What is on the ACT®?

What is on the ACT®?
Find out exactly what the ACT® test is and how it works. Understand the breakdown of different sections so you can excel on test day.
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What is on the ACT®?
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If you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking about the ACT® (formerly American College Testing), which is used in the college admissions process and helps schools determine which courses you should be placed in. You will feel a lot more relaxed about taking the test if you have a general idea of what’s on it.  The ACT consists of four main sections—reading, math, English, and science—with an optional writing portion. The four core sections contain multiple-choice questions. Want to know what to expect? We’ll give you a full breakdown of each section, so you’re prepared on test day.


This section contains 60 questions and covers pre-algebra (14 questions), elementary and intermediate algebra (10 questions and 9 questions, respectively), basic trigonometry (4 questions), and geometry (9 questions for coordinate and 14 questions for plane). Questions are easier at the start of the section but progressively get more difficult. The good news: you can use a calculator.  Each question gives you five possible answers to choose from, and you have 60 minutes to complete the section. 


This section contains 75 questions. Each comes with four answer choices. Here, you’ll be tested on grammar, mechanics, sentence structure, strategy, organization, style, and punctuation. You have 45 minutes to complete this section.


The 40 questions on this portion of the ACT evaluate your reading comprehension skills. This part of the test includes four subsections. Each of these three have one long prose passage. The fourth contains two short prose passages. To respond to each question, you must select one of four answer choices based on what is directly stated or implied. The material represents a typical first-year college course and measures your ability to understand sequences of events and cause-and-effect relationships, make comparisons and interpretations, and determine main ideas. Test takers get 35 minutes to finish this section.


Like the reading section, the science section consists of 40 questions that must be answered in 35 minutes. You will be given seven passages, each of which is followed by five to seven questions. This section assesses your understanding of scientific analysis, interpretation, reasoning, problem-solving, and evaluation. Questions are based on data representations (charts, tables), research summaries, and statements reflecting conflicting viewpoints. For each question, you will have four possible answers to choose from.


Since this component of the ACT is considered optional, it doesn’t affect your composite score. However, some colleges require you to submit a writing score. For this section, you are given a writing prompt—usually based on a broad social issue. You will be given three different perspectives on the topic to analyze. Your task is to craft a thoughtfully written essay about how your opinion relates to those viewpoints, and you have 40 minutes to do it. 

UWorld goes beyond ACT test-prep basics by giving you an in-depth understanding of what’s on this important college entrance exam. Ready to get started? Visit us to learn more or sign up for online, self-paced test preparation.

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