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Discover ACT Test Sections: Duration, Structure, and Examples

Here’s how you can prepare for and ace the ACT test sections to secure your place at any college.
ACT test sections: everything you have to know

Every year, many students go through the ACT Test Sections. Most of them hope to get the required scores to get into the colleges and universities of their dreams. For some, this can be an exciting time. Yet, many fear the test, with the knots of anxiety in their stomachs getting bigger as day X draws closer. Most of the second group’s fear comes from not knowing what to expect. But this doesn’t have to be you.

What if you hope to gain college admissions or even get a scholarship? Preparing well for each ACT Test Section can help you feel less nervous and improve your chances. Even knowing the basics, like how long the tests take and what the questions look like, will help you figure out the approach you should take to succeed. This article will show you how to train for the tests and ace all sections of the ACT.

ACT Test Sections: Things to Know Before the Exam

There are four main ACT test sections. Each has a multiple-choice question type. In total, you will have 215 questions to answer. This gives you a little less than a minute to deal with each of them. For maths, you will get a few more seconds. In addition to the four main sections, you can also choose to write the essay. The writing part is optional and requires slightly different preparation compared to the test part of the ACT exam. That’s why some parents book tutors for their kids who struggle with any  ACT test sections to help them get ready for the test.

How Do You Prepare for the ACT?

Preparing for the ACT is a lot like training for a match. What would happen if your team didn’t get ready for the event? You get the picture. In the same vein, you have to train ahead for the ACT. Except, there will be no running in the rain with motivational music in the background like in the movies. It’s much simpler than that. You only need to read your books, take practice ACT tests, and apply the 5 ACT prep expert techniques for 2023.   

Whatever preparation method you choose, don’t neglect to practice for the test because the exam results are rather worrying lately. ACT scores for 2022’s high school grads hit a 30-year low. That year, around 1.3 million students took the ACT. And the concerning fact is that 42% of students didn’t meet any benchmark (minimum ACT scores required for college success) in any testing category (English, reading, math, or science). At the same time, only 22% met all four benchmarks (ACT writing section not included). 

Source: ACT 2022 Graduating Class Data

What to Do on Your Test Day

You have studied a lot for this day, and now it’s here. You are ready to ace the ACT and show it who is the boss. According to the official ACT website, you should be at the test center by 8:00 am. Still, it’s generally a good idea to get there earlier. Remember to take everything you need. This includes your admission ticket, identification, pencils, watch, and snacks. Avoid doing anything that could get you into trouble. And don’t bring any prohibited items listed on the site.

ACT Test Timings

The ACT testing time begins around 8:30 or 9:00 am. You can finish the exam by 12:35 pm. If you are writing an essay, you will leave the test center later, by 1:35 pm. This does not account for students with extended time. Remember that there will be a 10-minute break after math and an extra 5 minutes break after science for those taking the writing test as well. You may get extended breaks depending on pre-approved arrangements.

How Much Time Does the ACT Take to Complete?

The ACT test can take anywhere from a little under three hours to slightly over three and a half hours if you’re taking the writing test. If you asked for an extended time, the exam could take between 4 and a half to 5 or more hours. But you must first make the arrangements with an official from your school. Students who learn time management secrets, like first starting with the easy questions, often score better than those who don’t. 

How Long Are ACT Test Times for Each Section?

You learned earlier that the ACT test is in four or five sections. These are English, Mathematics, Science, Reading, and the optional Writing test. Here’s how each section is organized. The ACT English test has 75 questions, and test takers are allocated 45 minutes to answer all of them. For Mathematics, you get 60 minutes to answer 60 questions. The Science and Reading tests each contain 40 questions. You will have 35 minutes for each section. If you also take the Writing test, you will get another 40 minutes to compose an essay. 

SectionMinutes for Each SectionNumber of  Questions
Writing (Optional)401 essay


How to Understand the ACT Scores

Some students struggle to make sense of the composite score. Here’s how it works. Each correct answer in each section earns you a point. Remember that you do not lose points for the answers you missed or guessed incorrectly. All the points from the sections are then added together to give you a raw score. Your composite score is the average of your correct answers converted to a range of 1 to 36. To get this figure, you simply add up your total scores and divide it by 4. Also, if you took the ACT writing test, the scores for this will look slightly different.

Two readers will check your essay and give points ranging from 1 to 6 in four areas. Then you will find your final essay score included in the score report on a scale from 2 to 12. Take note that this will not affect your composite score calculation.


Each of the ACT Test Sections is just as important as the other. You must give them all attention during preparation to improve your scores. Still, you want to spend more time on areas where you struggle. Don’t be afraid to ask for help at school and at home. You will excel with the right strategic study plan, consistency, and patience. Remember, the efforts you put in can affect your future college opportunities. Good luck!



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