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ACT Basics

Taking the ACT (American College Test) is part of a student’s journey in high school. It is vital for students to review important concepts so they can score their best. The ACT is required for some universities and not for others; therefore, it is important to check with your top picks for universities. All students are encouraged to take their ACT.

Below are some of the many good reasons to take the ACT:

  • Some universities use the ACT for course placement. For example, if you score above an 18 on the math portion, Utah Tech University will allow you to take certain chemistry courses without taking a math class first.

  • Your ACT score can be used when applying for scholarships (free money for college you do not have to pay back). Most scholarships want to see ACT scores above a 22. Check out some scholarship offers you may qualify for so you can have a target score.

  • If you take the ACT in your Junior year it is provided free by Utah Connections Academy. It is fun to take the ACT so definitely go take it while it is free!

  • ACT test scores can help you know what subjects you can work on. It can also help you know if you need to implement additional steps into your educational journey so you can be ready for college.

  • Even if you are not planning on pursuing higher education after high school it is still important because it goes on your high school transcripts and you can put it on your resume.

Tips for Studying

Below are some helpful hints for studying. Listed below are links to helpful hint pages written by a UCA student with study tips specific to Utah Connections Academy!

Basic testing tips for all subjects:
  • If you have questions related to specific subject areas consult your favorite teacher that teaches that subject!

  • Form a study plan. For example, study for math on Monday and Tuesday, English on Wednesday and Thursday, Reading on Friday, and Science on Saturday. Studying for only 10-15 minutes a day on the subjects is better than not studying.

  • Buy the Official ACT Prep Guide 2023-2024, if you can.

  • If you take the ACT with national testing our school code is 450640.

  • Take lots of practice tests and see which questions you missed. Please note that the practice test score does not necessarily predict your real score so never lose hope.

  • Conduct a safe internet and YouTube search for help.

  • Here is a link to free ACT materials from the ACT website: Free ACT Test Prep | The ACT Test | ACT

  • Ensure you fill in all the answers for each subject at the 5-minute call and then erase and answer as you go. A random answer is better than no answer.

  • Although it is not free you can retake the ACT.

  • Order A TIR report if you retake your ACT. It costs about 30 dollars. The report will tell you exactly which questions you missed, the correct answer, and the booklet.

ACT Sections with Tips

Before your test tips:

  • Eat good food for breakfast.

  • Read a little something to warm up your brain.

  • Do a yoga, take a short run or take a few deep breaths.

  • Be sure to bring the items you need including but not limited to the following:

1) ID

2) Calculator

3) Only number two pencils allowed

4) Snack/drink

5) Timing device like watch that cannot under any circumstances make noise


  • 45 minutes

  • 75 Questions

  • Normally 5 Essays

  • Test emphasis on punctuation marks (comma use, semicolons, colons,

  • dashes)

  • Clauses, subject-verb agreement, and fixing errors including redundancy

  • Note: this test will not ask questions like “what is the adjective in this

  • sentence?”


  • 60 questions

  • 60 min

  • Start at the front where the easiest questions are. Do not start at the back. This test is not necessarily a minute per question.

  • Bring a calculator you know how to use. See the ACT rules on The online ACT has a special calculator that is in test mode.

  • Ensure you have properly reviewed. This is one of the easier sections of the ACT because you know you have the right answer when you get it.

  • Test includes secondary math including but not limited to: Secondary Math I, II, and III; Precalculus; middle school math; and basic arithmetic.

10 minute Snack Time on your ACT

  • Prepare Accordingly. This is a fun section.

  • Bring good eats such as: beef jerky, popcorn, cauliflower (with ice packs), or pie

  • Bring drinks and make sure to bring water

  • Ensure you do stretches

  • It is against the rules to use an electronic device on the break such as a cell phone


  • 35 minutes

  • 40 questions

  • Normally 4 sections/passages

  • This test evaluates your reading comprehension on passages.

  • For most students, timing is a struggle. Try about 8 minutes per passage/section or find what works for you.

  • Make sure you read the whole passage before answering.


  • 40 questions

  • 35 minutes

  • 7 passages give or take

  • This test is mostly reading comprehension

  • Some familiarity with science vocabulary is helpful but the test is mostly about your ability to analyze data and the passage

  • Review reading charts and graphs

  • Review parts of an experiment such as independent and dependent variables

  • Know components of the metric system

  • May include a wide variety of topics such as: Biology, Earth Science, Chemistry, Astronomy, Geology, and Climate

  • Find what works for you with the timing. Reading the passage and then answering the questions works for some people.

  • A calculator is not allowed and some tests include basic calculations to be performed (addition/subtraction/multiplication/addition).

5th test

  • 20 minutes

  • Does not count towards your score

  • This is an ACT survey


  • 40 minutes

  • Writing an essay

  • Optional

  • Check with your university


Basic Ranges

Scores come weeks after you take the exam.

Here is a link to understanding your scores: Understanding Your Scores | ACT

According to the ACT the scores are broken down as follows:

Below Average Score Range: 1-16

Average Score Range: 17-24

Above Average Score Range: 25-36

“Composite, Subject, Super” What is happening?

You are scored per subject and then all the subjects are averaged together to form

the “composite” score (add them all and divide by 4). The writing is on a separate

score chart of 2-12. It is the only subject that does not impact your composite


In addition to subject and composite scores you will have an ELA and STEM

score. The ELA score is based off Reading, Writing, and English. You will not

receive one if you do not take the writing test. The STEM is scored from your

Math and Science exams.

A super score only applies if you take the ACT more than once. The super score is

made from your highest subject scores from each test. As of 2024, UCA will take

your super score. Some colleges including scholarships will only take your highest

composite score. They will not look at super scores.

Subject Scores and university placement and scholarships

Usually, colleges look at between an 18-22 for placement in 1010 and 1000

courses. Once your score goes above 22, this may mean “testing out” of some

college classes. The higher your score goes the more one question missed/not

missed will count. For example, missing one more question when you have a 26 on

the math exam may bring you down to a 25.

Composite score and university scholarships

Once you are above a 22 you are eligible for a lot more scholarships than if you

have below a 22. A lot of universities in Utah and other states have scholarship

money based off GPA and ACT scores. These are called Merit scholarships. Most

university scholarships give you more money, the higher the ACT and GPA score.

They normally have a “high” for the ACT and it will not matter how much higher

you have. This is why it is important to check out a few universities. Scholarships

on the Eastern seaboard and Ivy League schools often have higher ACT

requirements for scholarships.

Some colleges including top universities may view the ACT as a “grade recovery.”

This means that scoring high on the ACT can help you on your college journey

especially if you do not have a high GPA.


Remember that the ACT does not necessarily determine your strengths and

weaknesses in certain subjects or if you should go to college. Everybody is

different so find a way to study that works for you. You got this! Best wishes for

good luck on your ACT from a Utah Connections Academy student!

By Aspen Downing

A special thank you to the following individuals who reviewed one or more of the

guides: Ms. Blommer, Ms. Davidson, Ms. Greaney and Mr. Kukorlo.

Disclaimer: Author not responsible for outside content mentioned or suggestions of websites. Author not responsible for knowing ACT rules or content. The author wrote this to provide basic student information and is not accountable for students who followed said rules from author that violated ACT rules. Author not accountable for any student’s score or any failed suggestions. Author used information from, teachers, tutors, personal experience, The official ACT Prep Guide, Prep Pros, and other sources. The author used many sources during her ACT test prep and

research. Sources used were consulted wholly for educational purposes, and she did not receive any compensation whatsoever. The Author is not responsible for any content not limited to above mentioned.

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