The ACT is daunting. It just is. One of the most intimidating things about it is the average student's initial uncertainty as to what types of questions are going to be asked:Will it test vocabulary? What's tested on the science section? How many formulas do I need to memorize?The best way to clear up the confusion is to look at some ACT sample questions, so you can get a sense ofwhat to expect on test day. As you are most likely aware, there are five sectionson the ACT—English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing—each of whichhas its own types of questions. In this article, I'll guide you through every type of question you're going to encounter in each of these areas and offer some tips on preparing for them. Good question! Well, a big part of being prepared for the ACT is knowing what to expect when you open that test booklet. Increased familiarity with the material will ease your mind as the big day approaches and inform your study habits. Why waste time preparing for a task that doesn't appear on the exam? Instead, you should focus your energy on drilling the types of questions that actually matter. Imagine a vocab quiz.How would you study if you knew you'd be asked to... Obviously, your approach would be very different given each scenario. And so it should be! Now, onward, to exploreofficial ACTsample questions. Vocab quizzes: the result of an unholy union between Scrabble and alphabet soup. All seventy-five English questions are multiple choice. They are all situated within the context of five, fifteen-question passages: no sentence stands in isolation. Most questions require you to determinewhich version of an underlined word or phrase is the best, but some ask about the author's intentions. There are two major categories of questions in the English section. Punctuation questions test your understanding of commas, apostrophes, colons, semicolons, em-dashes, periods, question marks, and exclamation points. Grammar and usage questions test your sense of grammatical agreement, verb use, pronoun use, comparative and superlative modifiers, and idioms. Sentence structure questions test your skill with dependent clause placement; run-ons, fused sentences, and comma splices; fragments; misplaced modifiers; and shifts in tense, voice, person, and number. Writing strategy questions test your recognition of the author's choices and strategies —when and why might an editor add, delete, or modify a given statement?
Why Do I Need to Know All the ACT Question Types?
Sample ACT English Questions
Usage and Mechanics
The ACT is daunting. It just is. One of the most intimidating things about it is the average student's initial uncertainty as to what types of questions are going to be asked:Will it test vocabulary? What's tested on the science section? How many formulas do I need to memorize?The best way to clear up the confusion is to look at some ACT sample questions, so you can get a sense ofwhat to expect on test day.
As you are most likely aware, there are five sectionson the ACT—English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing—each of whichhas its own types of questions. In this article, I'll guide you through every type of question you're going to encounter in each of these areas and offer some tips on preparing for them.
Good question! Well, a big part of being prepared for the ACT is knowing what to expect when you open that test booklet. Increased familiarity with the material will ease your mind as the big day approaches and inform your study habits. Why waste time preparing for a task that doesn't appear on the exam? Instead, you should focus your energy on drilling the types of questions that actually matter.
Imagine a vocab quiz.How would you study if you knew you'd be asked to...
Obviously, your approach would be very different given each scenario. And so it should be! Now, onward, to exploreofficial ACTsample questions.
Vocab quizzes: the result of an unholy union between Scrabble and alphabet soup.
All seventy-five English questions are multiple choice. They are all situated within the context of five, fifteen-question passages: no sentence stands in isolation.
Most questions require you to determinewhich version of an underlined word or phrase is the best, but some ask about the author's intentions.
There are two major categories of questions in the English section.
Punctuation questions test your understanding of commas, apostrophes, colons, semicolons, em-dashes, periods, question marks, and exclamation points.
Grammar and usage questions test your sense of grammatical agreement, verb use, pronoun use, comparative and superlative modifiers, and idioms.
Sentence structure questions test your skill with dependent clause placement; run-ons, fused sentences, and comma splices; fragments; misplaced modifiers; and shifts in tense, voice, person, and number.
Writing strategy questions test your recognition of the author's choices and strategies —when and why might an editor add, delete, or modify a given statement?
Organization questions test your knowledge of the best order and coherence of ideas as well as your ability to craft skillful introductions, transitions, and conclusions.
