What Is the ACT WorkKeys Test How Can It Help You


Did you think you were done taking the ACT once you got into college? Think again!

There’s actually an exam created by ACT Inc. specifically designed for professionals, called ACT WorkKeys.

What is this test? Who should take it? How can it benefit you? In this guide we answer all your questions about ACT WorkKeys and the National Careers Readiness Certificate so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your career.

What Is the WorkKeys Test? Who Should Take It?

What is ACT WorkKeys? The purpose of the ACT WorkKeys tests is to

measure your abilities in a variety of workplace skills

so that you (and potentially your teacher/boss) can see where your strengths and weaknesses are in professional areas.

ACT WorkKeys are designed to be applicable across many career fields, so there isn’t a specific type of professional who should take these tests.

They are most often taken by four groups of people:

  • Those wanting to prove their skills in certain areas, either to get a new job or to move up in their current profession.

  • Those who want to learn more about which careers they’re best suited for.

  • Employees whose bosses ordered the tests to match employee skills to available jobs and determine what additional training/hiring is needed.

  • Students whose teachers have them take the WorkKeys to better prepare them for entering the workforce and choosing a career.

However, anyone can take the ACT WorkKeys tests.

You might take the ACT WorkKeys at your school or office if they ordered the test. However, if you decide to take the test on your own, there are hundreds of test center locations throughout the United States where you can test year-round. The price varies depending on whether an individual or company is ordering the test, as well as how many tests are ordered. Typically though, it’ll cost between $20-$40 per test.

You can take as many of the ACT WorkKey exams as you’d like, as many times as you’d like, and you can choose which scores you send to employers or schools.


What Are the Types of ACT WorkKeys Tests?

There are eight separate ACT WorkKey tests,

and we give a brief overview of each below, explaining what the test overs, how many questions you’ll answer, how long the test lasts, and whether it can be taken on the computer or with pencil and paper.

The first six WorkKeys are similar to standard tests, where you receive a score between 0 and 7.

The final two, Fit and Talent, don’t have correct answers like regular tests, but are instead meant to help the test-takers (and potentially their teachers/bosses) determine their strengths and weaknesses and see examples of careers that might be the best fit for them.

Applied Math

Measures critical thinking, mathematical reasoning, and problem solving techniques. Some specific topics tested include solving equations, analyzing charts and tables, and manipulating rates or ratios.

A calculator is allowed,

and students will be provided with a

formula sheet


  • Number of questions: 34
  • Length: 55 minutes
  • Computer or pencil and paper: both

Graphic Literacy

Measures skills needed to read and comprehend graphical materials, such as graphs, diagrams, floor plans, flow charts, and maps.

  • Number of questions: 38
  • Length: 55 minutes
  • Computer or pencil and paper: both

Workplace Documents

Measures ability to read workplace documents, such as emails, directions, bulletins, contracts, and websites, and use that information to make job-related decisions and solve problems.

  • Number of questions: 35
  • Length: 55 minutes
  • Computer or pencil and paper: both

Applied Technology

Measures skills in four areas of technology: electricity, mechanics, fluid dynamics, and thermodynamics. The focus is on reasoning, not math, so t

here are no calculations or formulas to solve on this test.

  • Number of questions: 34
  • Length: 55 minutes (computer version), 45 minutes (pencil and paper version)
  • Computer or pencil and paper: both

Business Writing

Measures the ability to write a response to a work-related situation. The student will be graded on factors such as  sentence structure, mechanics, grammar, organization, focus, and development of ideas.

  • Number of questions: 1 prompt
  • Length: 30 minutes
  • Computer or pencil and paper: computer only

Workplace Observation

Measures skills in observing, following, understanding, and evaluating processes, demonstrations, and other workplace procedures. It requires the test taker to follow instructions, observe procedures, make inferences, and evaluate judgments, sometimes while filtering out distractions.

  • Number of questions: 35
  • Length: 55 minutes
  • Computer or pencil and paper: computer only


Measures the test-taker’s interests and values and matches them to different occupations.

  • Number of questions: 102
  • Length: 15-20 minutes
  • Computer or pencil and paper: computer only


Measures work-related attitudes and behaviors to help employers determine how best to develop current employees and which types of new employees would be the best fit. Measures factors such as sociability, discipline, and creativity.

  • Number of questions: 165
  • Length: 30-35 minutes
  • Computer or pencil and paper: computer only


What Is the National Careers Readiness Certificate?

If you want to take the WorkKeys assessments one step further, you can get your National Careers Readiness Certificate (NCRC).

The NCRC is a credential that can show employers you have work skills needed to succeed at a job.

Like the WorkKeys tests themselves, the NCRC isn’t meant for a specific career field, and it is designed to be applicable to all workers.

To earn an NCRC, you need to take three WorkKeys assessments: Applied Math, Workplace Documents, and Graphic Literacy

(each of these tests is also available in Spanish).  There are four levels of NCRC certification: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Here are the requirements for each:

  • Bronze:

    Score of 3 or higher on each of the three exams

  • Silver:

    Score of 4 or higher on each of the three exams

  • Gold:

    Score of 5 or higher on each of the three exams

  • Platinum:

    Score of 6 or higher on each of the three exams

Roughly 19% of test-takers who receive an NCRC credential receive the Gold or Platinum level, which designates them as qualified for over 93% of jobs in the

WorkKeys Job Pro database


A study

conducted by ACT, Inc. (the creators of the WorkKeys assessments) has shown that having an NCRC can help you get a job faster by showing employers you have the skills they’re in need of.

In another study

, they also found having an NCRC can help you get a higher salary compared to not having the certification.

To be honest, having an NCRC doesn’t automatically open every door for you, even if you get a top certification, but

if you’re struggling to prove you have certain skills, it’s a fairly easy and accepted way to show your abilities

which can help you get a job or a raise faster.

You can take all three exams on the same day, or spread them as far apart as you’d like. If you qualify for the NCRC, you’ll receive a certificate, as well as information you can include on your resume or job application so your credentials can be verified.

Tips for Taking the ACT WorkKeys Test

Have you decided to take an ACT WorkKeys Test? Here are two tips to follow to make sure you get the most out of the experience.

#1: Know What You’re Aiming For

People take the ACT WorkKeys assessments for many different reasons, and it’s important for you to know what yours are before you begin. Are you aiming for an NCRC credential? Is there a certain score you’re hoping to achieve? Are you trying to get a better sense of what jobs you’re best suited for? How do you plan to leverage your results in your career?

Even if you’re taking an ACT WorkKeys test because your job or school requires it, make sure you know what they want from the exam as well, whether it’s a specific score or for you to have a clearer idea of your career path you want. When you know this information, you can be more intentional about your prep for the test, and

your scores will be more meaningful

because you’ll know if they show you’re where you want to be or not.

#2: Take Practice Tests

Act Inc. offers

a free practice test

for the three tests required for the NCRC: Applied Math, Graphic Literacy, and Workplace Documents.

We highly recommend you take practice tests for any ACT WorkKeys assessments you’ll be taking,

since they’re a great way to get a better understanding of what you’ll be tested on and the types of questions you’ll see.

Regardless of which ACT WorkKeys tests you’re taking, check out the

official website

for more information on what each exam tests, how they’re scored, and what different scores mean.

What’s Next?

Need ideas for a research paper topic?

Our guide to research paper topics

has over 100 topics in ten categories so you can be sure to find the perfect topic for you.

Taking the regular ACT?

Check out

our massive collection of official and unofficial ACT practice tests


Thinking about exploring a career in healthcare administration?

Read our complete guide to getting a healthcare administration degree

, with explanations for what levels of qualification you need for different careers.