About The ACT

The American College Testing (ACT) is a standardized test needed for college admissions in the US. If you intend to apply to a college in the United States, having a good standardized test score, i.e. either an ACT or SAT score, is imperative to a successful application.

Like the SAT, the ACT is based on a multiple-choice format and its purpose is to assess college readiness. It tests skills such as critical reading, writing, english and scientific thinking. It is a computer-based test that lasts 3 hours and 35 minutes including the 40 minute optional essay.

Most students take the ACT in either Grade 11 or early Grade 12, and fortunately for you, there is no limit to the number of times you are permitted to take the test. So, do remember to leave adequate time to retake the test if needed. The tests are usually held multiple times a year, however this year’s testing schedule has been disrupted by COVID-19.

ACT Test Format Overview

ACT Sections

The ACT consists of four multiple choice compulsory sections and one optional essay section.


This section tests your English language skills and you will have 45 minutes to complete 75 questions. The questions will test your mastery of skills such as vocabulary, punctuation, grammar, organization, sentence structure and style. Since you only have 36 seconds per question, prior mastery of language skills and time management in this section is critical.


This section has 40 questions and is 35 minutes long. This section is similar to the evidence-based reading section on the SAT in which you will answer questions based on passages. The purpose of this section is to measure comprehension and reasoning skills. The passages may include extracts from humanities, social studies, fiction or social sciences texts.


This section has 60 questions and is 60 minutes long. The Math section tests content that is normally covered in high school such as Algebra, Coordinate Geometry, Plane Geometry and Trigonometry. Some miscellaneous topics like complex numbers, matrices and logarithms are also tested. You will have access to a calculator.


The Science section of the ACT tests the ability of students to analyse and read science-based passages. The passages could be from Biology, Physics, Chemistry or Earth Science. You will have 35 minutes to answer 40 questions. This section does not directly test scientific knowledge but instead requires you to interpret and synthesize findings from graphs, charts, tables and research summaries.


This section of the ACT is optional and you will have 40 minutes to plan, write and refine your essay. The prompt for this essay is on contemporary issues and you will be provided with three different perspectives on this issue. You are then asked for your own perspective and analysis on this issue. You will need to support your ideas with logical reasoning and persuasive examples. Although this section is optional, Some colleges and universities require or accept ACT essay scores, so it is recommended to complete this section.


SectionsTimeNo. of QuestionsTime/QuestionContent/Skills Covered
English45 minutes75 questions36 secondsPunctuation, grammar, usage, and sentence structure, organization and style
Mathematics60 minutes60 questions60 secondsPre-algebra, elementary algebra, intermediate algebra, coordinate geometry, plane geometry and trigonometry
Reading 35 minutes40 questions52 secondsCritical reading and reasoning
Science35 minutes40 questions52 secondsScience based interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning and problem solving
Essay (Optional)40 minutes1 essayAnalyzing contemporary issues, crafting examples and opinions