What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

What is the PreACT? What do Students Need to Know?

Many students and parents have heard of the PSAT, or Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, a well-known exam taken by American high school sophomores and juniors in preparation for the SAT. However, not all students take the PSAT and SAT as part of their college admissions journey. In fact, around 3 million high school students a year sit for the ACT (short for American College Testing) instead. Developed in the fall of 2016, the PreACT is a relatively new exam created to help students who plan to take the ACT. This exam allows students to experience and practice for the ACT test—and then hone their study methods based on that insight.


What Is the PreACT?

Designed for high school sophomores, the PreACT is a multiple choice exam that familiarizes students with the ACT. Mirroring the style of the official college entrance exam, this paper-based test features questions in four subject areas: English/language arts, math, reading, and science. The PreACT does differ from the ACT in one important way: it doesn’t include the writing test that students will find on the ACT exam. Because it doesn’t include this section, the PreACT takes about two hours, which is about an hour less than the full ACT exam.


Why Should Students Take the PreACT?

Wondering if your high schooler should take the PreACT? Here are some advantages of taking this exam before sitting for the ACT:


  • Insight Into Test Questions


The PreACT offers students unique insight into the type of content they can expect to find on the ACT. Because PreACT questions are reformulated versions of ACT questions, they offer a rich resource for students hoping to prepare for the college-entrance exam.


  • Structured Test Setting Practice


In addition to offering an inside look at the types of questions found on the ACT, the PreACT allows high schoolers to experience and acclimate to the testing environment. Although the PreACT is shorter than the college-entrance exam, it features the same multiple-choice questions and testing conditions. Early exposure to this exam setting is particularly valuable for students who suffer from test-taking anxiety, as it allows them to take the test in a low-stakes environment.


  • Opportunity for Intervention


Because the PreACT so closely resembles the ACT (like those of the ACT, PreACT scores range from 1 to 36), taking the former exam enables students to identify strengths and weaknesses early, leaving them time to improve their skills and scores. According to the PreACT website, test reporting includes data that teachers can use to target their interventions to help students succeed. Additionally, counselors and parents can utilize this information to advise students on course selection and guide them toward colleges and majors that fit their skill set.

What Other Ways Can Students Prepare for the ACT?

Taking the PreACT is an excellent way to prepare for this college entrance exam. However, students can also increase their readiness by taking timed ACT practice exams, available for free online. Test takers can also review the free practice questions that the ACT provides in English, math, science, reading, and writing (available on the ACT website). To make the most of these practice opportunities, students should simulate testing conditions by setting a timer and using only materials that will be permitted on testing day, like approved calculators and number 2 pencils. The ACT does not allow tests to be marked with mechanical pencils or pens.


Additionally, students can increase their odds of performing well on the ACT by understanding the scoring process. Many students focus on their composite score, which is the average of their scaled scores on all sections of the ACT. However, though the ACT composite score is an important factor in college admissions decisions, test-takers should be aware that section scores can influence their acceptance to a particular school or major program. For example, students who plan to major in English might not need as high scores on the math section as students who plan to pursue economics. This means that strategic preparation should focus not only on achieving a strong composite score, but should also be tailored to the student’s particular programs of interest.


If you’re still nervous about taking the ACT, you might want to consider signing up for an ACT prep program. Along with teaching the material commonly tested on the ACT, these programs teach test-taking strategies to help students overcome anxiety and master time management.


You can find additional PreACT resources on the official ACT Knowledge Hub.


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Short Bio
A graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC, April Maguire taught freshman composition while earning her degree. Over the years, she has worked as a writer, editor, tutor, and content manager. Currently, she operates a freelance writing business and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their three rowdy cats.