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DHS Digest: ACT test brings new opportunities

Under North Dakota law, all high school juniors are required to take the American College Test, commonly known as the ACT.

The ACT is a rigorous test that lasts about four hours. It consists of four sections and an optional writing section. The English section is first and consists of 75 questions to be completed in 45 minutes. Next is the math section, which has 60 questions in 60 minutes, so students have one minute per question. Following that is the reading section and the test takers have 35 minutes to answer 40 questions. Science is the last of the core sections, totaling 40 questions within another 35 minute period.

On the writing section, students have 30 minutes to complete their essay from a prompt provided. Topics can be on a variety of subjects and ask the student to reflect on the question and how it is relevant to students at a high school level.

The test is on a 1- to 36-point scale, with the writing score graded from 2-12. Every subject area is graded on the 1- to 36-point scale and the averages of the four combined scores are taken. For instance, a student can get a 22 in math, 28 in English, 30 in reading and 25 in science and end up with a composite score of 26.

For Dickinson High students, the ACT will be held at 8 a.m. Wednesday, April 23.

Cherie Mack, a counselor at Dickinson High, reminded students to eat a good breakfast and get plenty of sleep the night before the test. The test is very rigorous and it’s easy for students to get bored or distracted. Focus during the test is key, Mack said, as it may very well decide a student’s future.

“Students really need to be focused during the test,” Mack said. “They need to make sure to eat a good meal and to be alert.”

She also talked about utilizing breaks during the test and making sure students are well rested, as not all of them are morning testers.

Many colleges look at ACT and SAT scores to determine a student’s entrance.

Most colleges have minimum ACT or SAT requirements. Some colleges, like Michigan State University, have a suggested ACT score range of 23-28 to determine admission. Colleges require minimums so they can see how prospective students will match up with the difficulty of their classes.

Students can take the ACT six times throughout the year on various Saturdays. To take the test, students need to log on to and complete a brief survey when they make their account.

After this, students can choose the date of their test and also which colleges they would like to send their score reports to. The first four reports are given as part of the registration fee, but any additional reports are the student’s responsibility to pay.

It would be wise for any student taking the ACT or SAT to study.

Study materials are available online for free through places like TestGear, a free test prep site from, a free online resource for North Dakota students to help inform them about their college decisions.

All students at Dickinson High have a login on the site and it is a great tool to be utilized. Test prep materials for the ACT are also available from the DHS library.

With deadlines approaching fast and test dates getting closer, students need to take advantage of the test prep material available to them.

Students can often overlook the importance of this test, which can decide their future.

Some colleges, like the University of North Dakota, even offer a $6,000 scholarship for incoming freshman students who have a 3.5 grade-point average and a ACT score of at least 25.

The ACT is of paramount importance to high school students. The test is hard, and it is designed to assess everything you have learned throughout one’s high school career.

Students need to make sure they study for the test because the difference between a 20 and a 26 could impact one’s college decision, and in turn impact the rest of their life.

Johnson is a junior at Dickinson High School and is the student council vice president.