What to Expect on the PreACT

what to expect preact

You’ve probably heard of the PSAT, but how much do you know about the PreACT? Unlike the SAT’s PSAT test, which is taken by 3.5 million high schoolers across the country each year, the ACT’s PreACT test is far less widespread. So what is this elusive test, what can you expect on it, and why should you care?

This post is a bit long, so here’s an outline:
What is the PreACT?
Why Should I Take (and/or Care) About the PreACT?
Where Can I Take the PreACT?
What Can I Expect on Test Day?
What to Bring and What NOT to Bring to the PreACT
Should I Study for the PreACT?
What to Do With Your PreACT Scores
Don’t Sweat It

What is the PreACT?

The PreACT is a shorter, slightly easier ACT test specifically for 10th grade students. According to the ACT’s website, the “PreACT gives students an estimated ACT test score and can be used as an indicator of college and career readiness.” It’s designed to give students an idea of what the ACT test is like and an estimation of how they’ll perform on it, should they choose to take it. Unlike the PSAT, the PreACT has no specific scholarship attached to it. 

Like the ACT, the PreACT is a paper-based multiple-choice test that (also like the ACT) has four sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science. Each section is nearly identical to the ACT test in format, but has fewer questions and, ergo, is shorter than the ACT. The questions on the PreACT are also a little easier than those on the ACT because the test accounts for information that 10th graders are not expected to have learned yet. The PreACT is scored on a 1-36 scale, just like the ACT. 

Why Should I Take (And/Or Care) About the PreACT?

So here’s the thing: this test is not make-or-break for your high school or college career. Colleges will never see your PreACT score unless you specifically share it with them. So why should you think about taking it?

There are a couple of reasons. First, the PreACT simulates the ACT environment but has no pressure attached. Many students will take a real ACT test just to get their baseline score and become accustomed to the testing environment (we don’t recommend this, by the way. It’s much more effective to study BEFORE your first ACT and use your second ACT to drill down on problem areas). What costs them $52 and a score viewable by colleges, you can take care of for free with no strings attached by taking the PreACT. 

Second, it’s a great way to evaluate where you are in your ACT prep. As a sophomore, you probably haven’t started preparing for the ACT (which is totally fine!). Analyzing your PreACT score report is the perfect place to start when creating an ACT study plan. On your score report below your predicted ACT score ranges, you’ll find a list of topics covered in each section and the percentage of questions you got correct for each. If you notice, say, that you only got 2 out of 5 geometry questions right, then you know that you’ll probably need to study geometry for the real ACT! You can go through each section on your score report and easily come up with a list of areas you see need improvement before taking the ACT. 

Find a sample PreACT score report here and a guide to interpreting your report here.

Where Can I Take the PreACT?

The PreACT is only offered directly by schools, so if your school or district doesn’t have one on the calendar, we recommend talking to your guidance counselor about getting one scheduled. Even though your PreACT scores are not able to be seen by colleges or used for admissions, they’re valuable for evaluating your test-taking skills in a low-pressure environment. 

What Can I Expect On Test Day?

Timing

The test is 2 hours and 10 minutes long, and you’ll get a 10-15 minute break between the Math and Reading tests. However, with administration time (think: proctor [probably a teacher at your school] giving directions, passing out and taking up testing materials, filling out pre-test personal information) and time to fill out personal information added at the beginning of the test, you can expect to be in the testing room for about 3.5 hours.

SectionNumber of QuestionsTime Allowed
English4530 minutes
Math3640 minutes
Break10-15 minutes
Reading2530 minutes
Science3030 minutes
General Administration (varies) 10 minutes
Total for tests, break,
and administrative time
150 minutes
Total for examinee information
sections (varies)
60 minutes

Content

Since this is a scaled-down version of the ACT, you’ll find many of the same topics covered on the PreACT and the ACT. We have a few blog posts that cover each section in detail and will give you some helpful strategies for these sections:

How to Ace the ACT Reading Section
How to Get a 36 on the ACT English Section
Strategies for the Science Section
ACT Math Study Guide

As for specific content, the Math test has 36 questions and covers Number & Quantity, Algebra, Functions, and Geometry.