Style questions test your discernment of tone, clarity, and economy (not using words that you don't need).
For a more in-depth discussion of all of these skills, I heartily recommend our complete guide to ACT grammar and our analysis of which rules are most crucial to master. If you want a more detailed explanation of some of the terms and categories I threw around in this section, check out our article on what ACT English really tests—practically speaking. Don't forget our ultimate guide if there's anything else you want to examine in more depth!
All sixty math questions are multiple choice and have five possible answers.
Questions get progressively more challenging throughout the section. This is a general trend, not an exact science. In other words, question 1may not be the single easiest problem, and question 60may not be the single hardest problem, but question 60will be orders of magnitude harder than question 1.
As far as content is concerned, the ACT aims to test the following topics:
- Pre-algebra (14 questions, or 23% of the section)
- Elementary algebra (10 questions, or 17% of the section)
- Intermediate algebra (9 questions, or 15% of the section)
- Coordinate geometry (9 questions, or 15% of the section)
- Plane geometry (14 questions, or 23% of the section)
- Trigonometry (4 questions, or 7% of the section)
If you want to review any particular topics within these arenas, definitely consult our many guides on subjects from basic integer theory to dealing with functions.
The six content areas above can be tested in three different ways:
- General math questions
- Math questions in settings
- Question sets
I'm always making my calculator angry. I know exactly which buttons to push.
General Math Questions
These questions canbe basic in style or more complex. Basic math problems are straightforward: they may test difficult topics, but they're concise and don't give you anyunnecessary information. What you see is what you get. Answers are numeric in nature.
The more complex questions shake things up a little bit. Some include too much or too little information. Answers may be numeric, or they may appear as expressions, equations, or statements. There may be figures or diagrams to analyze.
As you can see, this is kind of a catch-all category including a range of questions with no other well-defined characteristics.
Math Questions in Settings
These are what we often refer to as word problems or story problems. They typically describe an everyday situation, and the equation isn't set up for you: you need to convertthe circumstances described into a math problem.
These are simply groups of questions that relate back to the same set of information:a paragraph, a diagram, or another scenario.These problems are easy to recognize, since they're always preceded by a box that explains how many problems are part of the set. This is yet another reason to read instructions carefully; skimming through the math section is a sure-fire way to miss these cues!
For more info on ACT math questions, check out our ultimate guide to ACT math.
There are ten questions dedicated to each of the four segments of this test. Each segment consists of one long passage or one pair of shorter passages. All forty questions are multiple choice.
There are four genres of literature that will appear on the ACT, always in the following order:
- Prose fiction:Typically a short story or an excerpt from a novel, prose fiction includes a narrated series of events or a progressive revelation of character.
- Social studies:Texts within this category discuss anything from anthropology and biography to psychology and sociology—any "soft" science or study of human phenomena. These passages present information gatheredvia rigorous research.
- Humanities:These texts can draw on arts of any flavor, ethics and philosophy, or personal reflections. The focus is on describing and analyzingarts and ideas.
- Natural science:This kind of text is rooted in any of the "hard" sciences—biology, chemistry, physics, etc. The aim is simply to explore a significant scientific topic.
You'll be asked to complete the following types of questions:
- Main idea
- Compare and contrast
- Cause and effect
- Author intent and tone
This cactus has clearly had too much caffeine. I'm never thisexcited to be reading the dictionary!
The questions ask you to find information in the passage. For example, in the following question, you need to find a specific detail that was explained in the passage. The question states that it wants one data point that was "described in the passage".
Main Idea Questions
This type requires you to examine passages globally to determine main ideas. The following question refers to the passage "as a whole" and ask that you characterize its entire arc. We might suppose that the answer is never explicitly stated but derives from the sum of the article's many parts.
Compare and Contrast Questions
These are exactly what they sound like: you'll need to compare and contrast information given in a single long passage or in the two shorterpaired passages. For instance, the following question asks you to find what's similar across two short passages. (Note, though, that it could just as easily have asked for the primary difference between them.)
