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ACT Test Sections Explained

Feb 22, 2022

Taking standardized tests, such as the ACT, is important for college admissions. The ACT measures your math and language skills and your ability to efficiently manage time and work through issues.

“How long is each section of the test?” What are the ACT section times? – these are the common follow-up queries that aspirants have. This article aims to elaborate on the ACT test sections ACT section times to complete the test. Plus, we have some helpful hints on managing your preparation so you get the best ACT score you possibly can. Read on to more!


The ACT is a standardized examination used for undergraduate admissions in the United States and other countries. Many colleges and universities demand an ACT or SAT score as part of the admissions process. The test’s purpose is to evaluate students’ college readiness. The exam is conducted by ACT, a non-profit organization of the same name.

What is tested On the ACT?

The ACT is a computer-based test. It is divided into four sections: English, Reading, Math, and Science, with an optional Writing Test. Some schools may require the Writing Test. The ACT is 2 hours and 55 minutes long. If you choose to take the ACT with Essay, it will be 3 hours and 35 minutes long. The ACT test has a total of 215 multiple-choice questions. Since there is no negative marking, intelligent guesses are recommended.


The ACT English test is a passage-based assessment of punctuation, sentence structure, grammar, and persuasive abilities. Four passages from prose fiction, social studies, humanities, and natural sciences are included in the reading test. The primary areas covered in the math test include Algebra, Arithmetic, Data Analysis, some Geometry, and Trigonometry. The science test evaluates comprehension and data interpretation using science texts. You don’t require prior knowledge of science.


ACT test sections How long is each section of the test ACT section times What is tested?
English 75 Multiple Choice questions 45 minutes Tests sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, and rhetorical skills
Math 60 Multiple Choice questions 60 minutes Algebra I and II, some trigonometry and geometry.
Reading 40 Multiple Choice questions 35 minutes Four passages (prose fiction, social studies, humanities, and natural sciences) with 10 questions per passage
Science 40 Multiple Choice questions 35 minutes Questions on science-based passages presented with graphs, charts, tables, and research summaries
Writing Writing test is optional 

1 essay

40 minutes

ACT test sections: English

The English test consists of five passages having 15 questions per passage. Most of the questions ask you to choose the most appropriate option in grammar and style; or the one that is most consistent with the passage’s tone. You get 45 minutes as ACT section times to complete this part.


Usage/Mechanics – 40 Questions

  • Grammar and usage (12 Questions)
  • Punctuation(10 Questions)

You don’t need to memorize your grammar book to prepare for the ACT. However, it’s a wise move to prepare the most common sentence and grammar rules tested on the ACT English Test. You can expect to get grammar questions on the following topics :

  • Subject-verb agreement
  • Pronoun agreement
  • Adjectives and adverbs
  • Comparisons and superlatives
  • Punctuation
  • Conjunctions

Rhetorical Skills – 35 Questions

  • Sentence structure (18 Questions)
  • Strategy(12 Questions)
  • Organization(11 Questions)
  • Style(12 Questions)

ACT test sections: Math 

You will get 60 minutes for answering 60 multiple-choice questions. The ACT Math Test is typically divided into six types of questions: pre-algebra, elementary algebra, and intermediate algebra; plane and coordinate geometry; and some trigonometry.


Approximately 10 Elementary algebra-based, 14 Pre-algebra-based, 9 Intermediate Algebra-based, 14 Plane geometry-based, 9 Coordinate geometry-based,  and 4 trigonometry-based questions comprise the Mathematics test. 

While the questions are arranged in ‘increasing order of difficulty – easy, medium, and hard you may find a few hard questions in the first 20 questions. You may also see a few easy questions among the last 20 questions.


ACT test sections: Reading

The ACT reading section consists of four genres: prose fiction, social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences. Since readings are always in this order, and ten questions follow each section, the test taker has the advantage of working on passages from genres he is most familiar with first and saving the more difficult parts for last.

You have 35 minutes to answer 40 questions in the ACT Reading Section. To achieve the highest possible reading score:

  1. Invest your time wisely.
  2. Always work in your order, starting with the easy portions and finishing with the most challenging. If you don’t understand something, don’t reread it.
  3. Complete the easier ones first, then try your hands on this.

ACT test sections: Science

Understanding the ACT Science test is the first step in ACT Science preparation. In this section, you get 40 Multiple-choice Questions based on seven science passages. Biology, chemistry, physics, and Earth/space sciences such as astronomy, geology, and meteorology are among the topics covered.

You can answer most of the questions using the information provided in the texts or graphics, but be prepared to answer 3-4 questions that require additional information. For example, you should be able to do the following:

  • Look up statistics and patterns.
  • Combine information

The ACT science test doesn’t ask you to know anything about “science.” Instead, it asks you to read and think about the science-related text. You will see about 2 or 3 Charts and Graphs in this test. You will also see about 2 or 3 Science Experiments. 

ACT test sections: Writing

The Writing test is optional but must be taken if the college you are applying to requires a certain essay score. The essay assignment gives you three opposing viewpoints on a controversial issue. You must depict and justify your stance on that subject within the context of the three viewpoints.

What are the timings of the ACT exam?

The ACT exam is conducted early in the morning and is wrapped up by the afternoon. It means aspirants need to reach the examination center early to take this exam on time.

As per Indian Standard Timings(IST), the English section of ACT starts at 8:30 a.m. and continues till 9:15 a.m. The Math part starts right after the preceding section and ends at 10:15 a.m. Then, after a short recess of 10 minutes, the reading section ends at 11:00 a.m. The Science section of the exam is conducted next for another 35 minutes from 11:00 a.m. till 11:35 a.m.

Students who did not register for the additional section can leave the exam hall from here. While other aspirants can continue writing their papers for another 45 minutes. Lastly, the essay takes place from 11:40 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. The examinees can leave the exam hall and enjoy the day. Here is a quick summary of the timings of the ACT test:

ACT Subject Section

Start Time

End Time


8:30 a.m. 9:15 a.m.


9:15 a.m. 10:15 a.m.


10:15 a.m.

10:25 a.m.


10:25 a.m.

11:00 a.m.

Science 11:00 a.m.

11:35 a.m.

Break (for writing students only)

11:35 a.m.

11:40 a.m.

Optional Section 11:40 a.m.

12:20 p.m.

Do I need Coaching in the Preparation for the ACT?

If money is an issue and you are confident enough to prepare adequately without supervision, self-study may be a preferable alternative for ACT preparation. For self-studying, you’ll need a selection of books and study materials, motivation, and self-discipline.

Coaching sessions are preferable if time is a problem and you need professional advice to ensure a competitive edge in exam preparation. You will have access to a more extensive collection of study materials and be guided by a team of experts. Furthermore, being around other students who are preparing for the ACT will help you stay motivated.

Hopefully, you now understand what the ACT is and its timings. Wondering what’s next? Managing your stress and being cool throughout the exam will undoubtedly be important. The ACT is comparable to a 2-hour 55-minute marathon. Preparing a strategy for handling each exam component within the time allocated before the exam is essential. Make as many revisions as you can to perfect your technique. That is the key to unlocking the door that leads to a trove of ACT test results.

act sections

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