ACT® Practice Test (2020 Version)

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Everyone who plans on taking the ACT (“American College Test) has the desire to perform as best as they possibly can in order to gain admission to the best possible college or university. This is true because admission to the best possible college or university is a very important factor that will determine one’s overall success in life for many people. Accordingly, those people who plan on taking the ACT test will want to do everything possible to make sure that they are as prepared as they possibly can be in order to perform well on the test.

One of the most important steps a potential test taker can take in order to score well on the ACT is to educate themselves as to what is to be expected when actually taking the test. As most people who have taken standardized tests would expect, the testing day itself will be a very structured and strict experience in terms of what is allowed and what is not allowed before, during and after taking the test. Although the experience of taking the test will be highly structured, the procedure for taking the ACT test is actually pretty straight forward and simple to follow and will be clearly explained by those people who are charged with administering the test.

It is essential to remember that the test taker will do well on the ACT test as long as he or she is able to keep his or her focus in the place where it properly belongs. By this we mean that the test taker should always maintain his or her focus upon the ACT test itself rather than becoming absorbed by unnecessary distractions. In many cases this will mean that the test taker should ignore or tune out any stimuli that is not related to the test itself. But most of all the test taker will need to learn to focus his or her concentration on the test itself. Any time wasted by the mind wandering is time that will be lost in terms of reading, thinking about and answering the ACT test questions. Therefore, the test taker should think of the ACT test as a concentration marathon in which he or she is required to maintain his or her focus on the test for the duration of the test.

What to Expect When Taking the ACT Test

Now we will discuss just what the test taker should expect when they sit down to actually take the ACT test. The following paragraphs will explain (1) the nature of the content with which a test taker should expect to be familiar and (2) what a test taker should know concerning the method of scoring the test. 

This description will consist of six parts. First, we will discuss the English portion of the ACT Test. Second, we will discuss the Math portion of the ACT Test. Third, we will discuss the Reading portion of the ACT Test. Fourth, we
will discuss the Science portion of the ACT Test. Fifth, we will discuss the Optional Writing portion of the ACT Test. And finally, we will discuss how the composite score of the ACT Test is calculated. By the time the reader has finished reading this material he or she will hopefully have a good idea as to what to expect when he or she sits down to take the ACT test on the testing day.

The English Portion of the ACT Test

The first 45 minutes of the ACT test is reserved for the English portion of the test. During this time, the test taker will be asked to demonstrate his or her skill level in the areas of word usage, word mechanics and rhetorical skills. The test taker will demonstrate his or her skill by answering a series of multiple choice questions. The testing battery has been specially designed to weigh what the test taker knows against the knowledge of an average high school student in the United States of America as represented by a national scale which has been computed based on a sampling of previous scores. Technically, test takers will not be penalized for guessing incorrectly in this section as the assessment scores the test taker depending upon how many questions he or she answered correctly. However, we all know that an incorrect question will not count as a correct question as such it makes logical sense for the test taker to strive to answer as many questions correctly as he or she can in order to maximize his or her score.

When the test taker’s test results come back a few weeks after he or she has completed the test, he or she will then learn where they stand in comparison to the other students who have taken the test throughout the country. A test taker is usually considered to be thought of as “college ready” if he or she has achieved a score of 18. In actual fact, the average ACT test score tends to be a little bit higher at a score of 20.6. Anything higher than this score is considered to be above the national average. However, a score of 22 or 23 on this part of the test (or any part other part of the test for that matter) will not necessarily make a test taker eligible for a scholarship or award. We will discuss this topic in greater detail further on.

The Math Portion of the ACT Test

Math scores generally tend to improve throughout a test taker’s secondary education pathway. For this reason, it makes good strategic sense to take the ACT more than once during a test taker’s secondary education. For example, the test taker will not necessarily be exposed to trigonometry in the ninth or tenth grade. Accordingly, the test taker may be at a disadvantage if he or she chooses to take the ACT early on in his or her high school career. This is of small importance, however because by taking the test early on the test taker
will have a benchmark by which to compare his or her progress. It is good to have a benchmark for the knowledge a test taker has to start off with. This will allow the test taker to compare this benchmark against the knowledge that he or she will need to achieve the desired score. This in turn will allow the test taker to better focus his or her future study efforts in order to achieve that desired score. 

