ACT Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the ACT?
  2. Who creates the ACT?
  3. When is the ACT given?
  4. When should I register for the ACT?
  5. How do I register?
  6. How much does it cost to take the ACT?
  7. How long does it take to get my scores back?
  8. What if I take the ACT and mess up?
  9. How many times can I take the ACT?
  10. What is a good score on the ACT?
  11. What is the difference between SAT and ACT?
  12. Why is Excel Test Prep the best choice for ACT preparation?
  13. When should I start preparing for the ACT?
  14. How much high school math do I need before I can start preparing for the ACT?
  15. Should I use an educational consultant?
  16. How do I find out about scholarships?
  17. Does having a summer job help or hurt me?
  18. Should I go to a public or private college?
  19. What are Dual Degree Programs?
  20. Why should I consider a Dual Degree Program?
  1. What is the ACT?

    The ACT is a nationally-recognized college entrance examination available to students as part of the college application process.  The exam covers four subject areas: English, Mathematics, Reading and Science.  There is also an optional Writing section. The exam typically takes 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete with breaks (or just over 4 hours with the optional writing test).

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  2. Who creates the ACT?

    The ACT is created by the ACT, Inc. (originally known as the American College Testing Program), headquartered in Iowa City, Iowa.  The ACT was developed according to the:

    • Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing, American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, & National Council on Measurement in Education (1985)
    • Code of Professional Responsibilities in Educational Measurement, National Council on Measurement in Education (1995)
    • Code of Fair Testing Practices in Education, Joint Committee on Testing Practices (1988)
    ACT, Inc, is a non-profit organization.

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  3. When is the ACT given?

    The ACT is offered nationally on seven dates: in September, October, December, February, April, June and July. In selected states, the ACT is also administered in late September. The specific test dates vary by year. Visit the ACT website for the latest national test dates.

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  5. When should I register for the ACT?
    Many students take the exam in the fall semester of 11th grade. Most students find it helpful to have their ACT scores in hand when they begin the application process. Taking the exam early during junior year also leaves ample time for preparation and retakes if the first score is unsatisfactory. You should register at least 6 - 8 weeks before your desired test date in order to secure a spot close by.

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  6. How do I register?
    There are several different ways to register for the ACT.

    • The fastest and easiest way to register is online. Click here to create your ACT Web account and register online.
    • If you missed the late registration deadline, you can request standby testing online.

    For more information, go to

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  7. How much does it cost to take the ACT?
    ACT registration costs $55. With the Optional Writing section, the cost is $70. Late registration is an additional $35.

    Please check ACT Fees for possible additional fees.

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  8. How long does it take to get my scores back?
    Scores are posted on specific dates corresponding to the test date. Check this website to see when the scores will be up for your chosen test date. You can view your scores through your student account online once they have been posted.

    Writing scores are typically posted two weeks after your multiple choice

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  9. What if I take the ACT and mess up?
    If you would like to remove scores from your records, you must submit a letter requesting to delete your score. You must include your name and home address, and you will be sent a form to complete and return to ACT:

    ACT Records
    P.O. Box 451
    Iowa City, IA 52243-0451

    Keep in mind also that there is no limit to the number of times you can retake the ACT, and that the colleges of your choice will ONLY see the score you choose to send.

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  10. How many times can I take the ACT?
    You may take the ACT as often as you like. A separate score record is kept for each administration of the exam. Only the score record from the test date requested will be sent to a college. You can request for more than one test date report to be sent to a college.

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  11. What is a good score on the ACT?
    The maximum score for each of the four tests is 36.  The composite score is the average of the four scores.  Students who took the ACT Plus Writing test will receive two additional scores: a Writing score (0-12) and an English/Writing composite score (1-36). 

    A good score is one that will get you into the college of your choice, so the answer to this question depends on where you want to go to college. The average score is 20.  While class rank, extra-curricular activities, major, recommendations, essays, and other factors also come into play in college admissions, below is an estimate of what score is needed on the ACT for various colleges:

    University Name

    Score Required

    Duke University*

    34 or above

    Harvard University*

    35 or above

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

    35 or above

    New York University (NYU)*

    32 or above

    Princeton University*

    35 or above

    Rice University*

    30 or above

    Stanford University*

    35 or above

    University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA)*

    33 or above

    University of California – Berkeley*

    33 or above

    University of Houston

    21 or above

    University of Southern California (USC)*

    33 or above

    San Jose State

    26 or above

    *require ACT Plus Writing

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  12. What is the difference between SAT and ACT?
    Both the ACT and the SAT are nationally administered standardized tests that help colleges evaluate candidates.  Most college and universities accept both.  Below is a chart summarizing the differences: 





    3 hours, 50 minutes (including the 40-minute optional Writing Test)

    3 hours, 45 minutes


    4 test sections (5 with the optional Essay, known as the Writing Test)

    4 Sections (5 with the optional Essay)

    Areas Tested

    English, Math, Reading, Science, Writing (optional)

    Reading, Writing and Language, Math without calculator, Math with calculator, Essay (optional)


    Science Reasoning (analysis, interpretation, evaluation, problem solving)

    Science not included


    Math accounts for 1/4 of overall score

    Topics Covered: Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry

    Math accounts for 1/2 of overall score

    Topics Covered: Basic Geometry and Algebra II


    Last section (optional);

    40 minutes

    Not included in composite score

    Last section (optional):

    50 minutes

    Not included in composite score


    Total composite score of 1-36 (based on average of 4 tests)

    4 scores of 1-36 for each test

    Additional score of 0-12 for the optional Essay

    Total score out of 1600

    2 scores of 200-800 for each section

    Additional score of 2-24 for the optional Essay

    Wrong Answer Penalty

    No penalty

    No penalty


    Sending Scores

    You decide which score to send

    You can choose which score to send - but your university may require your entire record

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  13. Why is Excel Test Prep the best choice for ACT preparation?
    Excel Test Prep is committed to your success. We have a top notch ACT Prep Program with stringently researched and carefully constructed class materials; fun, dynamic, and experienced instructors with a wealth of test-taking strategies; and plenty of extras and bonuses to guarantee your success! Because of our devotion to maximizing your score, our prep course is an incredible value.

