Blog Academics, College Preparation

Familiarize Yourself with the ACT Layout

Monday, October 1, 2018


Don’t wait until test day to find out what the ACT consists of in terms of layout. Knowing which problems you will need to work on in what order is half the battle, especially if you struggle in certain subjects.

If you are a genius in English but can’t do fractions to save your life, then knowing which areas you will need to study harder on and for how long can help you improve your test score in the long run.

There have been a few minor changes to the ACT over the last several decades, but it is mostly predictable and if you know the layout then you will be more prepared than most students.

Many students, no matter how studious, experience test anxiety. Worrying about the test and how well you will score will not help. So instead consider improving your time management skills so you can focus on each question to improve your chances of getting the answer correct. 

Remember, every question not answered within the time limit is still marked wrong, even if you knew the material and could have answered it correctly. When you don’t know the answer to a question, make your best guess and move on. Staring at a question for 10 minutes is only making you lose valuable time that you could be answering other questions easily. You still have a good chance of getting the answer right since it is multiple choice.

ACT Structure

The ACT includes 4 sections that are required and multiple choice. They are always in the same order so you will know which area of the test you are most likely to struggle or shine. There is also an optional writing section. If you take the test without the writing section, you will have 2 hours and 55 minutes to complete the test. However, if you take the test with the writing section included, you will have 3 hours and 35 minutes to complete the test.

Section 1 English

The English section of the test consists of 75 multiple choice questions. Each question has 4 possible answers. Expect to spend roughly 36 seconds on each question for a total time frame of 45 minutes.

Section 2 Math

The Math section of the test consists of only 60 questions. However, this section has 5 possible answers for each question instead of only 4 choices. This section was designed to give students 1 minute per question to equal a total of 60 minutes.

Section 3 Reading

The Reading section of the test is 40 questions. There are 4 possible answers for each question. The 35 minute time frame will allow you to spend 52 seconds on each question.

Section 4 Science

The Science section is similar to the reading section. You will be asked 40 questions and each question has 4 possible answers. You can spend 52 seconds on each question for a total of 35 minutes.

Section 5 Writing (Optional) The writing section is very different from the rest of the test. There is only 1 question and it is an essay prompt not multiple choice. You will have 40 minutes to complete this section.

Now that you know how the test is laid out, you can focus your studying accordingly so you know how much time you will need to focus on each subject.