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How Long is the ACT Test? Timing Tips & Tricks

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

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

Here, we will detail how long the ACT takes or lasts, giving you a breakdown of each part. We will also be able to provide you with some suggestions for tackling these issues.

How Long Does ACT Take Overall

First, let’s answer the question of how long does the ACT last. There are four mandatory parts: English, Math, Reading, and Science, and you can take the optional part of the exam essay writing. Now, we will review a breakdown of your time for each part and the number of tasks on the test. We will also answer how long the ACT is with writing and without it. Prepare for the ACT like a pro with Magoosh ACT analysis.

How Long Does Each Section of the ACT Take?

Let’s go over how long the ACT takes, how long the ACT writing test is, 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)

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


 This part of the exam is the most important, and it evaluates your ability to understand Standard Written English. It consists of 5 passages, each of which has 15 multiple-choice questions, for a total of 75. The passages you will read are on topics like history or personal narration. Use Testive SAT review to help you achieve your ideal score.

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


The math part of the ACT 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 it takes to take the ACT makes it clear that you have 1 minute per math problem here.


The reading exam lasts 35 minutes and requires you to answer 40 questions. There are four sections, each containing one long passage and two short passages related to 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 how you conclude. Meaning there will be referring-type questions and reasoning-type questions.


 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, but a general understanding of each subject will be helpful.

You will have to interpret the scientific data 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, formulate conclusions, and make predictions based on the findings.


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

 Now you know how long the ACT is with writing and how long the ACT is without writing. Let’s review tips to help you perform better while completing the test.

How Many Questions Are There on the ACT?

Photo by Ivan Aleksic

There are 215 questions and one optional essay question. Let’s go over the breakdown once again:

  1. English – 75 questions (5 passages accompanied by 15 questions each)
  2. Math –  60 questions
  3. Reading – 40 questions (4 sections with ten questions each)
  4. Science – 40 questions
  5. Writing – 1 essay

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

Time Management Tips for the Act Test

You can see how long the ACT test takes, and all 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, but it applies here. On average, you have less than a minute per question, especially on the parts that include reading. Please go through the texts carefully before you can answer the questions.

How to Pace Yourself During the ACT Test Time

Please always identify the more straightforward questions while reading them and determine whether you can answer them immediately. Don’t waste your time if you don’t know the answer immediately. Move on to the following questions. You will also notice that the more straightforward questions come first on the math test, so answer as many as possible and move on to the more accessible geometry section.  Once you answered all the more straightforward questions, tackle the more difficult ones.

What Time Does the ACT Test Start?

The exam starts at 08:30, but you should get there earlier. You can 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 an ACT test takes, bring water and food that you can eat during a break.

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Breaks During the ACT®

The test is 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 your 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 the ACT is with the essay is 230 minutes, with breaks included.

Read this review to learn more about ACT peculiarities.


Now you know how long the ACT test takes and the time needed for each part. It would be wise to prepare for it seriously and hire a tutor to help you with more challenging parts of the exam. To prepare yourself for the ACT — find the list here.

Also read: How to cancel SAT — what you should know.


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