The ACT Scaling Test (AST) is a test attempted by all ACT Year 12 students wishing to gain an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR), and thereby gain admission to a university. The test measures a range of general critical thinking skills considered to be relevant to success in college, in university, and in post-secondary school life.

What is the AST?

The ACT Scaling Test (AST) is a test designed by the Australian Council for Education Research (ACER) to facilitate the comparison of Tertiary (T) Course scores both within and across colleges. The AST aims to test the cognitive skills and understandings that underpin success in senior secondary and post-secondary education. It is an assessment of generic reasoning, reading and writing skills rather than a test of subject-based knowledge. The aim is to test the skills involved in most academic learning.

Who sits the AST?

If you are a Year 12 student who intends to apply for entry to university you must sit the AST. If you are unsure what you will do after Year 12 and want university as an option, you should also sit the AST and study a T package. Students with specific medical conditions are not exempt from the test, but special arrangements are made to ensure that such students are not disadvantaged. If your college identifies you as a student from a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Background, you must sit an abridged test and your scores will be included in the scaling process.

What makes up the AST?

The AST comprises of three papers.

1.       The Multiple Choice Test (2 hours 15 minutes)

There will be 80 questions grouped into units, each based on a piece of stimulus material. The material is drawn from the humanities, social sciences, sciences and mathematics areas and is accessible to all senior secondary students. Any specific information required to answer questions is found in the stimulus material or the questions that follow.

2.       The Short Response Test (1 hour 45 minutes)

There will be 19-25 questions worth 50 marks testing thinking and reasoning. Students will be asked for interpretations, explanations and justification of responses or points of view.

3.       The Writing Task (2 hours 30 minutes)

Students will be given stimulus material on a particular topic and are then expected to write a clear argumentative essay of 600 words.

Preparation for the AST

Each college runs at least one trial AST with students receiving the appropriate feedback. The trial(s) introduce students to both the procedures for the conduct of the test as well as the nature of the test itself. The school will also offer preparation in Year 12 to assist in the familiarisation of the different components. Students can also assist in their own preparation by practising the skills required where possible and by being aware of current events and issues, through the print and other media in order to form opinions on these issues.

When is the AST held?

The AST is held on the first Tuesday/Wednesday of September each year.

Preparation for the AST

The preparation program in 2020 is divided into two parts: familiarisation and skills. Whilst the end goal of the program is to prepare students for the AST test, it is also designed to equip your tertiary student with the skills to succeed at College.


The skills that the AST measures are believed to develop slowly as a result of a variety of experiences, of which formal schooling is one important element. Your best preparation is to read widely and to think critically. Teachers at LTC are focusing on developing the skills of Critical and Creative thinking, alongside Personal and Social Capability, in students over their time in Senior Secondary education. The skill development therefore occurs in the classroom as part of regular exposure to learning experiences.

Practice on objective test questions can do only a little to improve your score. In addition, available evidence suggests that specific coaching (as distinct from practice) for tests such as the AST has little effect because these tests focus on skills of a general nature, developed over a long period of time, and not readily improved by a quick coaching course.

The most important skill that can be taught in a preparation program is an understanding of the type of questions to expect in the AST. A central element of the LTC preparation program is therefore developing a familiarisation with the three AST components: the Multiple Choice Test, the Short Response Test and the Writing Task.


Working through questions in trails and preparation sessions give you some idea of the kinds and style of questions set in the AST. By working through these questions, you will become familiar with the categories or topics that the AST is drawn from and gain experience in dealing with such material in order to arrive at the answers.

The AST/ATAR Preparation schedule can be seen here. It details those events which we have determined are essential for the successful completion of an ACT Tertiary Entrance Statement. All students in Tertiary packages are required to attend the student events. Any student absence must be supported by explanation of serious illness or misadventure and be supported by medical documentation.

All parents/carers are strongly encouraged to attend the parent forums. Research consistently shows that students do best when their families are fully engaged with their education; and it has been our experience here at Lake Tuggeranong College that the parent forums are highly interactive, informative and very useful. Our collective effort means that our students have every opportunity to succeed in their chosen pathways.

A Student Information Booklet with further information and sample questions is available to students in Semester 1 of Year 12 but can also be accessed on the BSSS website.

Further information

For further information, please see the ACT BSSS brochure What's the AST? or contact the AST co-ordinator through our email