These are the trickiest type of reading question: they ask you to identify the logicunderlying a claimor extend the implication of a statement. For instance, in the following question, you're asked to describe what the author "implies" about what people "commonly assume."
Cause and Effect Questions
These are specific type of inference question that require you to analyzecause and effect and sequences of events. You should understand what happened when and which event caused what. The following question asks about why the trap-jaw ant has developed the characteristics it possesses today: i.e. what happened originally to cause this new development in turn.
These questions point you towards a specific instance of aword or phrase within the text, then ask you to offer a rough definition based on its use in context.
Author Intent and Tone Questions
For these, you'll be asked to draw conclusions about the author's voice and method. You should be able to explain the author's view of and attitude towards the topic, and you should also be able to identify why the author made certain salient choices. For instance, the following questions asks about the "author's attitude" and offers various descriptions of possible view points in the answer choices.
For good, solid advice on how to attack ACT reading, check outour ultimate guide to the subject.
The science section consists of seven passages, with forty multiple-choice questions. (Technically,there could be more or fewer passages, but there are almost always seven.) There are four categories of passages, content-wise:
- Biology:cellular biology, botany, zoology, microbiology, ecology, or genetics
- Chemistry:properties of matter, pH, kinetics and equilibria, thermochemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, or nuclear chemistry
- Physics:mechanics, thermodynamics, electromagnetism, fluids, solids, and optics
- Earth/space:geology, meteorology, oceanography, astronomy, and thermodynamics
There are also three different passage formats, which I'll explore further below:
- Data representation
- Research summaries
- Conflicting viewpoints
Fortunately, you will not be asked to spell deoxyribonucleic acid.
These passages contain a short introductory paragraph and a fewcharts, graphs, and diagrams. They look like something you might find in a science journal or textbook explaining a naturalphenomenon. You'll be asked to interpret charts and tables, read graphs, evaluate scatterplots, and analyze information in diagrams.
These passages describe scientific studies. Generally speaking, you'll see two or three experiments per passage. The design, procedures, and results will all be set down for you. Graphs and tables are likely to be featured, but not guaranteed. You'll be asked to understand, evaluate, and interpret the design and procedures, and analyzethe results of the studies.
This type of passage summarizes atleast two alternative theories, hypotheses, or scientific viewpoints. Each will be based on different premises or a set of incomplete data, and they will be inconsistent with each other. You'll be asked to understand, analyze, evaluate, compare, and contrast several theories, hypotheses, and viewpoints.
Don't stop exploring science there! Take a moment to exploreour ultimate guide to this portion of the ACT.
You won't actually need all four pencils on test day.
The ACT essay is a whole different ballgame from what it used to be.The new, enhanced essay presents you with a summary of some controversial issue and three different perspectives on that issue. You're expected to evaluate and analyze the perspectives; state and develop your own perspective, which may align with any one of the other three or none at all; and explain the relationship between your perspective and the three given. You have forty minutes to plan and write a relevant essay.
I urge you to read about the specific types of prompts you're likely to encounter and how to nail this task with a perfect score.
Now that you know what you've seen every type of sample ACT question and know what you'llencounter on the test, it's time to think about learning some new strategies. Consider this list of 21 tips everyone could use, or these 15 tips designed to boost that score. Also consider picking up one of these ten highly recommended books to help you prepare for the test. If you've already settled on using the official guide, read how to use that tool to its greatest advanatage. Of course, you'll want to augment any book(s) with some of these wonderful websites!
Rather than diving right into diverse resources with no sense of where you're headed, though, do make sure you take time to assemble a study plan, whether you're a sophomore or junior, a rising senior, or just really pressed for time. Also be thinking about what you really want out of the ACT. Read about what score you need to get where you want to go, and read about what a good ACT score really means.
Finally, consider adding a program with PrepScholar to your study plans. PrepScholar will help you focus in on the exact types of questions that challenge you the most so that your studying is as effective as possible.
