The ACT format stays the same every year, so it is important to know beforehand what to expect. The ACT rewards preparation, so make sure you avoid surprises by learning the ACT format before you take the test.

The ACT Format: Section #1 – English Test

ACT format english
The ACT English test is 45 minutes long and contains 75 questions. There are five passages and fifteen questions for each passage. These passages do not differ in difficulty level or content tested.

The questions on the ACT English test fall into one of two categories: 1) Usage and Mechanics, or 2) Rhetorical Skills. Usage and Mechanics questions relate to grammar and the rules of the English language, and Rhetorical Skills questions are about writing effectively.

Generally speaking, students have no trouble finishing the ACT English test in the time frame given for this test.

The ACT Format: Section #2 – Math Test

ACT format math
The ACT Math Test is 60 minutes long and contains 60 questions. The questions at the beginning are generally easier, and the questions at the end are generally harder, although there may be easier and harder questions scattered throughout the test.

The questions on the ACT Math test cover pre-algebra, elementary algebra, intermediate algebra, coordinate geometry, plane geometry, and trigonometry. The ACT math test is designed so that an Algebra 2 student can solve every problem on the test.

Many students have trouble finishing the ACT Math test, although if you know your math concepts well, you should not have too much trouble finishing this test in the 60 minutes time frame.

The ACT Format: 10-minute Break

After the ACT Math Test, there is a 10-minute break before the Reading and Science tests. You may eat a snack during this 10-minute break to help gain energy for the rest of the ACT test.

The ACT Format: Section #3 – Reading Test

ACT format reading
The ACT Reading test is 35 minutes long and contains 40 questions. There are four passages that always appear in the same order: 1) Prose Fiction, 2) Social Studies, 3) Humanities, and 4) Natural Sciences. There are 10 questions for each passage.

The questions on the ACT Reading test fall into one of three categories: 1) Specific Detail, 2) Evaluation, or 3) Main Idea. Specific detail questions are answered by the text directly, Evaluation questions require judgments based off of the text, and Main Idea questions are about the text as a whole.

The ACT Reading test is designed to be difficult to finish. To do well on this test, you must use good test taking strategies and be able to read at a relatively high level and speed.


The ACT Format: Section #4 – Science Test

The ACT Science test is 35 minutes long and contains 40 questions. There are seven passages that appear in random order:
ACT format science

  1. 3 Data Representation passages – 5 questions each
  2. 3 Research Summaries passages – 6 questions each
  3. 1 Conflicting Viewpoints passage – 7 questions

The Data Representation and Research Summaries questions are fact questions that are answered by the passages directly. The Conflicting Viewpoints questions are theory questions that require analysis of the passage.

The ACT Science test is designed to be difficult to finish. To do well on this test, you must use good test taking strategies and be able to read at a relatively high level and speed.

The ACT Format: Section #5 (optional) – Writing Test

ACT format writing
The ACT Writing test is 30 minutes long and requires the writing of one essay. You must choose one of two positions given and defend it effectively in essay form.

To do well on the ACT writing test, you must be able to organize a good five paragraph essay and support your main points using good examples. It is also important to address potential counterarguments to your position.

Learn More about the ACT Format

To learn more about the ACT test format, visit the ACT Test Descriptions page.