While you're in high school, you will take either one or both of the standardized tests required for college admissions: the SAT or the ACT. In the past, colleges would require applicants to take both of these tests, but you can choose which test you want to take. In many cases, applicants will still take both tests and send their best scores to increase their chances of getting into the school they want.

If you're trying to decide which test is right for you, or you're just looking to learn a little more about them in general, then it would be a good idea to start with the acronyms, specifically the ACT test.


ACT stands for "American College Test," however, this term is no longer used.

What Is the ACT Test?

The ACT is a standardized test that's used to assess a high school's students readiness for college, according to the Princeton Review. It provides college admission counselors a way to compare applicants at one common data point. Students who want to score well on the ACT will usually spend several months preparing for the questions they will need to answer within the various sections that will be on the test. The ACT has four required sections and one optional section:

  • Reading
  • Math
  • Science
  • English
  • Writing (Optional)

What Does the ACT Test Stand For?

The ACT, when it was first started, stood for the "American College Test." It was a program started by a professor at the University of Iowa, named Everett Franklin Lindquist, according to Prepscholar.

Linquist created the test because he believed it would be a better alternative to the SAT, which had already been around for three decades. While the SAT continued to be more popular for many years, the ACT is being taken just as frequently. Today, "ACT" no longer stands for "American College Test." It is just referred to as "ACT."

What Is the Ideal ACT Score Range?

Every college will have a different ACT score range that it prefers from applicants. While there is usually no "required" score, there's typically an average range that the school looks for. If your score falls below that range or at the low-end of that range, it could hurt your chances of getting in.

The ACT is scored by first taking your raw score from each section of the test, according to PrepScholar. Using the ACT scaling chart, you can see what your raw score is as a scaled score. By adding up your scaled score from each section and dividing it by four (because their are four sections), you'll get your composite score, which is your overall score on the ACT. The lowest ACT score you can get is a one and the highest ACT score is a 36.

To get an idea of what score you'll want to reach for, you should research your prospective schools and see what score they prefer. For instance, while Yale has an average ACT score of 34 (extremely competitive), according to Prepscholar, other schools are not as competitive.

What to Remember About the ACT

Knowing what the ACT stands for won't make a difference on how you perform on the test. What will make a difference is how much time you put in studying. There are many resources out there to help you prepare for the ACT as much as you can.

But even with the right amount of preparation, test-taking doesn't come easily to some students. Don't let this worry you. Remember that when you submit your college applications, college admission counselors are not only looking at your ACT or SAT score but your GPA, your involvement in volunteer opportunities, extracurricular activities and your personal statement.

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