How Long is the ACT?


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If you are preparing for the ACT, or the American College Test, you probably have many questions. One major question may be how long you will need to sit and focus for the test.

We’ll examine the answer to this particular question in greater detail below.

how long is the act

How Long is the ACT (act test)?

The ACT itself is 2 hours and 55 minutes long, but with breaks, test takers must allot 3 hours and 30 minutes total. Students who also complete the optional essay writing section have a 3 hour and 35-minute test, or about 4 hours with breaks.

What Time Does the ACT Test Start and End?

Students are typically required to complete check in by 8:00 a.m. on the day of their ACT test. Students should be sure to allow extra time to find the correct room, wait in line if necessary, and complete the check-in.

He or she should keep their ticket after check-in, as students will need to enter some of the information from it on the ACT test form.

After students are checked in, they will be given instructions, fill out some required information on the forms, and receive the test. It takes some time for this to be completed for a large room full of students.

The test itself will begin after all of the preceding steps are completed, which is usually about 8:30 or 9:00 a.m.

Taking the preparation time, break time, and test time all into account, students may complete and exit the testing site at about 12:15 p.m. If the student did the additional writing portion, then he or she will be able to leave the testing area at about 1:15 p.m.

Students with special testing accommodations may end up either finishing the test later, or taking the test over more than one day.

How Many Breaks Do You Get on the ACT?

The standard practice is to have a 10-minute break after the Math section on the ACT. If a student is not offered this break, then he or she should be sure to ask for it, as it is required to be offered.

If the student opts to take the additional Writing section, the he or she will also get a 5-minute break after the Science portion of the test.

Additionally, if a student has a pre-approved accommodation, then he or she may receive more frequent and/or extended breaks.

How Many Minutes Is Each Question on the ACT?

In order to plan how to pace oneself, it is important to know how much time to allow for each question. To determine this, one should look at how many questions are in each section, and how much time is given for each section.

There are four required sections, and one optional section for the ACT. The four required sections are English, Math, Reading, and Science. Writing is an optional section that students may sign up for in advance.

The English portion has 75 questions and is 45 minutes long. This means that students have 36 seconds, on average, per question in this section.

In other words, students should be prepared to answer almost two questions every minute, or 15 questions every 9 minutes.

The math section is 60 minutes long with 60 questions. This gives students one minute per question for this section.

Reading and Science each have 40 questions and each section allows 35 minutes. So for both of these sections, students have 52.5 seconds, or a little less than one minute per question.

How Many Minutes to Spend on the Writing Section of the ACT

The optional Writing section of the ACT is in a different format than the rest of the ACT.

Students who take the Writing section are given 40 minutes. During this time, students must read one writing prompt plus three alternate perspectives on the topic, and then write an essay.

How much time should be spent on each “question” in the writing portion is less straightforward since there is one essay to write, one prompt, and three perspectives to read. For this reason, it is best to complete practice examples to determine how to pace yourself for this portion of the test.

Another strategy could be to allow yourself approximately 7 minutes to read and think about the prompt and perspectives. Then, spend about 6 minutes organizing your thoughts.

Next, you can take about 20 minutes to write your essay. That leaves 7 minutes to review your essay and make any desired revisions.

You may wish to adjust the amount of time allocated to each step of the Writing portion according to your own test-taking and writing preferences. Of course, it is best to hone your test-taking strategy during your practice sessions, rather on the day of the actual test.

How Long Is Each Section of the ACT?

The following table shows a breakdown of how long each section of the ACT is, along with how many questions are in each section. It also shows a recommendation for how much time to allot to each question.

ACT Section Minutes # of Questions Time per Question Questions per Minute
English 45 75 36 seconds Almost 2 questions per minute, or 15 questions per 9 minutes
Math 60 60 1 minute 1 question per minute
Reading 35 40 52.5 seconds 8 questions every seven minutes
Science 35 40 52.5 seconds 8 questions every seven minutes
Writing (Optional) 40 1 prompt and 3 perspectives to read, 1 essay to write Varied, but about 13 minutes to read and organize, 20 to write, and 7 to review and revise N/A

Of course, some questions may take longer or shorter than the times presented here. The idea is to practice pacing oneself so that, on average, a student is able to complete questions according to this pacing.

If a student notices he or she is taking longer on a question, then he or she should try to complete some easier questions more quickly.

On the other hand, if some questions are able to be completed faster, then the student can feel comfortable knowing that he or she has extra time to spend on more challenging questions.

Keep in mind, this pacing accounts for using all of the time allotted for each section.

To review your work, you will need to review as you go within the allotted time. Or, a student could shorten the time spent on each question to allow for time at the end to go back and review.

Either way, it’s always best to try to answer any many questions as possible, as accurately as possible.

How Long Does the ACT Last?

The American College Test, or ACT, takes 2 hours and 55 minutes for the standard portion. With breaks, it is 3 hours and 30 minutes in all. For students who also take the optional essay writing section, the test is 3 hours and 35-minute, or about 4 hours with breaks.

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