The Duration of the ACT Exam

Importance of Understanding the Time Constraints on ACT Sections

The ACT comprises four multiple-choice tests in four different areas, namely English, Mathematics, Reading and Science. What is the duration of the entire examination? Altogether, the total test time of these four tests is 2 hours 55 minutes. There is a 10-minute break between the second and third tests.

For those taking the Writing Test, there is a five-minute break after the fourth test.

Section-Wise Break-Up of Duration

When you want to know, the duration of ACT, it is also important to be aware of the time-wise break-up of the four sections. This is as follows:

The 75-question English section is of 45 minutes.

The 60-question Mathematics section is of 60 minutes.

The 40-question Reading section is of 35 minutes.

The 40-question Science Reasoning section is also of 35 minutes.

Time Management in the Different Sections

In the English section, there are five prose passages of different types, each one followed by a multiple-choice test. In other words, if you spend about one-and-a-half minutes for reading each passage, it leaves you about 35 seconds to answer each of the 75 questions.

In the Mathematics test, the calculation is very simple: you can take a minute to answer each question.

The Reading section quotes four passages from separate categories — Prose Fiction, Social Studies, Natural Sciences, and Humanities. If you spend between two and three minutes reading each passage, you will have about 35 seconds to answer each question.

In the Science Reasoning section, there are three Data Representation passages with five questions each; three Research Summaries passages with six questions each; and one Conflicting Viewpoints passage with seven questions.

What this boils down to is this: if you spend about two minutes reading each passage, it gives you approximately 35 seconds to answer each question.

General Strategies

A large number of students fail to complete all sections of the test within the allotted time, especially in the Reading and Science Reasoning sections because they forget to ask themselves, about the length of the test. Since the way you space your time is crucial to how well you do in the test, it is important to keep working at practice tests, especially those in the ACT Online Prep, within the time framework that has been suggested above. With repeated practice, effective time management comes naturally and easily during the actual test.

Then, of course, there are certain strategies that can help you overcome the ACT time constraints:

Don’t waste time pondering over questions you find difficult. Answer the easy questions first, and then come back to the difficult ones.

When you are guessing at the difficult questions, with every answer you eliminate before making a guess, your chances of finding the right answer increases substantially — so, before guessing, eliminate whatever you feel is likely to be wrong.

In cases of extreme desperation, though hopefully this will not happen, here is one suggestion that has been made:

Statistically, B or the second answer is the most common correct answer. So, in case you are hard up for time and there are quite a few questions that remain to be answered, you could quickly mark all of them B, and then return to the questions and try to work out as many of them as you can!

With time playing such an important role in ACT, an awareness about the time the ACT takes should always be borne in mind. It goes without saying that it is essential that you have a watch during the test, and that you keep referring to it at various stages of the test.

Regarding the problematic Reading section, where the time constraint is felt to be particularly acute: it would be good to keep in mind that most of the questions are inference questions or questions that test your general understanding of the text. Therefore, when you first read a passage, it saves time if, instead of going for an in-depth reading straightaway, you merely skim the passage and move on to the questions. With the passage still fresh in your mind, you can answer the general questions before tackling the ones looking for details.

And yes, it pays to jot down notes in the margins of the test booklet. This fixes your attention to the key ideas of the passage, and simplifies the answering process.

In the context of the fact that one of the differences between ACT and SAT is that the former gives you less time to answer your questions, the length of Act exam becomes especially relevant, and an aspect you must always keep in mind while preparing for ACT.