    • Highest Score Increase Guarantee - if you do not improve by at least 4 points, we will provide you with an extra-help course free of charge.
    • Exam Club - you may return to our Fremont Main Office and take unlimited proctored practice exams for up to 6 months after the course ends. Our Exam Club library includes practice ACT exams as well as SAT Subject exams, AP exams, and more. This program, which many of our perfect scorers cite as a great asset to their test preparation, is absolutely free!
    • Excel Test Prep provides computerized grading for in-class ACT exams, giving you information about the various areas you need to focus on to improve your score.
    • Tutoring help (in-person or on the phone) is available for students during and after their Excel Test Prep course at a very competitive fee.
    Finally, any Excel Test student who achieves a perfect score of 36 on the ACT after taking our full ACT course will receive a $1,000 scholarship from us! We are deeply committed to your success.

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  14. When should I start preparing for the ACT?
    Because the ACT is an important test for college admissions, it is always best to start preparing as early as possible. The more time you have to prepare, the higher you can set your goals.
    A great time to start would be the summer before 11th grade. Taking our courses during the summer maximizes the effect of our program, as there are no distractions such as school homework, projects, exams or any other school activities.
    Students should start preparing for the ACT no later than the summer before 12th grade.

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  15. How much high school math do I need before I can start preparing for the ACT?
    The ACT Mathematics Test contains 60 questions covering six content areas: pre-algebra, elementary algebra, intermediate algebra, coordinate geometry, plane geometry and trigonometry. 

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  16. Should I use an educational consultant?
    Educational consultants counsel students and their families in the selection of educational programs, based on the student's individual needs and talents. The need for an educational consultant can vary based on the students; we recommend starting with arranging a meeting with your counselor as a research base, they can give you some general information as a starting point for your research. If your school counselors spend many hours counseling the students through the admission process and they have received special training through workshops or if you have access to information through a college career center, then you may not need an educational consultant. You can also approach the career services or counseling departments within the institutions that you are considering applying to. You may want to find out ahead of time, if they charge, if so, how much before committing to a service.

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  17. How do I find out about scholarships?
    To find out more about scholarships, their availability and requirements, visit You should also ask the companies that your parents are employed at for any scholarship opportunities.

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  18. Does having a summer job help or hurt me?
    Summer jobs are a great way to earn some money, and they also provide an excellent opportunity to gain experience. Work experience demonstrates your abilities such as time management, responsibility level, character and leadership potential. Work experience can be anything from paid or volunteer work, after-school or summer program participation, to internships. You should inquire with your parent’s employers for any internships or summer job opportunities. Internships, whether paid or not, give you a first-hand look at specific careers as a way to identify career interests. In whatever programs you participate in, whether in a job, an internship, or helping out at home, your experience is an important way to demonstrate key qualities. The participation in the various activities may even help you find a topic for your college essays. Whatever qualities that you develop by this experience will help you build your resume and enhance your college applications. The summer before your 12th grade is the best time for summer employment, which is why we recommend Excel Test Prep after 10th grade, if possible. You may want to start looking for a summer job in the spring of your 11th grade, which is when most employers start hiring for the summer. Remember, the quality of your experience is much more important than the number of dollars you can earn at any job!

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  19. Should I go to a public or private college?
    State and community colleges, also known as public colleges, are generally less expensive than private colleges. Public colleges receive funding from their respective states in order to make the cost of education affordable to the greatest number of people. Most states offer in-state residents a significantly lower tuition price. At community colleges, your tuition rate is based on your district. If you live within a particular community-college district, you can take courses for a lower price than students who live outside of the district.

    Private colleges, on the other hand, do not receive the same type of funding, so they rely more heavily on tuition, endowments and other private sources of revenue. Private colleges are usually more expensive than public colleges, but may offer smaller class sizes, or additional scholarships and grants that are not available at public schools.

    Your decision on which school to attend or even to narrow down your search generally depend on the following two criteria: Money (scholarships and financial aid) and your choice of major(s). If you know your major then you should apply to the best school for that major that you can get into. If you are unsure of your major, then you should apply to a very well-rounded school, where you can explore the different career options and field of studies. Only you can decide which institutions are right for you, based on your specifications and the programs that you are interested in. Remember to do as much research as possible to make a well informed choice.

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  20. What are Dual Degree Programs?
    Dual Degree Programs differ from university to university. In general terms, universities offer a Bachelors Degree and Masters Degree in your field of studies in a shorter amount of time versus if you pursued the two degrees independently (varies by university). They also offer different variations such as offering an Associate Degree and Bachelors Degree or two different Masters Degrees.

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  21. Why should I consider a Dual Degree Program?
    Students successfully completing the program earn two degrees: Associate and Bachelor, Bachelor and Masters, or Masters and Masters (depending on which degrees you pursue and what options the school offers). With the Dual Degree Program one year of school and its financial costs are saved, also having two degrees will give you an edge in the interview process when applying for employment over other candidates.

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