The Science section has 30 questions and will test your ability to think like a scientist. It’s much more important to understand the scientific method and know how to read graphs and charts than it is to learn very specific vocab words. Most information will be provided in context or work from knowledge you will have picked up in school.

The English section has 45 questions and covers standard grammar conventions and rhetorical skills. For this section, brush up on your knowledge of commas, semicolons, and sentence arrangement.  

The Reading test has 25 questions will evaluate your ability to identify plot points, themes, rhetorical devices, and tone. Read quickly but carefully, hearing what the words say in each passage. When answering the questions, we always tell our students to remember that the answer can always be found in the passage. If you’re inferring too much, it’s probably not the correct answer!

What to Bring and What NOT to Bring to the PreACT

Pay close attention to what your school instructs you to bring (and NOT bring) to the PreACT. This is good practice for the ACT when forgetting a necessary item can bar you from taking the test. For the PreACT, you’ll probably just need an ACT-approved calculator, a non-mechanical No 2. pencil, and a photo ID. Don’t bring these things into the testing room:

Your cell phone, smartwatch, fitness band, or any other electronic device
Textbooks
Foreign language or other dictionaries 
Scratch paper, notes, or other aids 
Highlight pens, colored pens or pencils, correction fluid/tape 
Reading material
Tobacco in any form
Food or beverages, including water (staff and examinees may bring snacks and beverages into the test room, but may consume them only outside the test room during the break)

This may not be a comprehensive list. Check with your school before test day for the most up-to-date information.

Should I Study for the PreACT?

The short answer is, you really don’t need to. This is just a practice test designed to help you become familiar with the ACT and predict your ACT results. It is a great tool to get your baseline “ACT” score for free! 

However, if you’re really concerned, because it is a cumulative test that covers topics you may not have seen in a while you may want to brush up on a few subjects before test day. The PreACT is so similar to the ACT that there are few PreACT-specific study materials out there. We recommend heading to the ACT’s website and studying with one of their free downloadable practice tests. If you decide to do this, remember to go easy on yourself! You most likely haven’t learned some of the material tested on the ACT, like trigonometry. 

You can also brush up on your Math, Grammar, and Science with our free study guides. The Math and Science study guides cover formulas (you won’t be provided with a math formula sheet on test day) and definitions to know. The Grammar guide covers the basics of sentence structure. 

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What to Do With Your PreACT Scores

The point of taking all these pre-tests is to figure out how much will you need to prepare for the ACT. Once you’ve received your PreACT scores, evaluate your scores and note areas of strength and weakness. For example, do you see a big score difference in the sections? Maybe you owned the Math and English sections but didn’t do as well in Reading and Science? As we said earlier, you can go through each section on your score report and easily come up with a list of areas you see need improvement before taking the ACT.

Once you have this list in hand, start researching ACT prep material to find one that’s right for you. You could try an engaging, everything-you-need-to-know course like The Olive Book’s ACT course. This type of course is structured, guiding you through the study process and teaching you the skills you’ll need for the test. 

You could also go a more self-guided route, purchasing a reputable ACT prep book (like the ACT’s own) and working through it on your own. Check out this list of the best ACT (and SAT) prep companies for any budget to find a study tool that works for you. 

For more guidance on how to prep for the ACT your sophomore year, we highly recommend this post

Don’t Sweat It

After this barrage of information, we hope you’re not feeling anxious about the PreACT. Remember, this test has no strings attached. It’s just a great tool for evaluating where you stand right now in regards to the ACT. Use the information to your advantage, and never let it discourage you!

Notable links in this post:
How to Study for the ACT Sophomore Year
The Best ACT or SAT Prep Companies for Every Budget
Interpreting Your PreACT Score Report
Sample PreACT Score Report
ACT Study Guides
Free Practice Test from the ACT

For more ACT study tips and test-related content,
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