graduateshotline logo
Last Updated: February 04, 2021

ACT Syllabus

ACT test is divided into 4 sections which are English, Mathematics, Reading and Science. Unlike other competitive exams, ACT is a subject-oriented test that tries to evaluate a student based on the content they have learned in high school and how they can retain it. There is also a separate writing section along with these four subject tests which are completely optional. the syllabus that is used can be generalized into concepts that have been taught in school. But considering that this would be too vast to summarize and learn, we have narrowed down the list into topics that cannot be avoided.


In this section, they are trying to assess the candidate’s language use along with rhetorical skills. The questions are generally always related to the passages given and might include questions that judge the observation skills of the candidate along with their understanding of the language and its grammar. They also try to assess the candidate’s eye to comprehend the passages given for which the five different passages provided will be from five different fields. The main concepts that are questioned within language use are:


This section of the test is further divided into two sections where one can use a calculator for the former and cannot use the calculator for the latter. The subject topics that are covered here are very high-school specific and can be listed as-


Algebra has further been divided into three parts depending upon the different difficulty levels and grades in which they are taught one after the other. These three divisions are:


Geometry has been divided into two parts which contains the two general divisions in concepts. These are:


This section has not been divided and consists of topics like solving triangles, trigonometric identities, graphs, graphing trigonometric functions, and solving trigonometric equations. It takes up around 5-10% of the question space in the section and mostly appears in the critical thinking part of the paper.


The topics in the reading section are generally taken from the fields of Social Science, Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Literary Fiction. There will be four passages covering these different fields from which candidates will be asked to answer multiple-choice questions only regarding language, grammar, and questions that are asked to assess comprehensive skills.


This section also deals with passage-based questions and is often provided with graphs/ charts/ diagrams from which questions based on fields like Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Earth Sciences will be provided. There will be a total of 7 passages in this section from which around 40 questions will be asked. It will be completely in a multiple-choice format.


The writing section, if opted for, requires careful crafting of a compelling essay containing multiple perspectives and content in association with the prompt or topic provided.

ACT Test Format

The four sections that are present in the ACT test are given a total testing time of 2 hours and 55 minutes. The optional writing test is given an additional 40 minutes which would make the total time required for the test be 3 hours and 35 minutes. The time divide for each section is different depending upon the number of questions in each section and the nature of the questions. Understanding the breakdown of the time is important in learning pacing since the availability of time is less in ACT when compared to other competitive exams like SAT.

In English, candidates will get a total time of 45 minutes for 75 questions. The format will be that of multiple-choice questions each with 4 choices. Calculating roughly, one will be required to answer a question in around 36 seconds each to have a little extra time for reading the extensive passages. A common strategy used in such questions would be to read the first sentence of each paragraph, read the question, and revisit the necessary paragraph to find the answer instead of meticulously reading the passage and then moving on to the questions.

In Mathematics, there will be a total time of 60 minutes/ 1hour for 60 questions. The ideal divide would be to attend one question in under a minute. The questions will all be in the multiple-choice format with 5 choices for each question. Strategic learning and shortcuts will be the only methods that can avail one’s time for such questions since solving every equation step by step would take way over a minute and leave no extra time to revisit questions candidates are unsure about.

The Reading section has 35 minutes in all for 40 questions which seem comparatively manageable in contrast to the English section. Both of these sections contain passage-based questions with a difference in the skills that are sought after. The questions are of multiple choices with 4 choices each and have referring and reasoning-based questions.

The Science section comprises of 40 questions that have to be completed in 35 minutes. This section is similar in timing to the Reading section and has multiple choice questions with 4 choices each. The questions generally contain data representation, research summaries, and questions with conflicting perspectives where you should exhibit skills in interpretation, analysis, reasoning, and problem-solving.

The optional Writing section contains an essay that has to be written in under 40 minutes and mostly has an essay prompt for a question. They used to focus on multiple perspectives in the answers mandatorily but now require a minimum of just one perspective and a maximum of three perspectives.

2023-24 ACT Dates

ACT Resources

Preparing for ACT

Online ACT Practice Tests

Average SAT score for Top Schools