ACT Pattern

A quick overview of the ACT structure:

Test Number of questions Time limit
English 75 multiple-choice questions 45 minutes
Math 60 multiple-choice questions 60 minutes
Reading 40 multiple-choice questions 35 minutes
Science 40 multiple-choice questions 35 minutes
Writing (optional) 1 essay 40 minutes

Test duration and sections

The duration of the ACT is 2 hours 55 minutes without the essay, and 3 hours 35 minutes with the essay. A short break is provided after the second test. The second break is after the fourth test and, of course, applicable only if you are taking the optional Writing test.

Answer choices and scoring pattern

The ACT provides four answer choices to questions in the English, Reading, and Science tests, but five answer choices to questions in the Math test. The ACT has a unique feature in that the odd-numbered questions have answer choices labeled A through D or E, whereas the even-numbered questions have answer choices labeled F through J or K with the exclusion of I.

Each correct answer on the ACT gets you a raw point, and there is no penalty for wrong answers. A scaled score ranging from 1-36 is computed for each test on the basis of the raw score secured in that test. Scores from the four multiple choice tests - English, Math, Reading, and Science- are then averaged to generate a composite score on a scale of 1–36.

The Writing test score awarded on a scale of 1–36 doesn’t affect the composite score. Every Essay is also awarded four writing domain scores (Ideas and Analysis, Development and Support, Organization, and Language Use and Conventions) -- each scored on a scale of 2-12. The Writing domain scores that range from 2 to 12 are the sums of the scores awarded by two readers on a scale of 1–6 for each domain. The essay score is also combined with the English score to produce a separate English Language Arts (ELA) score on a scale of 1–36.

The ACT also provides a STEM Score and seven different Sub-scores.

ACT English test

The English test consists of five passages with 15 questions per passage. Most of the questions ask you to select the answer that is most appropriate in grammar and style; or the one that is most consistent with the tone of the passage.

Six elements of effective writing are tested in the English test, that fall under two categories:

  1. Usage/Mechanics - 40 Questions
    • punctuation(10 Questions)
    • grammar and usage (12 Questions)
    • sentence structure (18 Questions)
  2. Rhetorical Skills - 35 Questions
    • strategy(12 Questions)
    • organization(11 Questions)
    • style(12 Questions)

ACT Math test

Approximately 14 Pre-algebra-based, 10 Elementary algebra-based, 9 Intermediate Algebra-based, 9 Coordinate geometry-based, 14 Plane geometry-based, and 4 trigonometry-based questions comprise the Math test. While the questions are arranged in a ‘general order of difficulty’ – easy, medium, and hard you may see a few hard questions in the first 20 questions. Conversely, you may also find a few easy questions among the last 20 questions.

ACT Reading Test

Four passages belonging to four genres -- prose fiction, social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences comprise the Reading test. As passages always follow this order, and each passage is followed by 10 questions this gives the test taker the advantage of working on those passages belonging to the genres he is most comfortable with first and save the harder ones for the end.

ACT Science Test

The ACT science test does not test any ‘science’ based knowledge; rather, it is a test of reading and reasoning based on science-related passages. In this test you will see about 2-3 Charts and Graphs passages, about 2-3 Science Experiment passages, and 1 or 2 Fighting Scientists passages – the number of questions ranges from 5 to 7..

ACT Writing Test

The Writing test is optional and needs to be taken if the essay score is required by the college you are applying to. Most of the time the essay task asks you to take a position on an issue presented before you. The Essay task asks for your views on an issue in the context of the three given perspectives presented on the issue.


ACT is a registered trademark of ACT, Inc., which is not affiliated with The Princeton Review.

VIDEOS | View All


Copyright © Manya Group 2015. All Rights Reserved | The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University.