by Maddie Morningstar

About the ACT

The ACT stands for American College Test. It is a standardized test used to assess readiness for college. It is needed to get into most colleges. The sections include english, math, reading, science, and writing if you take that portion. Below is a table with the number of questions and time limit for each section.


Section Number of Questions Time Limit (minutes)
English 75 45
Mathematics 60 60
Reading 40 35
Science 40 35
Writing (Writing Test Only) 1 essay 40


That totals to a 2 hour and 55 minute test, or 3 hours 35 minutes if you take the ACT Plus Writing. You also get a 10 minute break in between the math and reading section. If you take the writing portion, you get a 5 minute break after the science section. During the break is a good time to go to the bathroom, get a drink, eat a snack, and prepare for the next part of your session. It will also take time for the instructor of your room to pass out booklets and read directions, so plan for the entire process to take about 4 hours.


So, if you know the number of questions and the time limit, you can figure out about how much time you have per question. Below is a table with how much time you will have to answer each question to use all of the time given to you.

Section Approx. Time Per Question
English 36 seconds
Mathematics 1 minute
Reading 52 seconds (does not include time needed to read passage)
Science 52 seconds (does not include time to read experiment or charts)



In the United States, the national average composite score is 20.8. In Iowa, the average composite score is 22.1. What does this mean? The highest score you can get on the ACT is a 36. If you get a 36, that means you did not miss a question (or you could have missed just one in mathematics). Your score is calculated by the number of questions you miss. Click here to find the range used to score the ACT. You find the mean of the scores from each section to get your composite score.

If you are worried that your score is not good enough to get into college, do not panic. State schools in Iowa use a formula to sort through the many applications they receive. This formula is called RAI or Regent Admissions Index. You plug in your accumulative GPA, number of core classes you have taken, your ACT or SAT score, and your class rank (if your school abides by that). If your score is a 245 or higher, you are automatically admitted into the college. High ACT scores are important if you want to join a specific program or college and want direct admission. Do you not have a 245 RAI score? Do not worry. This just means your application will have to be looked at more carefully.

Test Tips

Listed below are some test tips to help you get the best possible score on the ACT.

  • Study (whether that is getting a tutor, taking a prep class, or finding free study websites online)
  • Get good sleep the night before
  • Eat a good breakfast the day of
  • Lay out the things you need for the test the night before (ID, printed admission ticket, #2 pencils (NOT mechanical), eraser, calculator that is ok’ed by the ACT, water, and snacks for break)
  • Don’t cram
  • Read the information/paragraphs first before answering the questions
  • Check your answer by plugging it back in
  • Skip hard questions and come back to them
  • Use process of elimination
  • Relax and do your best!


This is the blog run by the Writing for Media class.

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