Prior to 1959, the SAT (the Scholastic Aptitude Test) served as the United States’s only national, standardized college entrance exam. As more students decided to pursue higher education, and universities responded to the demand by opening up more seats, the need for another measurement system emerged.
University of Iowa professor, Everett Franklin Lindquist, launched the ACT test in 1959. In November 1959, the ACT Assessment was administered for the first time, beginning ACT’s history of measuring how well students near the end of their high school career will perform academically in the first year of college and beyond. Just over two years later, in January 1962, ACT announced the predictive value of the test in an analysis of the original cohort of test takers.
The ACT (American College Testing) test was originally conceived as a competitor to the SAT, which has been offered since 1901. The ACT was created in response to changing patterns in college attendance in the United States and a desire for an exam that more accurately judges the ability of a student to perform well in college or university.
The first ACT test consisted of English, Mathematics, Social Studies, and Natural Sciences. It was administered to 75,460 test-takers. The test lasted 3 hours, with 45 minutes given to each of the four test sections. The ACT test has scores devoted to each test sections on a scale of 0 to 36 and a composite score of the four sections.
In 1989, Natural Sciences test was replaced by a Science Reasoning section with more emphasis on problem-solving skills and Social Studies test was changed to a Reading section. In 2005, ACT added the optional writing section to the test.
All four-year colleges and universities in the United States now accept the ACT scores. In 2011, the number of test-takers taking the ACT test surpassed the number of SAT test-takers for the first time.
In 2015, ACT slightly changed the format of the writing section. Test-takers are now given 40 minutes to write an essay. This section is scored out of 36 rather than out of 12.