FACT: The average ACT score improvement for Great Expectations students in the Class of ’21 was 5 points.


Far too many people overlook the ACT as a viable option because they don’t know enough about it. It is a fair, straight-forward test that EVERY college accepts (and respects equally to the SAT), and it hasn’t undergone any massive structural changes recently — only tiny ones here and there, as ACT rolls out their changes slowly and carefully. The biggest challenge with the ACT is that it moves quickly, so students have to learn to keep pace (which we can certainly help them with) — but it isn’t as tricky as the SAT. ACT math goes through Algebra II, and the hardest questions touch on some early trigonometry and statistics concepts.

One aspect of the ACT that scares a lot of kids off is the Science section, but be aware that it does NOT test science beyond the 7th or 8th grade level (gas vs. liquid vs. solid, and so forth)…it’s testing a student’s ability to read and interpret graphs and charts. That’s it! Virtually no outside knowledge is needed.

NOTE: For those students who don’t know which exam they want to pursue (ACT or SAT), we offer a program that is an efficient, cost-effective way to truly determine which test is the best fit. We encourage you to explore our  group programs to learn more about what they offer, how they work, et cetera.


The ACT with Writing (never sign up without the Writing section!) consists of five sections that span 3 hours and 35 minutes:

  • One 45-minute English section, which tests grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure
  • One 60-minute Math section, which tests arithmetic, algebra (I and II), geometry, trigonometry, probability, and statistics
  • One 35-minute Reading section, which tests reading comprehension
  • One 35-minute Science section, which tests your ability to interpret and analyze data (no actual material from your sciences classes is tested!)
  • One 40-minute Essay section, which tests your overall writing skills and ability to present and defend a thesis

The ACT does not penalize students for wrong answers, so no question should ever be left blank.

The English, Math, Reading, and Science sections are scored between 0 and 36, and your composite score is the average of these four sections. The national average is a 21.

The essay is scored out of 12 and does not impact your composite score; rather, in the corner of your score report, you will see your essay score and a Combined English/Writing score. Again, neither of these are taken into consideration for your composite — they are just additional information for college admissions officers to consider.



The ACT is typically better for students who can pace themselves well and are good at solving straight-forward questions. Since there is no penalty for wrong answers, educated guesses are encouraged here — so no worrying about whether or not to trust your hunch.

Our tutors will help students review all of the material tested on the ACT, from grammar rules to function problems. But mastering content is only half the battle. The greatest challenge the ACT presents is time management, and our tutors work with students to break down the longer sections (Math is 60 questions in 60 minutes!) into bite-sized pieces. We strongly encourage students to use a silent stopwatch to keep pace throughout the test, checking their progress against particular time markers.

We typically suggest that students take the ACT 2-3 times, spreading their hours of test preparation over those weeks/months. This doesn’t necessarily mean more preparation — just not as concentrated. “Putting all your eggs in one basket,” so to speak, puts undue pressure on a single sitting, which often results in less-than-stellar scores — not to mention if something goes wrong and negatively impacts your score! Misbubbling, fire alarms going off, a nasty flu, or an annoying neighbor can all impact your performance, and if you sunk all of your prep into this one test date, you’re out of luck.

If a student takes it once after covering the fundamentals with his/her tutor and then reviews the results with said tutor, the tutor can then see how well the student implemented certain strategies under pressure and proceed to tweak them for the second sitting. You’re also increasing the chances of benefitting from a Reading passage you recognize (after all, passages are excerpted from real books!), a Science passage that is just common sense, a Math section that doesn’t have as many of a particular problem type you hate, or a Writing passage that tests more rules that you are familiar with than ones you aren’t. A lot of it comes down to chance, so don’t let everything ride on a single test date.

One cautionary note: the #1 challenge the ACT presents test-takers with is the requirement to move quickly and efficiently through the sections. Therefore, they are typically more hesitant to offer accommodations than College Board, as they feel it gives students a disproportionate advantage. Of course, if you approach them with the proper documentation, your request for extended time should be granted. For more information, please visit our Extended Time page.

Explore our various Classic packages, Classic+ packages, and Founder’s Circle packages to determine which is best for you!