ACT® Prep

With Shmoop, you'll be able to Hulk Smash the ACT. Just try to leave the desk intact.

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About the ACT

What is the ACT?

For most of us, the prospect of taking the ACT is about as fun as the prospect of getting a tetanus shot, but we want to change that attitude. We want you to be excited about flexing your big brains on ACT test day. And by the end of this guide, you’ll be thinking of the exam as the lollipop at the end of that dark, dark forced immunization tunnel. Promise.

ACT Review

The ACT test is:

  • A standardized test
  • 2 hours and 55 minutes long (3 hours and 25 minutes with the optional Writing Test)
  • Composed of 215 questions
  • Multiple-choice (except in the case of the optional Writing Test, which involves writing)

The ACT is composed of 4 main tests and 1 optional test:

We'll take you on a guided tour of each test later on.

How Do I Sign Up for the ACT?

You can register for the ACT by going to the ACT website. The test is offered in all 50 states from September to June of every year (usually in September, October, December, February, April, and June). It costs $33 to take the test without the optional Writing Test, and it costs $48 to take the test with the optional Writing Test. Every college admissions office in America accepts the ACT, though some colleges give it different weight in their evaluation processes.

Wondering Why You Should Take the ACT?

Things to get you motivated:

  • Almost all colleges and universities accept the ACT.
  • When compared with a student's GPA, his or her ACT results will confirm the student's readiness for college.
  • Taking the ACT might give you the opportunity to access to scholarships and other benefits.
  • You can bypass introductory college courses.
  • You might potentially even fulfill your writing assessment requirement for certain institutions.

Learn more about the scholarships and college in general in Shmoop's college 101.

When Should I Take the ACT?

It's a matter of personal choice, really, but we suggest taking the test in your junior year. If push comes to shove, you can always take it again in the fall of your senior year. 55% of students who retake the ACT improve their composite score.

However, we know standardized tests can get pricey (college application fees, too), so, if you're only able to take the ACT once, that’s okay too. Shmoop can help you practice, practice, practice so that you are more than ready for game day. Be aware of college application deadlines so you can get your test scores in on time. Give yourself enough time to get scores to the right colleges.

Free excerpts from Shmoop's online ACT subject material:

* ACT is a federally registered trademark of ACT, Inc. Shmoop University is not affiliated with or endorsed by ACT, Inc.