How long is the ACT?

Time is your enemy on the ACT, and you have to use it wisely. After all, how often do you take a test in school with a minute or less per question? Don’t panic! Get  the ACT timing tips you need to manage your pace throughout each section of the test.

How long does the ACT take?

The ACT is 3 hours long (technically 2 hours and 55 minutes). Including breaks, the exam takes 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete. If you sign up for the optional essay (the ACT Plus Writing), the test clocks in at 3 hours and 40 minutes or just over 4 hours with breaks.

Here’s how your time is broken up by section:

How many questions are on the ACT?

The ACT has a total of 215 questions with 1 optional essay. The English section has 75 questions, the math section has 60 questions and the reading and science sections both have 40 questions.

Time# of questions
English 45 min 75 questions
Math 60 min 60 questions
Reading 35 min 40 questions
Science 35 minutes 40 questions
Writing (Optional) 40 minutes 1 essay
TOTAL 175 minutes (215 minutes with Writing) 215 questions + 1 Essay

What Time Does the ACT Start?

ACT test-takers are required to report to their test center by 8:00 am. The test begins after students are checked in and seated, usually by 8:30 am. Note that if you are taking the test on the computer, you may be taking the ACT at different times, including in the afternoon—be sure to look at your test ticket after you register for the ACT.

Finding the Right Pace for You

Your personal pacing strategy will depend on:

See what’s working and what’s not by taking practice tests. We’ve got a free ACT practice test right here. Here are some ACT timing tips to keep in mind as you practice for your test date:

English Test

The most important thing is to finish. Try finding all the easy questions (the ones you know how to do) on the English Test first. Learn more about working questions out of order in our ACT Tips and Tricks article.

Math Test

Spend more time to do fewer questions, and you’ll raise your accuracy. How do you know if you’re going too fast? Check your practice tests for careless errors on questions you should have gotten right. Get some ACT math practice here.

Reading Test

Practice extensively to find the pace that works best for you on the Reading Test

  • Some students are slow but good readers. If you take 35 minutes to do fewer passages, you could get all of the questions right for each passage you do.
  • Other students could take hours to work each passage and never get all the questions right. But if you find all the questions you can do on each passage (and guess on the rest of the questions), you could hit your target score.

Science Test

The ACT science test may have either 6 or 7 passages. Be aggressive and keep moving! Spend the time needed to ace the easiest passages first. Then move on the more difficult passages. Even on hard passages, work the the questions that look easiest first.

Writing Test (the Essay)

Outlining your essay before you write will keep you on track. Plus, organization is key to a great ACT writing score—you'll be doing yourself a big favor!

Remember, there is no guessing penalty on the ACT. Always mark an answer even if you don’t “work” the problem.

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