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What's On the ACT?

What's On the ACT

Good question. I mean, obviously, the tests change every year, but we can logically look at each section, as well as previous tests and give it an educated guess. Wordplay intended.

Science Reasoning

Number of Questions: 40

Time Limit: 35 minutes

This portion is likely different than what you’re anticipating — it’s structured more like the Reading section than the Math section, but it is scientific. Specifically, this section focuses on your ability to analyze and draw conclusions. It’s all about how you interpret the problems and reason your way through the answers — it’s the famous “you can’t study for this” portion of the ACT.


Number of Questions: 40

Time Limit: 35 minutes

It’s as straightforward as it sounds — the Reading section of the ACT is designed entirely to test your comprehension. This portion is comprised of multiple-choice questions with up to four options as the answer.


Number of Questions: 60

Time Limit: 60 minutes

Just a cursory look at those numbers tells you that you can take only as much as one minute per question if you want to complete this section in time. It covers a broad range of questions spanning pre-algebra, elementary and intermediate algebra, coordinate and plane geometry, as well as trigonometry. In case you’re not sweating enough, these multiple-choice questions come with five possible answer options, rather than the four available for every other section of the ACT.


Number of Questions: 75

Time Limit: 45 minutes

It’s all the stuff that your teachers have been harping on since you first stepped foot into an educational facility: know your grammar, the difference between they’re, their, and there, and how to structure sentences to best convey meaning. You’ll encounter rhetorical skills, mechanical, organization, and style questions in this multiple-choice 4-option portion of the ACT.


Number of Essays: 1

Time Limit: 40 minutes

Unlike the other sections of the ACT, the Writing section is not mandatory. Many schools also don’t require it, so weigh your options when deciding whether to complete this portion. There’s also typically an extra dollar amount attached to adding the Writing section. Some colleges require the writing portion of the ACT, which is the primary motivator for completing it. If you're really interesting in applying to specific institutions, check out their application requirements to determine whether you should add the writing portion to your ACT. 

The essay prompt raises a contemporary issue to help assess your ability to critically analyze the topic. Evaluators are looking for arguments from both sides of the playing field, as well as a unique perspective.


There are the basics on each section of the ACT, but how are you supposed to prepare? We’ll talk about that in the next installment of our series on this standardized test!

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