In this post, we’re going to talk about just how predictable the ACT is and how you can take advantage of its predictability. The good news about the ACT is that it’s incredibly predictable—almost everything about it stays exactly the same every single year: the number of questions, the types of questions, the topics of the questions, the number of passages, the types of passages, etc. And, as with most things in life, the more you know about the ACT before you take it, the better you’ll do on it. You’ll be able to have a specific game plan for each test, for how to approach each passage and question, and for how to make the most of the limited time you have. The best way to defeat your enemy is to know everything there is to know about your enemy. So, here is a summary of the incredibly predictable format of the ACT:

Section #1: The English Test

The ACT always begins with the English test, which is 75 questions and 45 minutes long. There’ll be five passages with 15 questions each. About 40 questions will be on Mechanics & Usage, or basically grammar, and about 35 questions will be on Rhetorical Skills, or basically effective writing. We’ll review these different types of questions in other videos. The good news about the English test is that it’s the “easiest” out of all the sections and the least rushed. Most students finish with plenty of time left. The bad news is that since it’s “easier” than the other sections, it’s graded a little more strictly, so you don’t want to make any careless or silly mistakes. A lot of students go through the English test too quickly—they rush through it and make way too many careless mistakes.

Section #2: The Math Test

After the English test is the math test, which is 60 questions and 60 minutes long. The questions generally go from easier to harder, but this isn’t a definite rule—there’ll be some easier questions scattered throughout the test, so make sure you’re able to get through the entire test. On the math test, there’ll be about 14 pre-algebra questions, 10 elementary algebra questions, 9 intermediate algebra questions, 9 coordinate geometry questions, 14 plane geometry questions, and 4 trigonometry questions. The good news for the math test is that although time is more of an issue on the math test than on the English test, if you know your math concepts well, you shouldn’t need to worry too much about time. The bad news is that you need to study and know a lot of math content to do well on this test. But don’t worry, we’ll help you review this content in a later session.

Section #2.5: 10 Minute Break

After the math test, there’ll be a 10-minute break. We recommend that you bring a snack to eat during this break to refuel for the second half. Make sure you use this break to recharge, and don’t let anything that happened during the first half of the test affect your focus for the second half.

Section #3: The Reading Test

After the 10-minute break is the reading test, which is 40 questions and 35 minutes long. The reading test consists of 4 passages with 10 questions each, and the passages always show up in exactly the same order: Prose Fiction, then Social Studies, then Humanities, and then Natural Sciences. The good news for the reading test is that you don’t need to study or know anything beforehand for the reading test because all of the answers are right there in the passages. But, the bad news is that time is a huge issue for the reading test. Most students run out of time and have to guess on a lot of questions, which lowers their score significantly. In previous videos, we’ve already talked about the importance of building up your reading speed and comprehension by reading a lot. In a later session, we’ll also explain the best strategies you can use to make the most of your time and get a good score on the reading test.

Section #4: The Science Test

After the reading test is the science test, which is also 40 questions and 35 minutes long. The science test consists of 7 passages: 3 of them will be Data Representation passages with 5 questions each, 3 of them will be Research Summary passages with 6 questions each, and one of them will be a Conflicting Viewpoints passage with 7 questions. The science test isn’t really a science test. It’s actually really similar to the reading test, just with more passages and more technical information that you need to sort through. Like the reading test, the good news for the science test is that you don’t need to study or know anything beforehand—again, all the answers are right there in the passages. But again, the bad news is that the science test is difficult because of how little time you have to do so many different passages. Again, most students end up not finishing, having to guess on a lot of questions, and getting a pretty low score because of that. Like with the reading test, building up your reading speed and comprehension is the best way to prepare for the science test, but we’ll also explain the best strategies you can use to succeed on the science test in another session.

Section #5 (Optional): The Writing Test

If you signed up for the writing test, there’ll be a five minute break after the science test, followed by the writing test. The writing test is 30 minutes long and you have to write one essay. In this essay, you need to defend a position with a well-organized essay, as well as address potential counterarguments against your position. The ACT is looking for a very specific kind of essay, and we’ll show you how to give the ACT what it’s looking for in other videos.

Final Thoughts

So, this is basically the entire ACT. There’s really nothing about it that should surprise you if you prepare for it the right way. A major key to doing well on the ACT is knowing it well enough to approach it with confidence and with a clear game plan, which we’ll show you how to do in other videos. So, be confident! The ACT is not this wild beast that you can’t understand or handle. It’s actually a super predictable test and you can know everything you need to know about it before you actually take the test.