ACT Crash Course


via. mathnasium

The ACT test for 2016 is tomorrow, March 1. Are you ready?

by Tayler Jones and Sedona Goodbar

Most students go into full panic when hearing about the ACT, a test mainly for juniors and those looking to graduate high school. When preparing for the ACT most people think “what should I study?” or “what material is the ACT covering?”

Here is what you need to know: The difference between the ACT and the SAT is vast. The SAT is based on what you know, and the ACT is considered a simpler test in that it tests you on what you can do with what you’re given.

“I feel slightly stressed. I feel like I’ll do alright, but need to retake for a better score. (I’m aiming for a 31). I’m worried about the short amount of time, pre-test and the essay,” says junior Isis Mack.

The SAT is also scored on a 200-800 scale per section (1600 in total). The ACT is a score scale of 1-36, but it averages out between all components of the test, so it is scored more intensely.  Here is a list of ways to help prepare for the ACT and what you need to know about each section.  



Timing: 60 questions, 60 min. One minute per question. If more than a minute is spent on a question, guess, and move on.

Criteria: Basic trigonometry, probabilities, factoring, finding the average, absolute value, using the pythagorean theorem, finding percentages.


Timing: 75 questions, 45 min. 1.7 seconds (maximum) per question. If more time is spent, guess and move on. If finished early, go back to the problem.

Criteria: modifying sentences, comma usage, using “best support this statement,” using “does NOT support this statement,” usage of rhetorical skills, word replacement.


15 min break to do anything besides use a phone.

Reading Composition

Timing: 45 questions, 35 min. 1.2 seconds (max) per question, and eight minutes per section.

Criteria:  reading about prose fiction, natural science, humanities and social science. Questions that are cited from the passage.


Timing: 45  questions, 35 min. (like reading), 1.2 seconds per question.

Criteria: Determining different kinds of charts, reading charts, reading labs, analyzing graphs, determining the meaning of each chart.


A five minute break where you cannot leave the classroom

Essay (optional)

Timing: A full essay (more than one page), 40 min.

How it’s scored: Correct spelling, strong word choice, not using first person (don’t make it personal) no grammatical errors, paragraph form, write legibly.

With the ACT, there are a few tips and tricks to remember:

  • In the math portion, a calculator is permitted and highly recommended.  However, remember some questions may be easier without a calculator.
  • Get to the testing area 15 minutes early to ensure being on time and to give 15 minutes worth of extra prep time
  • Once the test time begins, you can’t walk in or out until the section is over.
  • No usage of mechanical pencils, for two reasons: risk of cheating and illegibility on the Scantron reader. It may seem tedious, but just bring some old fashioned pencils for a day. 
  • It’s more important to take a best guess on a question you don’t know rather than spend all of your time on it and not finish the rest of the section.
  • Unlike the SAT, wrong answers are counted against you. Make sure you fill in as much as you can.

Taking the ACTs are crucial for help in the college admission process. It could produce a better score than your SATs, so it’s important to take both. For UNLV, a score of 18-25  and higher is most widely accepted, with only 17 percent of undergrads getting in on a 12-17 score. UNR is a bit more rigorous in their selecting, but typically accept a score of 21-26 or higher, with some exceptions on 18-20.

Overall, make sure to use test strategies you’ve learned through the years, stressing importance on time management, as well as remember that test scores are important but not all you need to get into college.