Want to improve your ACT score by 4+ points? Download our free guide to the top 5 strategies you need in your prep to improve your ACT score dramatically.
About the Author
Vero is a firsthand expert at standardized testing and the college application process. Though neither parent had graduated high school, and test prep was out of the question, she scored in the 99th percentile on both the SAT and ACT, taking each test only once. She attended Dartmouth, graduating as salutatorian of 2013. She later worked as a professional tutor. She has a great passion for the arts, especially theater.
Get Free Guides to Boost Your SAT/ACT
First of all, there is no penalty for choosing a wrong answer on the ACT, so make sure to never leave a question blank. You'll earn one point for every correct answer you choose and zero points for any blank or wrong answers, so it doesn't hurt you to make a guess.What is the most common correct answer on the ACT? ›
The Safe Bet: Answer choice E/K is the safest choice because it, so far, has always had one correct answer. In fact, E/K has met or exceeded the expected average 82% of the time, making it the most consistent answer choice.How many questions can you miss to get a 25 on the ACT? ›
Overall, you can skip/get wrong around 50 questions per ACT test to get a composite score of 26. For English, you can skip/miss 14 questions on average to get a 26. For Math, you can skip/miss 17 questions on average to get a 26. For Reading, you can skip/miss 11 questions on average to get a 26.What are the 3 types of questions you will see on the ACT English test? ›
- Sample ACT English Test Questions.
- Usage/Mechanics Question.
- Answer: This question tests a student's knowledge of run-on sentences and punctuation rules. ...
- Rhetorical Skills Question.
In other words? There is no most common answer on the SAT. Ultimately, guessing C (or any letter!) will give you the correct answer only a statistical 25% of the time.Can you miss a question and still get a 36 on the ACT? ›
Any way you calculate it, you can miss or skip a maximum of 2 questions to get a 36 composite score. That's not a lot, so if you're hoping for a perfect score, you will need a lot of practice.What score would you get if you guessed on the ACT? ›
Even if you guessed on every question, you'd get a composite score of around 11-13. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that you will get the lowest possible score—or even a score lower than 11—on the ACT.Is it better to skip or guess on the ACT? ›
There is no penalty for guessing on the ACT. Never, ever, ever, leave any answers blank. You have a 25% chance of getting the question right if you guess. So at the very least, always guess!What is the most common letter in multiple choice? ›
Remember, the expected likelihood of each option being correct is 25%. And on tests with five choices (say, A, B, C, D, and E), E was the most commonly correct answer (23%).What is an 86% on the ACT? ›
|Percentile rankings are based on ACT-tested high school graduates from 2016 - 2018|
|ACT Score||English Percentile||Composite Percentile|
It is important to answer all of the questions in each section of the ACT exam. Students are awarded points for each question they answer correctly, and no points are deducted for incorrect answers. Even if you feel the need to guess on a question, remember, you will not be penalized if you get it wrong.How long does it take to get ACT scores back? ›
Multiple choice scores are normally available two weeks after each national test date, but it can sometimes take up to eight weeks.How do I prepare for ACT English? ›
- Remember the 4 C's. Good writing should be in complete sentences. ...
- Know what ACT Grammar Rules to Expect. ...
- Let the Answers Help You. ...
- Trust Your Ear (But Double-Check) ...
- Cross Off Answers That Don't Fix the Error. ...
- Don't Change What Isn't Broken.
Most people (and tutors) tell students that, if they have no idea on a question, to just guess answer choice “C” — the middle answer on most multiple choice tests.What is the best guess on a multiple choice test? ›
Eliminate the highest and lowest options. Certain questions have answers that are closely related or almost identical, except for one detail. This should be your clue to choose one of the two similar answers. The similar choices cannot both be correct, but either of them may be the correct answer.How do you outsmart a multiple choice test? ›
- 4 ways to outsmart any multiple-choice test. A few simple tips can give you an edge on multiple-choice tests. ...
