5 Common Misconceptions about the ACT

By Lisa Zimmer Hatch, Scott A. Hatch

They’re whispered in the bathrooms and written in notes passed in the classroom. What are they? They’re the vile and vicious rumors about the ACT — rumors that seem to grow with each telling.

Here are five rumors that you may have heard. Quick hint: They’re all wrong!

  1. You Can’t Use a Calculator on the ACT

    Back when your parents took the ACT, you couldn’t bring a calculator. Nowadays, though, using a calculator is perfectly acceptable, and recommended, for the Mathematics Test. You can’t use it on any other section, however. Just make sure your calculator meets the specifications listed on the official ACT website. The ACT’s requirements for calculators are a little more stringent than the SAT’s.

  2. You Should Never Guess on the ACT

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. You should always guess on the ACT. This exam has no penalty for guessing. Never leave an answer blank. Fill in something, anything, on the chance that you may get lucky and get the question correct.

  3. Selective Colleges Prefer the SAT to the ACT

    All colleges accept both the ACT and SAT. It’s true that years ago the SAT was more popular on the two coasts and the ACT flourished in the middle of the country, but the ACT has grown in popularity to the point that often more students take the ACT than the SAT. In fact, some selective colleges (think Yale) don’t require SAT Subject Test scores from students who provide ACT scores.

  4. You Have to Write an Essay

    Wrong. You don’t have to write an essay during the ACT. It’s optional. However, a growing number of colleges want to see an essay score from either the ACT or SAT, and some require that you complete the ACT essay. Taking this portion of the test is a good idea even if you really don’t want to.

  5. You Shouldn’t Take Both the SAT and the ACT

    Many students take both exams. Usually, the ACT is offered a week or two after the SAT. You may get burned out taking two exams this close together or have trouble studying for both of them, but you certainly may take both tests. Colleges accept either your SAT or ACT score.