Getting Acquainted with the ACT

Written by Overseas Education Consultant and Study Abroad Career Counsellor in Mumbai, Karan Gupta


Shailesh Methta, studying on his cramped up desk was burning the mid-night oil as his SAT exam was three days later. His desk looked like an expensive American bookstore with Kaplan, Princeton Review and Barrons labels spread all over. On the side of his desk, hidden by all the clutter was an ACT brochure. At the back of his mind, Shailesh was now thinking whether he really needed to take the SAT.

The ACT, America’s most widely used undergraduate admissions test, will now be offered in Mumbai. Being in existence for over 47 years now, few Mumbai students are aware of this test. Easier and cheaper than the SAT, students may prefer abandoning the SAT for this test. ACT’s website states that “Virtually all colleges and universities accept ACT scores. The test measures what students have learned in high school and many students find it more comfortable because there are no trick questions. Colleges only see the scores that the students want them to see. And it's not the kind of college admissions exam that requires expensive test preparation courses.”

“For the longest time, undergraduate students looked only at the SAT for their US college applications. When we realized that the ACT can be used as an alternative to the SAT, we agreed to the act as the ACT testing center,” states Kamal Gupta, Chairman of Lala Lajpat Rai Institute of Management, the ACT testing center in Mumbai.

Comparison between the ACT and the SAT in Mumbai



Registration Fee $47 $81.50

Writing Test Optional and not offered

Additional score report

sending fee

Preferred by Public schools Private schools

Can you decide which

score to send the college

How  do questions appear No order of difficulty Order of difficulty

Style of Test Straightforward, with few

Penalty For Wrong


Structure of Test English: 45 min

Writing test required and

offered outside the US

outside the US

$7 per college choice $9 per college choice

Yes No

Tricky questions

wrong answers

No Yes

Dates when exam is

conducted in Mumbai

Math: 60 min

Reading: 40 min

Science Reasoning: 35 min

Optional Essay: 30 min

Four times per year:


Critical Reading: 70 min

Math: 70 min

Writing: 60 min

Experimental sec: 25 min

Six times per year:





Scoring 1-36 for each subject,

averaged together for a

composite score. A separate

essay score ranging from 1

to 6 along with a subscore

ranging from 2 to 12 added

to the English test score.






Three scores ranging from

200-800 for Math, Reading

and Writing. A separate

essay score ranging from 2

to 12.


The ACT has four sections – English, Math, Reading and Science Reasoning. The English section has 74 questions on sentence correction, the Math section has 60 math problems on 11 th and 12 th grade topics, the Reading section has 40 questions on reading comprehension and the Science Reasoning section has 40 questions on logical science reasoning. And don’t let the name “Science Reasoning” fool you. This section does not need prior scientific knowledge and can be answered using your logic and common sense. The ACT also has an optional writing section but unfortunately the writing test will not be offered outside the US for the 2005-2006 testing year.

This brings us to the disadvantage of the ACT. Many colleges in the US need the writing test from applicants. And since the SAT II Writing test is not offered anymore, students will have to appear for the SAT exam to get a writing score. Therefore, if your college needs the writing test, you will have to appear for the ACT as well as the SAT. Many feel that this is not necessarily a disadvantage. “I encourage my students to take both the SAT as well as the ACT. The tests are different and some students may find they are more comfortable with one test over the other. When the students receive their results, they can then decide if they want to retake either test. As long as the schools they are applying to accept either test or admission, I would advise them to retake the one that they felt most comfortable with and received the higher score. Again, the students should check with the schools they are interested in applying to and make sure they accept either test for admission. Additionally, they should verify whether the school requires the writing assessment, as the ACT writing option is not currently available to take in India,” states Katie Freeman, Guidance Counselor of the American Embassy School in New Delhi.

“None of my friends have heard about the ACT. But after I read the syllabus and tried a test, I am confident that this exam is easier than the SAT. I hate writing essays and now I won’t have to,” states Abhinav, an undergraduate student. “The ACT is more straightforward because the questions are less tricky. Like the SAT, there is no specific matter to be learnt but unlike the SAT, there is no need to spend time on learning wordlists,” says Helen Mathur, an education consultant. Look over the test papers for the ACT as well as the SAT and decide which exam is easier for you. If the SAT makes you nervous and unhappy, you now have an alterative. 

Karan Gupta
The author is an education consultant

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