- Ignore conventional wisdom. ...
- Look at the surrounding answers. ...
- Choose the longest answer.
- Eliminate the outliers.
A 27 ACT score puts you a good deal about the national average (20.8) and makes you eligible for acceptance at a vast majority of schools. It also makes you competitive at some selective institutions, as well as eligible for merit aid! Considering those things, it's easy to say that a 27 ACT score is good.Is 19 a good ACT score? ›
What Is a Good ACT Score Overall? A good ACT score ranks you higher than the majority of test-takers. As such, any composite score above the 50th percentile, or 19-20, can be considered a solid score.
A score of 23 on the ACT is above the current national average and will make you a strong applicant at many universities, but it may fall below the average score for accepted students at more selective colleges. The higher your ACT score, the more options are open to you.What is the lowest ACT score to get into Harvard? ›
With an acceptance rate of 4.5%, admission to Harvard is extremely competitive. Based on our analysis, to have a good chance of being admitted, you need to be at the top of your class and have an SAT score of at least 1560, or an ACT score of at least 35.What is the lowest ACT score to get into college? ›
The top 100 US colleges and universities consider ACT scores from 17 to 36 good. The majority of highly selective schools prefer applicants with ACT scores of 30 and higher. On the other hand, many high-ranking US schools that are not that selective accept students with ACT scores of at least 18.What's the lowest ACT score you can get? ›
Your Composite score and each test score (English, mathematics, reading, science) range from 1 (low) to 36 (high). The Composite score is the average of your four test scores, rounded to the nearest whole number.Does retaking the ACT improve your score? ›
What Can We Say About Repeat-Tested Scores? Students who retake the ACT are generally looking to improve their scores. Of 2015 graduates who retested, 57% improved their Composite score on their second testing. However, 22% saw their Composite score decrease on their second test.How many can you miss to get a 30 on the ACT? ›
To get a 30, you must score highly on all four sections of the exam (excluding Writing). Specifically, you'll need to get at least a 30 on two sections and a composite score of 29.5 (which rounds to 30) or higher.What is the average ACT score? ›
Average Score on the ACT
The latest scoring data (2021) shows that the average composite score on the ACT is a 20.3.
Neither the SAT or ACT is harder than the other. Different students tend to do better on one test over the other.What are the chances of passing a multiple choice test? ›
The multiple-choice questions on this test have four choices, so your odds are 1 out of 4 that you can pick correctly. To put it another way, you have a 25 percent chance of guessing correctly. These aren't great odds, so you have to find a way to increase them.How do I stop second guessing myself on tests? ›
If you work through the exam calmly and methodically, you can avoid second guessing yourself. Once you have committed to an answer, don't go back and change it unless you can identify a good reason to reject your original selection.
Is 22 a good ACT score? A 22 ACT score is above the national average score of 21, making you eligible to apply as a good candidate to many colleges.Is a 25 on the ACT good for the first time? ›
Earning an ACT score of 25 puts you above average, making you eligible at a wide variety of schools and competitive at some selective institutions. To put this accomplishment in another light, a 25 ACT score puts you at the 75th percentile — that means you scored higher than 75% of all test takers.Can you get a 0 on Sat? ›
On the Redesigned SAT, however, leaving the test blank and taking a nap will result in the lowest possible score, since you would get a raw score of 0.What is the top 1 ACT score? ›
So what is a perfect ACT score? The perfect composite score is 36. This score is an average of your four section scores for English, Math, Reading, and Science.Is 28 a good ACT score? ›
Looking at this from that percentage angle, an ACT score of 28 puts you at the 88th percentile — that means you scored higher than 88% of all test takers, of which there are nearly 2 million. All that considered, a 28 is definitely a good score!Is 24 a good ACT score? ›
A score of 24 on the ACT certainly makes you an eligible candidate, as well as competitive! To put this another way, a 24 ACT score puts you at the 73rd percentile, meaning you scored higher than 73% of all test takers — which is definitely something to be proud of!Is 32 a good ACT score? ›
All that considered, yes, 32 is a good ACT score. To show you just how good, we have to look at the percentiles. A 32 ACT score puts you at the 97th percentile — that means you scored higher than 97% all test takers!Is 30 a good ACT score? ›
Because of all this, a 30 ACT score is definitely considered good! To help you understand your standing within all test takers, a score of 30 on the ACT puts you at the 93rd percentile, meaning you scored higher than 93% of all test takers.Is 20 a good ACT score? ›
A 20 ACT score puts you at the 49th percentile, meaning you scored higher than 49% of all test takers — which is certainly something to be proud of! To increase your competitiveness during the college application process, though, you'll want to meet or exceed the national average, which is closer to a score of 21.Is every question worth the same on the ACT? ›
ACT Raw Score vs Scale Score
You're given a point for every question you get right (there's no penalty or point deduction for wrong answers). The total number of questions you get right on each test (English, Math, Reading, and Science) equals your raw score .
