The ACT (/eɪ siː tiː/ ay-see-tee; originally an abbreviation of American College Testing) college readiness assessment is a standardized test for high school achievement and college admissions in the United States produced by ACT, Inc. It was first administered in November 1959 by Everett Franklin Lindquist as a competitor to the College Board's Scholastic Aptitude Test, now the SAT Reasoning Test. The ACT originally consisted of four tests: English, Mathematics, Social Studies, and Natural Sciences. In 1989, the Social Studies test was changed into a Reading section (which included a Social Studies subsection) and the Natural Sciences test was renamed the Science Reasoning test, with more emphasis on problem solving skills. In February 2005, an optional Writing test was added to the ACT, mirroring changes to the SAT that took place later in March of the same year. In the spring of 2015, the ACT will start to be offered as a computer-based test that will incorporate some optional Constructed Response Questions; the test content, composite score, and multiple choice format will not be affected by these changes. The test will continue to be offered in the paper format for schools that are not ready to transition to computer testing.
The ACT has seen a gradual increase in the number of test takers since its inception, and in 2011 the ACT surpassed the SAT for the first time in total test takers; that year, 1,666,017 students took the ACT and 1,664,479 students took the SAT. All four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. accept the ACT, but different institutions place different emphases on standardized tests such as the ACT, compared to other factors of evaluation such as class rank, GPA, and extracurricular activities. The main four tests are scored individually on a scale of 1–36, and a Composite score is provided which is the whole number average of the four scores.
What is the difference between the ACT and SAT?
The ACT is an achievement test, measuring what a student has learned in school. The SAT is more of an aptitude test, testing reasoning and verbal abilities.
The ACT has up to 5 components: English, Mathematics, Reading, Science, and an optional Writing Test. The SAT has only 3 components: Critical Reading, Mathematics, and a required Writing Test.
The College Board introduced a new version of the SAT in 2005, with a mandatory writing test. ACT continues to offer its well-established test, plus an optional writing test. You take the ACT Writing Test only if required or requested by the college(s) you're applying to.
The SAT penalizes you for wrong answers, so guessing is discouraged. The ACT is scored based on the number of correct answers with no penalty for guessing.
The ACT has an Interest Inventory that allows students to evaluate their interests in various career options.