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How Long Does the ACT Take? Timing Tips & Tricks

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A common question among the students is – how long is the ACT test? This one of the most demanding exams for students is without a doubt the ACT test. The easy answer to how long is the ACT test is – quite lengthy, as it basically lasts for hours.

Furthermore, it’s still difficult to complete as you technically have less than a minute per question. For that reason, many students find it stressful and given how it is mandatory many feel anxious which further hinders the ability to perform.

Here we will go into details on how long does the ACT test take or lasts, giving you a breakdown of each part. We will also provide you with some suggestions on how to tackle these issues.

How Long Does ACT Take Overall

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First, let’s answer the question of how long does the ACT test last. There are 4 mandatory parts, English, Math, Reading, and Science, and you can take the optional part of the exam essay writing. Now we will go over a breakdown of the time you have for each part and the number of tasks that will be on the test. We will also answer how long is the ACT test with writing and without it.

How Long Does Each Section of the ACT Take?

Let’s go over how long does the ACT take, how long is the ACT writing test, and how many questions are on the test.

  • English – 45 min (75 questions)
  • Math – 60 min (60 questions)
  • Reading – 35 min (40 questions)
  • Science – 35 minutes (40 questions)
  • (Optional) Writing – 40 minutes (1 essay)

So, how long does an ACT test take? In total, the exam last 175 minutes or 215 minutes with an essay. You can take lots of ACT prep courses online, and achieve impressive scores on all of these parts. Preparing for the ACT test how long it takes and knowing what to expect will play a crucial role.

English 

 This part of the exam is probably the most important one, and it evaluates your ability to understand Standard Written English. It consists of 5 passages and each of these passages has 15 multiple choice questions, for a total of 75. The passages you are going to read are on a variety of topics like history, or just personal narration.

The aim of the exam is to assess your knowledge of grammar, and English usage. Also, there are rhetorical tasks that evaluate your ability to express your thoughts. Given how long is an ACT test, this part is the most time-sensitive one as you only have around 36 seconds per question.

Math 

The math part of the ACT test is designed to check your knowledge of mathematics in the following areas:

  • pre-algebra
  • elementary algebra
  • intermediary algebra
  • plane geometry
  • coordinate geometry
  • trigonometry

In other words, it is algebra and geometry but the difficulty gradually ramps up. Knowing how long does it take to take the ACT test makes it clear that you have 1 minute per math problem here.

Reading 

The reading exam lasts for 35 minutes and requires you to answer 40 questions. There are 4 sections and each of them contains one long passage and two short passages that have to do with either science, prose, fiction, social studies, etc. Moreover, multiple-choice questions accompany each of these sections.

The questions are designed to check how much information you’ve retained from reading and to see how you draw conclusions. Meaning there will be referring type questions and reasoning type questions.

Science

 The science test is primarily designed to evaluate the following skills:

  • Interpretation
  • Analysis
  • Evaluation
  • Reasoning
  • Problem-solving

The content of the exam consists of questions from biology, physics, chemistry, and Earth/space science. You don’t need extensive knowledge in these areas though, but a general knowledge of each subject is going to be helpful.

You will have to interpret the scientific data that is presented in the text for the first part of the exam. The second part wants to see if you understand scientific tools and requirements for conducting experiments. The third part will ask you to evaluate scientific findings as well as formulate conclusions and make predictions based on the findings.

Essay

 Essay writing is a 40-minute question that is designed to evaluate your writing skills. This pretty much answers the question of how long is the ACT with writing test. You will be asked to read a prompt and write an essay that is basically your point of view on the complex issues presented.

 Now you know how long is ACT test with writing and how long is the ACT test without writing. Let’s go over the tips that can help you perform better while completing the test.

How Many Questions Are There on the ACT?

There are a total of 215 questions and 1 essay question which is optional. Let’s go over the breakdown once again:

English – 75 questions (5 passages accompanied by 15 questions each)

Math –  60 questions

Reading – 40 questions (4 sections with 10 questions each)

Science – 40 questions

Writing – 1 essay

So this is how long does the ACT take and how many questions are on the test in the case of the extended version.

Time Management Tips for the Act Test

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You can see how long do ACT test take, and that all of the questions are time-sensitive. The following tips should help you pace yourself from the very start.

How Long Should I Spend Answering ACT Questions?

You can’t waste time and you can’t save time; you can only choose what you do at any given moment” – James Gleick

The quote by James Gleick might not refer to the ACT test, but it definitely applies here. On average you have less than a minute per question, especially on the parts that also include reading. You need to go through the texts carefully before you can answer the questions.

How to Pace Yourself During the ACT Test Time

Always identify the easier questions while you are reading them and determine whether you can answer them immediately. If you don’t know the answer right off the bat, don’t waste your time move on to the next questions. You will also notice that on the math test the easier questions come first, so answer as many as possible, and move on to the easier section of geometry.  Once you answered all of the easier questions then tackle the ones that are more difficult.

What Time Does the ACT Test Start?

The exam starts and 08:30, but you should get there earlier. Try to be there at least an hour before the test, so that you have enough time to prepare mentally, get sorted, and take a seat. Since you fully know how long does an ACT test take, make sure to bring water and food that you can eat during a break.

Breaks During the ACT®

The test is really fast-paced and you only have one short break. The break comes after the math part or just before the reading test. This break is only 10 minutes long, so if you need to go to the bathroom this will be the only chance. If you’re also taking an essay part of the test, you will have another 5-minute break before the essay writing begins. Therefore the real answer to how long is the ACT test with essay is 230 minutes with breaks included.

Conclusion

Now you know how long does ACT test take and the amount of time needed for each part. It would be wise to prepare for it seriously and even hire a tutor who can help you with more difficult parts of the exam.

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