Why We Should Approach the ACT with Confidence

One thing about the ACT that should give you tremendous confidence is that it is ridiculously predictable. So many things about the ACT stay exactly the same year after year—the subjects covered, the number of questions, the types of questions, the kinds of passages, and so on.

If we were playing a sport—let’s say basketball—and we knew exactly what the other player was going to do, it’d be really easy to win. You’d just stand where you knew he was going to go, and either steal the ball or block the shot. It’s the same with the ACT. Since we know exactly what the ACT is going to give us, we can prepare very specifically for what we will see on the ACT.
In this session, we’re going to break down the basics of what to expect for the ACT. In later sessions, we’ll talk more specifically about each section of the ACT.


The Format of the ACT

The ACT always begins with the English test. This test is 45 minutes long and consists of 75 questions. There are five passages on this test and 15 questions for each passage. About 40 of these questions will be on grammar, and about 35 questions will be on rhetorical skills. We’ll talk more about these types of questions in a later session.

After the English test is the Math test. This test is 60 minutes long and consists of 60 questions. The questions generally go from easier to harder, although this isn’t an absolute rule—there’ll be some easier questions scattered throughout the test. There will 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 Math test contains a lot of content, but don’t worry—we’ll review the concepts you need to know in another session.

After the Math test, there’s a 10 minute break. You can eat a snack during this break to refuel for the second half.

After the 10 minute break is the Reading test. This test is 35 minutes long and consists of 40 questions. There are four passages on this test and 10 questions for each passage. The four passages always show up in the same order: Prose Fiction, then Social Studies, then Humanities, then Natural Sciences. Certain questions will be answered explicitly from the passage, and other questions will have answers that are implied from the passage. The big issue with the Reading test is time, but we’ll give you strategies to help overcome this issue in a later session.

After the Reading test is the Science test. This test is 35 minutes long and consists of 40 questions. There are a total of seven passages on this test: 3 Data Representation passages that are 5 questions each, 3 Research Summary passages that are 6 questions each, and 1 Conflicting Viewpoints passage that is 7 questions. The Data Representation passages are about interpreting visual data such as charts and graphs, the Research Summary passages are about analyzing the results of experiments, and the Conflicting Viewpoints passage is about analyzing two different points of view on a certain subject. Like the Reading test, time is what makes the Science test difficult, but again, we’ll give you strategies for this test in a later session.


There is an optional Writing test after the Science test, with a 5 minute break in between the Science and Writing tests. This test is 30 minutes long and consists of one essay. For this test, you need to know how to support a clear position using a five paragraph 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 write this kind of essay in a later session.

There is No Reason to be Surprised!

So, that’s basically what the entire ACT looks like. The more we know about it beforehand, the less intimidated it’ll seem to us. As we continue through these ACT prep sessions, be confident knowing that if we prepare correctly for the ACT, we won’t be surprised by anything that shows up on it.

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