ACT® Syllabus
Know What Is On The ACT!

Are you planning to take the ACT® but unsure of the topics it will cover? We have got your back! This guide will provide you with a thorough analysis of the ACT syllabus and what to anticipate on the test. We will discuss the structure of each ACT subject, the types of questions you may see, and the abilities that each subject will be testing.

ACT General Test

Before we talk about the ACT syllabus, let us take a look at the structure of the test. The following table highlights the flow of the test, the duration of the ACT sections, and the number of questions in each section. All the questions have multiple-choice answer options except the Writing section, which requires writing a long essay.

Section Number of Questions Duration
English 75 45 mins
Mathematics 60 60 mins
Reading 40 35 mins
Science 40 35 mins
Total 215 2 hours 55 mins
Writing Test (Optional) 1 essay question 40 mins

Now that you know the breakdown of the test, let’s go through the ACT topics covered in each subject.

Practice with difficult questions so the real exam feels easy.
Graph of pH of solutions using 4 indicators
Reporting in UWorld that breaks down the overall ACT score
Finding the measure of the angle with a circle and equation graphed in a standard plane

Syllabus of ACT English Test

The first section of the ACT is the English Test. This section assesses your knowledge of grammatical rules like usage, punctuation, and sentence construction, as well as your conceptual understanding of the given passages. The questions pertain to a specific paragraph or the entire passage, and they are either detail, broad idea, or big-picture-based.

What is on the ACT English Test

This test contains 75 questions to be answered for five passages in 45 minutes, giving you an average of 36 seconds per question. Each question has four multiple-choice answer options.

The three primary categories of questions the English test examines are as follows:

  • Topic Development: These questions assess your ability to build a topic by selecting words or phrases that are appropriate for the intent of the passage. However, you must check if the potential revision would make it clearer or not.
  • Organization, Unity, and Cohesion: These questions check your aptitude in structuring ideas and choosing opening, transitional, and closing sentences. The beginnings and ends of paragraphs are frequently the subject of these questions.
Through these questions, your ability to choose the correct term and maintain an essay’s style and tone by avoiding ambiguous pronoun references, wordiness, and repetition is tested.
  • Sentence Structure and Formation: Here, your understanding of the connection between sentences, placement of modifiers, and sentence construction is checked.
  • Punctuation: These questions test your understanding of internal and end-of-sentence punctuation.
  • Usage: Your knowledge of grammar rules like subject/verb agreement, modifiers, pronouns, adverbs, idioms, and verb tenses is checked through these questions.

Syllabus of ACT Math Test

The Math test is the second section of the ACT test. It evaluates the mathematical abilities that students have developed throughout their high school math coursework. Knowledge of basic formulas and computational skills can prove to be a great advantage on this test. This section of the ACT test checks your overall math aptitude and preparedness for an entry-level college course.

What is on the ACT Math Test

There are 60 questions on the Math test, which must be completed in 60 minutes, giving you an average of one minute per question. Each question has five answer choices to consider. Note that you will NOT be provided with math formulas on the ACT test; however, you are allowed to use a calculator on all questions.

Here is a description of each category and its question types:

  • Number & Quantity (7-10%): These questions require knowledge of both real and complex number systems. To solve these questions, students should understand a variety of numerical numbers, including vectors, matrices, and exponents with integer and rational values.
  • Algebra (12-15%): These questions include various equation types, such as linear, polynomial, radical, and exponential relationships.
  • Functions (12-15%): These questions require a thorough knowledge of function definition, notation, representation, and application.
  • Geometry (12-15%): These questions revolve around concepts like surface area, volume measurements, and the congruence and similarity relationships of different geometric shapes.
  • Statistics & Probability (8-12%): These questions require understanding data collecting techniques, modeling relationships in bivariate data, and calculating probabilities.
This category focuses on your abilities to tackle more challenging problems. You are required to answer questions about rates and percentages, proportional relationships, area, surface area, volume, average and median, and various other concepts.
In this category, you will find questions about creating, analyzing, comprehending, evaluating, and enhancing models across all mathematical domains.

Syllabus of ACT Reading Test

The third test on the ACT, the Reading test, evaluates your capacity to read, analyze, and synthesize information carefully. The passages on this test represent the kinds of text you might see in your first year of college. Let’s read in detail about what you can expect to see on the Reading test.

What is on the ACT Reading Test

The Reading test has 40 questions and allows for 35 minutes, giving you 52 seconds per question. Each question has four answer choices to consider. The Reading test consists of four sections – three with one long passage and one with two short passages. The questions on this test measure your understanding of the following:

  • Craft and Structure (55-60%): Understanding the perspective of the author, determining the meaning of words and phrases, and analyzing the points of view of characters.
  • Key Ideas and Details (25-30%): Comprehending central themes, ascertaining inferences and conclusions, and understanding cause-effect relationships.
  • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (13-18%): Evaluating differences between opinions and facts, and understanding the construction of arguments, assessing evidence from various sources.

