How Long Is The ACT (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 2 Hours 55 Minutes

The four sections of the ACT test officially take 2 hours and 55 minutes to complete. There are 215 questions in total.  But the ten-minute break between Math and Reading and some time, in the beginning, to fill out administrative information bring the total time up to about three and a half hours of time in the testing room.

The English section is 45 minutes, the Math section is 60 minutes, and the Reading and Science sections are each 35 minutes.  If students take the Writing section at the end, that takes an additional 40 minutes, with a five-minute break given after the Science section.

How Long Is The ACT?

Students have 45 minutes to complete 75 questions. This averages out to approximately 36 seconds per question.  The Math section is the longest, with 60 minutes to complete 60 questions. But there is good news! Once you complete Math, you’re well over halfway through and have definitely earned your ten-minute break.

Students have 35 minutes to complete 40 questions on both the Reading and Science sections, which means you have 52 seconds per question or a little less than nine minutes for each of the four Reading passages and a little less than six minutes for each of the six Science passages. These sections can be challenging for many students who struggle with the quick pace that is required.

For national ACT test dates, reporting time is usually 8:00 am. Don’t be late, otherwise, you might not be admitted to the test! If you are testing somewhere unfamiliar, arrive even earlier so you can find a parking space, the testing room, (and the bathroom), and get settled.  Students taking the ACT (without writing) normally finish around 12:35 pm, and students who also take the writing section normally finish around 1:35 pm. 

Some students who have requested accommodations from the ACT receive extended time on the test. With an update in 2018, approved students have 50% extended time for each section of the ACT. 

Why Is The ACT So Long?

Prior to this change, students simply had five hours to complete the test, self-paced. But now there is a hard stop after each section. This means students have, 70 minutes to complete English, 90 minutes to complete Mathematics, 55 minutes to complete Reading, 55 minutes to complete Science.

2 hours and 55 minutes is a long time to stay alert and mentally active. Just like running a marathon or long-distance race, a person can’t just show up and expect to finish well without practice! Here are a few ways to prepare one’s brain for the length of the ACT.

Not only will focused time reading prepare your brain for the reading section of the ACT, but it will also help you expand your concentration and attention span. So a person is ready to read and comprehend the other sections of the test as well. When someone feels your brain drifting, try to keep reading a bit longer. Challenge oneself and build the focus.

There are awesome and fun resources out there, like Lumosity, to train your brain to remember details and focus. Or a person could break out an actual puzzle. One’s grandma would probably love to spend an evening doing a puzzle with a person, especially if she knows it could jump the ACT score.

Beyond taking the ACT multiple times during the junior and senior years, a person should also take some practice ACT tests. One should what a person can to create test-like surroundings and make sure to time oneself. People aren’t just preparing for the questions—a person is preparing oneself to answer them under the pressure of a time limit.

Conclusion

Most importantly, for the Science and Reading section, a person will need to read passages. Thus, the time per question might be much shorter. Also, the Math section has been ordered by difficulty. This implies that towards the end of the section, questions will be more difficult.

For the English section, the goal is to finish and answering most questions. Therefore, a person should try and start with the easy ones first. For Math, people can spend time attempting fewer questions but focus on accuracy.

References

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272735815301124
  2. https://www.worldscientific.com/doi/abs/10.1142/9789814293501_0034
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