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The American College Test (ACT), is the college admissions standardized test of choice for strong readers, students who prefer paper tests, and students who prefer straightforward questions. An alternative to the SAT, the ACT is accepted by every college admissions office. There is no advantage to one test over the other, but certainly one test will suit your child better! We will help your child determine if the ACT is right for them.

The ACT's Format

English: 75 questions in 45 minutes

This section tests a student's knowledge of grammar, basic writing structure (topic sentence, concluding sentence, sentence order), and revising techniques. This section is incredibly teachable!

Math: 60 questions in 60 minutes

This section tests a student's knowledge of math topics ranging from pre-algebra to pre-calculus. This section is all multiple choice (5 answer choices) and a calculator is allowed. The questions get progressively harder. This section is also incredibly teachable!

Reading: 40 questions in 35 minutes

This section tests a student's reading comprehension using 4 different passages: literary narrative, social science, humanities, and natural science. The correct answers are paraphrased from the passage (but watch out for tricks!). Students often struggle with the pacing and timing in this section.

Science: 40 questions in 35 minutes

This section tests a student's reading comprehension ad logic. It has 6 different passages and topics include biology, chemistry, physics, and Earth/space science. Some background knowledge is necessary for these topics, but it's very teachable! Students often struggle with the pacing and timing in this section.

Our individualized approach and experienced tutors can help your child achieve dramatic score increases quickly (provided your child completes the homework we assign!). We have been studying this test since we started tutoring for it over 10 years ago. We know the evolution of the test over the years and what exactly to teach.

Here's how we do it:

Red line of emphasis under Andersen Education's 3 steps to ACT success

Mo SM, current student who scored a 32 on her first ACT!

“I am so beyond grateful for all of your help. I have grown so much more confident while working with you and I completely feel the difference in my overall test taking, specifically math test taking, skills. I loved working with you and you’re an absolutely amazing tutor!”


Does my child really still have to take this test?

Yes, they (probably) do. Some may think we’re biased, but just because a school says they're test optional doesn't mean that they actually are. What do we mean by this? The school may say they're test optional, but if every student is still submitting test scores, are they still test optional? For example, Purdue says they're test optional, but 97% of students submit test scores. Scores can also be helpful for merit scholarships!


The schools they’re applying to won’t even look at their scores. 

Are you absolutely sure that every single school on their list is test blind? If so, then maybe it’s not worth the time and investment to get tutoring for the test. But what happens if one of the schools reverses its decision during your child’s application year? If you aren’t sure, it’s better to have some good scores in your child’s back pocket. 


But seriously, we are probably going to not submit their scores.

Full disclosure: It’s best to work with a college admissions consultant about whether or not to submit a student’s scores. We are test prep experts, not counselor/consultants. However, from what we’ve heard, it might be better to submit lower-than-competitive scores because we don’t want admissions officers assuming that the reason why you aren’t sending the scores is because they’re dreadful. 


When should my child start studying?

Some companies suggest 9-12 months to 1.5 years (!) to study, but we think 3-6 months of concentrated study starting in the summer between sophomore/junior year and ending in the spring of junior year, is best.

Which materials do you recommend using?

Please visit our Books and Tools page to see which materials we use to prepare our students for all levels of the ACT.

What about the SAT?

There are a few major differences that make a student immediately not even want to try the SAT, so it’s good to know these points ahead of time:

  • it's only available online

  • the reading passages are short and change every question, so there's a lot of task switching

  • the math gets very abstract


That said, every student should take a practice SAT, as annoying as it may seem for them. Taking a practice SAT will help the student determine which test they prefer and will eliminate any regrets/disruptive last minute changes to a prep plan. The scores won’t lie, either. 


Please see our SAT information page to learn more about whether or not the SAT might be a better fit for your child.

Ready to prepare your child for the ACT?

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