Here are the types of questions that you can find in this section:

  • Central Idea Questions: These questions revolve around the central idea or theme of the passage.
  • Detailed Questions: These questions check your ability to understand specific lines or phrases within a passage.
  • Vocabulary Questions: These questions require you to understand the context of words and how they are used.
  • Function & Development Questions: These questions examine how well you comprehend a word or phrase's function within the context of the passage.
  • Implied Ideas Questions: These questions check your understanding of the implicit meaning of words and phrases from the passage.

Syllabus of ACT Science Test

The fourth test on your ACT is the Science test. It assesses your ability to comprehend, analyze, evaluate, reason, and solve problems in the natural sciences. The questions are based on concepts from biology, chemistry, earth/space sciences (geology, astronomy, and meteorology), and physics and require you to interpret charts, tables, figures, and graphs.

What is on the ACT Science Test

Much like the Reading test, the Science test consists of 40 questions attached to seven passages. You will have 35 minutes to complete the questions. Like other ACT subjects, this test also provides four answer choices to consider.

The information on this test is presented in the following ways:

  • Data Representation (30-40%): Similar to what is presented in scientific papers and texts, these questions include graphs and tables. Your ability to identify connections, perform interpolation and extrapolation, and turn tabular data into graphs is assessed by these questions.
  • Research Summaries (45-55%): These questions check your understanding of the experiment design and related findings presented in the passages.
  • Conflicting Viewpoints (15-20%): These questions give you two or more explanations of the same scientific phenomenon. Examination of these viewpoints and theories is the main emphasis of these questions.

There are mainly three types of questions on the ACT Science test. They are:

  1. Interpretation of Data (40-50%): These questions require you to manipulate and evaluate scientific data given in tables, graphs, and diagrams (e.g., recognizing trends in data, plotting tabular data on graphs, interpolating and extrapolating, and reasoning mathematically).
  2. Scientific Investigation (20-30%): These questions check your ability to comprehend experimental methods, instruments, and designs. (e.g., you must recognize controls and variables like predicting the results of additional trials).
  3. Evaluation of Models, Inferences, and Experimental Results (25-35%): These questions require assessing the reliability of scientific data and drawing inferences and predictions from it (e.g., determining which explanation for a scientific phenomenon is supported by new findings).

ACT Writing Section (Optional)

The optional Writing section on the ACT complements the English and Reading tests. The combined data from these three tests provides colleges with information about students' knowledge of standard written English conventions and their capacity to develop a writing sample.

A prompt is given to help you write the essay and develop your own perspective on the issue. This test lasts for 40 minutes. Your score is not affected by your opinions or the point of view you choose. Your ability to assess arguments and incorporate ideas is what you are graded on. Your essay should be clear and understandable, and a few minor spelling and punctuation mistakes won't affect your grade.

The following skills are measured on the Writing test:

  1. Ideas and Analysis: You need to come up with useful concepts and interact critically with different viewpoints. You must be aware of the topic you are asked to write about and should be able to produce pertinent ideas for the circumstance.
  2. Development and Support: You need to explain concepts, provide justification, and support an argument. You must lay out and develop concepts, talk about ramifications, and provide examples to support your points.
  3. Organization: You need to arrange thoughts in a purposeful and clear manner. Making effective organizational decisions is essential. You must organize your work in a way that connections between concepts are crystal evident.
  4. Language Use and Conventions: You need to reflect the clarity with which arguments can be presented in writing. You must take care of the conventions of language, syntax, word choice, and mechanics.

To know the tips and tricks for covering all the ACT topics in time and making an effective prep plan, read our ACT study guide.

Now that you know everything about the ACT syllabus, you know how it is set up, what is being tested, and what kinds of questions to expect. This will make you feel more ready for the test and less nervous. Also, if you know what topics are on the ACT, you can make a study plan and focus on preparing for the test.

Let us help with your test prep and make the hardest questions easier to answer.
Graph showing a function over a period of time
The process by which ATP is produced in the mitochondrion
Showing how to find the y-intercept given several equations

Frequently Answered Questions (FAQs)

The following topics contain the maximum number of questions in each subject.
  1. English test: Conventions of Standard English (51-56%); includes questions related to sentence structure and formation, punctuation, and usage.
  2. Math test: Preparing for Higher Math (57-60%); includes questions related to Number & Quantity, Algebra, Functions, Geometry, and Statistics & Probability.
  3. Reading test: Craft and Structure (55-60%); includes questions related to the perspective of the author, meaning of words and phrases, and points of view of characters.
  4. Science test: Interpretation of Data (40–50%): includes questions related to manipulation and evaluation of the given scientific data.
Yes, you will find Matrices under the Number & Quantity question category of the Math test.

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