACT Prep Black Book.      

 2. Avoid Careless Errors

“You want to develop the ability to recognize and understand your mistakes.  That means you need to be able to do some practice work, then take a second look at the questions you missed and figure out where you went wrong.  You need to identify what you misunderstand or overlooked that stopped you from answering the question correctly, and what you could have done to avoid the mistake and get the question right.” – Mike Barrett, author of:  The ACT prep Black Book. This is the strategy we employ at Be SAT Wise in our Act prep class called, “Weekend Boot Camps.”  We give the students a Mock ACT exam on Saturday morning and then in the afternoon the teacher helps the students review and dissect that test. “Once students train themselves to stop making ‘careless errors’, they’re typically scoring in a range that makes them quite happy. Let me be clear – when I talk about reviewing all of your practice work, I don’t just mean checking the answer key to see what you missed.  I mean going back over every single question you missed or were unsure about, and trying to figure out what was going on in each question that stopped you from being certain about the correct answer.  That way you’ll know how to overcome similar issues on test day. – Mike Barrett, author of: The ACT prep Black Book.At Be SAT Wise, we review and analyze the Mock ACT given on Saturday morning, on Saturday afternoon and again on Sunday morning.  The students are then much better prepared and motivated to review and analyze the second Mock ACT exam (on their own) given to them on Sunday afternoon.

 3. Higher Degree of Precision Required

“Standardized tests like the ACT require higher degree of precision and consistency (especially in executing basic skills) than normal classroom tests do. This is the most common difficulty for most students.” – Mike Barrett, author of: The ACT prep Black Book.

 4. Only ACT, Inc. Mock Practice Tests

“We should only practice for the ACT with real ACT questions written by ACT, Inc., and not with fake questions written by any other company.  When you use real ACT practice questions, you’re training yourself on a conscious level, as well as on an intuitive level, to recognize and respond to the standards in real ACT questions.  I’ll say it one more time – never use anything besides ‘Real ACT practice questions’ if your goal is to score well on the real ACT” –  Mike Barrett, author of: The ACT prep Black Book. At Be SAT Wise we only use Mock Practice Exams from ACT, Inc. – the administrators of the ACT.  There are 3 Mock Practice Exams in – The Real ACT Prep Guide, 2016 Edition.

 5. Importance of Reading the question and all the answer choices first

“It’s easy to forget that there’s an extremely important source of information sitting right in front of us on every multiple choice question.....the answer choices themselves! That is why I emphasize that the students must always, ALWAYS read each ACT question completely, including the answer choices, before they start to figure out the answer.  Too many people just read the question prompt (the part that doesn’t include the answer choices), then stop and try to solve the problem on their own, then check to see if their answer is reflected in the choices.  This approach, though typical, will make life harder for you and cause you to miss hints and clues that are basically staring you in the face once you know how to look for them” –  Mike Barrett, author of: The ACT prep Black Book.

 6. Major Difference between the ACT and the usual HS tests

“One of the most important differences between the ACT and a normal HS test is the extreme importance of details on the ACT – and this means that ‘careless mistakes’ on the ACT will be much more harmful to your score than they would be in a normal classroom situation.” –  Mike Barrett, author of: The ACT prep Black Book

 7. Start with the Simple Questions First

“Start by answering all the questions that seem relatively simple and easy to you.  Skip the ones that seem too hard or too time-consuming for now” –  Mike Barrett, author of: The ACT prep Black Book.

 8. Timing Issues

“One of the biggest causes of stress in Standardized testing is the time limit.  This is especially true in the ACT, which requires you to answer more questions with fewer breaks than most other Standardized tests people take before College.”-  Mike Barrett, author of: The ACT prep Black Book. Completing two ACT, Inc. Mock Practice Tests at our Act Prep class Weekend Book Camps will help you enormously in this area.

9.  About Reading on the ACT

 “You have to be able to read carefully and precisely.  In other words, you have to have the skill of reading exactly what’s on a page, and taking in everything that’s stated directly in the text, without taking in anything that’s not.  Well, it turns out that the kind you need to do on the ACT is almost the exact opposite of the kind of reading students are trained to do in HS.” –  Mike Barrett, author of: The ACT prep Black Book.


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