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ACT Test Structure In A Nutshell

How is the ACT structured? To start breaking the test down and identifying what you need to prepare for, here’s the ACT test structure at a glance.

Besides knowing how it’s structured, it’s good to have battle-tested strategies to pull from on your first ACT attempt, and any retakes you pursue.


ACT Test Structure Elements

ACT Format Breakdown

Here are the main sections and times to think about.

The ACT is based around 4 multiple-choice test sections:

  • English
  • Math
  • Reading
  • Science

Like the SAT, it also includes an optional Essay section. We normally advise students to tackle the ACT Essay for a number of reasons.

The total allotted time to complete the test is based on tackling the Essay or not:

  • 2 hours and 55 minutes (without the Essay)
  • 3 hours and 35 minutes (with the Essay)

ACT Test Structure – Content & Timing

Section Question # Time Limit Content/Skills Covered Question Types
English 75 questions  45 min
  • grammar usage
  • punctuation
  • sentence structure
  • content organization
  • style
  • multiple-choice usage and rhetorical skills questions
Math 60 questions  60 min
  • pre-algebra
  • elementary algebra
  • intermediate algebra
  • coordinate geometry
  • plane geometry
  • trigonometry
  • multiple-choice questions
Reading 40 questions  35 min
  • reading comprehension of stated or implied
  • multiple-choice referring and reasoning questions
Science 40 questions  35 min
  • interpretation
  • analysis
  • evaluation
  • reasoning
  • problem-solving
  • multiple-choice questions based around:
  • data representation
  • research summaries
  • conflicting viewpoints
Writing (optional) 1 essay  40 min
  • writing skills
  • essay prompt


Why You Need To Know These Details

Remember, this is truly scratching the surface of everything you need to actually know for the test. However, a basic understanding of format and subject matter is very helpful.

It allows you to easily structure your test prep sessions around specific subjects. More importantly, when taking practice tests, you can really time yourself accurately per section.

The benefit here is understanding what sections give you the most trouble, and how much faster you must answer questions for full credit.

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Prep Expert

Written by Prep Expert

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