What is the ACT?

What is the ACT?

The ACT assessment is a national standardized college entry exam. It is administered by the non-profit company ACT inc., or American College Testing Incorporated. This standardized test serves as a credible and respected marker for college and work-force readiness. Students from 6th-12th grade are able to take the test, as well as high school graduates. It is most common for students to take the exam during their Junior year of high school in order to have their scores handy for college applications.


The assessment is timed and is constructed of individual English, Math, Reading, and Science tests. For an added fee students can request to take a written exam at the time they register for their test. Please note that the written exam is not necessary for every student, and they should check the requirements of the universities they will be applying to. Each of the standard subjects are multiple choice and have a different number of questions. The test is a timed test, divided by each section. The English section has a designated 45 minutes for 75 questions. The Math section allows 60 minutes for 60 questions. Reading and Science both have their own 35 minute increments to answer their respective 40 questions. If the student opts to take the written portion, they will have 40 minutes to write one essay about a prompt provided to them.


The scoring system of the ACT is on a scale of 1 to 36; 1 being the lowest and 36 being the highest scores achievable. Each multiple choice section is scored individually on the 1-36 scale, by counting every question answered correctly and converting that raw score to the scale score. Students can only get credit for correct answers and will never be penalized or have points deducted for incorrect answers. All four individual scores are then averaged together and rounded to the nearest whole number. This averaged score is called the composite score. When students receive their scores from the test, they will see one composite score number from 1-36 and their individual score for each subject also being from 1-36. Students who opt in for the writing portion will have a separate set of scores for their essay that is graded on a different scale.


Why does it matter to me?

Students: Because it is required by the state of Louisiana to take the ACT, the test should be taken seriously and with the intent to do your absolute best. These scores are a good indicator of college readiness and should be taken into consideration for what actions need to be taken to prep for college. Even if it is not within your initial plans to go to college, after taking the ACT you could change your mind. Receiving a high score could encourage you to explore your options that pertain to college. It may really surprise you how achievable doing well in college (and affording it) can be for you! A good ACT score will make the college exploration process much easier.


Parents and Mentors: It is important to understand what the ACT is and the weight it carries in the college application process. By understanding these things, you will be able to discuss with your teen why they should take the test, what they can expect when going to take it, and why it isn’t something to be nonchalant about. There are also many opportunities for scholarships, especially at the university level, for students who receive good ACT scores. If you will be assisting your student in paying for their tuition, that means more money stays in your pocket. If your student will be managing tuition themselves, this can potentially help set the stage for less or even no student loan debt.


Educators: Most high school teachers already have an understanding of what the ACT is and why it is important, but it is helpful to be reminded. As someone who students look to for guidance and support in their education, you have a large influence on the decisions they make regarding their extended education. As is well-known to any staff and employees of a school, there are unfortunately students who do not have a sound support system outside of the educators in their life. You may be the one person who encourages a student to take the ACT or to retake it in attempt for a higher score. You are also in a valuable position to help provide information about the ACT fee waiver program to low-income students who may otherwise not take the test more than the one time mandated by the state. Your encouragement could lead to a student realizing they have great potential for college- something they may not otherwise see as a possibility without the encouragement of a high score and scholarships that become available through their scores.


Do I REALLY need a good score?

The ACT is extremely important in the college application process. Colleges regularly set minimum requirements of ACT+GPA combinations for admission. Outside of admissions, colleges and universities typically offer academic scholarships that increase with your ACT score. This is not an exhaustive list of schools or even scholarship opportunities available at each school, but listed below are a few examples of acceptance requirements and financial aid available based on academics. More information can be found on each school’s website.


  • Louisiana Tech requires students who have a core GPA between 2.0 and 2.5 require an ACT score of 23 to be accepted. Students with a core GPA greater than or equal to 2.5 will need an ACT composite score of 15.

    • LA Tech offers ACT+GPA based 4 year annual scholarships for students with a GPA between 3.0 and 4.0 combined with ACT scores starting a 20 composite. The lowest offered is for a combination of a 3.75-4.0 GPA + a 20-22 ACT composite for a $1,000/year. These scholarships progress up to $9,500 for students with a GPA of 3.75-4.0 and a composite score of 33 or higher.

  • Grambling admits students with a composite score of 20 or a math score of 19 or an English score of 18.

    • Students with an ACT composite of 23 + a GPA greater than or equal to 3.5 are eligible for a $3,000 academic scholarship and a TOPS award.

    • Students with an ACT composite of 24 + a GPA greater than or equal to 3.0 are eligible for a $4,000 academic scholarship and a TOPS award.

    • Students with an ACT composite of 25 + a GPA greater than or equal to 3.0 are eligible for a $5,000 academic scholarship and a TOPS award.

  • LSU actually will not require students to submit test scores for admission consideration, but they do offer generous scholarships based on ACT score, so it is in the student’s best interest to submit test scores for financial aid applications.

  • Out of State Universities often offer generous academic awards based on GPA and ACT scores which can significantly lower the cost of attendance, often with the opportunity to waive out-of-state tuition. This is a great opportunity for students who have a dream university that is not in Louisiana, but cannot afford the higher costs of tuition of not being an in-state student.

How do I prepare for the ACT?

The obvious answer is to pay attention in your classes and study in order to learn concepts throughout your years in high school. The less obvious answer is to take ACT Prep courses. Prep courses don’t teach what is on the test, as that changes with each test, but instead teaches HOW to take the test. These courses will set you up with test taking skills and strategies to get the most out of the test, so you can focus on generating correct answers instead of stressing about the functionality of the test and the test taking process. ACT Prep courses like this one have a proven track record of helping students become comfortable with the process of taking the ACT and consistently helps students raise their scores. If you are interested in a prep course before your next ACT test date, contact the ACT Prep Queen to enroll in her proven course!


This article is sponsored by The ACT Prep Queen and is marketed by Transaction Possibilities.

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