The battery for the math portion of the ACT test itself consists of 60 questions which are to be answered within a 60 minute time limit. The topics that are covered during this portion of the test include pre-algebra, elementary and intermediate algebra, geometry (including both standard and coordinate geometry) as well as elementary trigonometry. The average student will score around 21 while 22 is generally considered to be a score that indicates a test taker is "ready for college" for most people. 

The Reading Portion of the ACT Test

The entire reading portion of the ACT test is structured around the test taker’s level of comprehension. Specifically, the test taker will read a passage and then answer 40 multiple choice questions. These multiple-choice questions will relate to that passage and must be answered within a 35 minute time period. The time element makes this battery a bit more difficult than it would otherwise be, however, a test taker can generally master the reading portion of the ACT test if he or she knows a few tricks. Specifically, if the test taker knows how to summarize and interpret the text while reading it, he or she will retain the content of the reading more readily. Moreover, if the test taker focuses primarily on word groupings rather than making sure that he or she reads every single "a," "an," or "the" the reading process can be greatly expedited. For this portion of the ACT test, the college readiness barometer starts at a score of 21. The average student will be able to exceed that total with a 21.4 score (generally speaking).

The Science Portion of the ACT Test

The science portion of the ACT test seems to be the one portion that gives many students the most trouble. While the average score of 20.9 for this portion tends to be a little higher than the average English score, the college readiness score is 24. Accordingly, the score for this portion of the ACT test presents the widest margin between expectations for the next level of education and the actual performance.  

Science reasoning seems to be a rather difficult concept for many students taking the ACT test to wrap their minds around. This can be a difficult concept for most test takers to comprehend if they do not possess the natural acumen for this mode of thinking. This type of thinking can be taught but it takes some time if the test taker is starting from square one in this regard. Test takers will have 40 questions to answer with a 35 minute time limit in which to answer them. Moreover, the science portion of the ACT test is structured in such a way that the test taker must possess strong reading and science skills in order to perform successfully. These happen to be two skill set categories that generally attract polar opposite people on the educational spectrum. It is for this reason primarily that the science portion of the ACT test happens to be a difficult one for many test takers. As such, if a test taker goes into the ACT test with a good handle on this one particular subject, he or she will have a great advantage over the other test takers generally speaking.

The Optional Writing Portion of the ACT Test

A test taker does not have to take the optional writing portion of the ACT. Although this portion of the test is completely optional, the competitive test taker should be thinking "What's the harm in taking it?" Again, because some test takers will opt not to take this portion of the ACT test, the ones who do opt to take it will possess an advantage relatively speaking. Here is what a test
taker should expect from this section of the test: there will be one essay prompt with a 30 minute time period in which to complete it. The major objective of this portion of the ACT test is for the test taker to compose a quality thesis statement that is supported with compelling evidence and is communicated in a clear and concise manner. The average score for this portion of the ACT test is 7.7. 

The ACT Composite Score

The ACT scoring on each of the required subsections are ultimately averaged together to compute a final composite score. The average high school student will earn a composite score of 21.1 out of a possible 36. While scoring above this number will place a test taker in the "above average" realm, it should be known that most colleges and universities will require a minimum composite
score of 24 before considering a test taker for a scholarship or award. 

The great thing about the ACT (as opposed to other college entrance exams such as the SAT) is that a test taker can take it as many times as he or she desires to take it. In doing so, the test taker will never take the same test twice, although the concepts tested in the ACT will remain the same from test to test. When a test taker adopts a “never say die” attitude, significant improvement is often possible. Furthermore, rewards are scalable depending on how well the test taker performs. As such, even if a test taker is eligible for a scholarship after his or her first exam, it is best to keep taking the ACT test for as many times as possible. This way, the test taker can use his or her best score on his or her college application.