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Last Updated: November 26, 2023

ACT Syllabus and Format

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


The reading portion of the test assesses a candidate's ability to read closely, integrate information from various sources, and reason logically about texts using evidence. The questions center on the complementary abilities that readers must possess to effectively study written materials in various subject areas. When determining scores, the reporting categories listed below are used:


The science portion assesses the ability to interpret, analyze, evaluate, reason, and solve problems that are necessary in the natural sciences. A series of multiple-choice questions follow each of the several real scientific scenarios that are presented in this section. Earth and space sciences (such as geology, astronomy, and meteorology), biology, chemistry, and physics are among the subjects covered. Three formats are used to present information in the science section:

Writing (Optional)

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.

Types and Number of Questions and Time Allocation

The following lists each section's question count and time allotment:
SectionNumber of QuestionsReporting CategoriesTime Allocation per section
English75 Questions
  • Production of Writing (29-32%)
  • Knowledge of Language (15-17%)
  • Conventions of Standard English (52-55%)
45 minutes
Mathematics60 Questions
  • Preparing for higher math (57-60%)
    • Number & Quantity (7-10%)
    • Algebra (12-15%)
    • Functions (12-15%)
    • Geometry (12-15%)
    • Statistics & Probability (8-12%)
  • Integrating essential skills (40-43%)
  • Modeling
60 minutes
Reading40 Questions
  • Key ideas and details (52-60%)
  • Craft and structure (25-30%)
  • Integration of knowledge and ideas (13-23%)
35 minutes
Science40 Questions
  • Interpretation of data (40-50%)
  • Scientific investigation (20-30%)
  • Evaluation of Models, inferences, and experimental results (25-35%)
35 minutes
Writing(if opted)1 Essay-40 minutes

ACT Test Format

The four sections that are present in the ACT 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 differs depending on 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/1 hour 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 seems 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 multiple choices with 4 choices each and have referring and reasoning-based questions.

The Science section comprises 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