Students will be awarded points for each correct answer with no points taken away for any incorrect ones. This is why never leaving an answer blank on your test is so important. You can only gain by taking a stab at the question. If you leave it blank, you will most certainly get it wrong.Is it better to guess on ACT or leave blank? ›
There is no penalty for guessing on the ACT. Never, ever, ever, leave any answers blank. You have a 25% chance of getting the question right if you guess. So at the very least, always guess!Is it hard to get a 27 on the ACT? ›
Getting a 27+ on the ACT is doable, but if you do really badly in one section, that section could pull your entire score to 26 or lower. Don't let this happen! With study and hard work, you can be strong enough on the exam to get a 27—even if your scores in a section or two are a little below that 27 target.What is a 70% ON ACT? ›
|ACT Score||English Percentile||Composite Percentile|
|Percentile rankings are based on ACT-tested high school graduates from 2016 - 2018|
Getting a perfect ACT score is a pretty rare feat. The number of students in 2020 who scored a full 36 was 5,579 out of over 1.6 million — or about 0.33% of test-takers.What score would you get if you guessed on the ACT? ›
Even if you guessed on every question, you'd get a composite score of around 11-13. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that you will get the lowest possible score—or even a score lower than 11—on the ACT.Is it hard to get a 26 on the ACT? ›
Is a 26 a good ACT score? Yes, a score of 26 is very competitive. It places you in the top 82nd percentile nationally out of the 2 million test takers of the ACT entrance exam.Is it normal to not finish the ACT? ›
Not finishing your test does affect your ACT score. In the ACT, you gain points by answering questions correctly. By not finishing, you miss the points you might have gained from those questions.Does retaking the ACT improve your score? ›
What Can We Say About Repeat-Tested Scores? Students who retake the ACT are generally looking to improve their scores. Of 2015 graduates who retested, 57% improved their Composite score on their second testing. However, 22% saw their Composite score decrease on their second test.
What Is a Good ACT Score Overall? A good ACT score ranks you higher than the majority of test-takers. As such, any composite score above the 50th percentile, or 19-20, can be considered a solid score.What is the most correct answer in multiple choice? ›
7 Tips and Strategies for Answering Multiple Choice Questions - YouTubeIs 36 a good ACT score? ›
A 36 ACT score is most certainly good — in fact, it's great. It's the best possible score! A 36 ACT score makes you eligible to apply as a competitive candidate at all institutions — this includes elite and selective colleges and universities, as well. On top of that, you can expect a sizable amount of merit aid.Is 35 a good ACT score? ›
Because it provides access to the widest variety of college options, an ACT score of 35 is one of the best possible scores. To understand how proud you should be of your score, a 35 ACT score puts you at the 99th percentile — that means you scored higher than 99% of all test takers! Now go celebrate!How quickly do ACT scores come back? ›
ACT Customer Support cannot provide your scores by phone, email, chat, or fax. Multiple choice scores are normally available two weeks after each national test date, but it can sometimes take up to eight weeks.