Format of the ACT
ACT Format Overview
The five sections of the ACT are administered in the following order: English, math, reading, science, and writing. Each of these sections is timed separately, and the entire exam takes 3 hours and 35 minutes to finish. Students are given two short breaks during the testing period (one between the math and reading tests and one before the writing assessment).
On the ACT English section, test-takers answer a total of 75 multiple-choice questions, for which they are given 45 minutes. The section is structured around five reading passages of varying types, and each passage is associated with 15 questions. The ACT English test is intended to evaluate students' understanding of written English and conventions of the English language. In addition to the total section score of 1-36, test-takers receive what ACT refers to as "reporting category" scores in three assessment areas: Production of Writing, Knowledge of Language, and Conventions of Standard English Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation. These three English section reporting categories are the subject of 23, 12, and 40 questions respectively. Reporting category scores for all ACT multiple-choice sections are given in raw format and as percentages (the number of correct answers divided by the total number of questions in each area).
The ACT math section includes 60 multiple-choice questions in 60 minutes. The questions are divided into three categories of assessment: Preparing for Higher Math (35 questions), Integrating Essential Skills (25 questions), and Modeling (22 questions). Modeling questions overlap with and are drawn from the other two categories. The Preparing for Higher Math category is subdivided into Number and Quantity (5 questions), Algebra (8 questions), Functions (8 questions), Geometry (8 questions), and Statistics & Probability (6 questions). Test-takers will therefore receive a total of 8 reporting category scores for the math section (plus the total section score of 1-36). This section of the ACT evaluates math skills typically studied through the beginning of grade 12.
On the ACT reading section, students must demonstrate their ability to comprehend written texts by answering 40 multiple-choice questions in 35 minutes. Reading assessment reporting categories are Key Ideas and Details (24 questions), Craft & Structure (11 questions), and Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (5 questions). The ACT reading assessment has a four-part structure, each based either on one long passage or two shorter excerpts, which are at the level of a first-year college class. Passages are taken from the humanities, natural sciences, or social studies. In addition to the reporting category scores and the total section score, test-takers are rated either below proficient, proficient, or above proficient in a broad category called "Understanding Complex Texts." According to ACT, this rating is based on a "subset of items in the reading test assessing the ability to identify the central meaning and purposes for a range of increasingly complex texts."
The ACT science section is also a 40-question, 35-minute assessment (all questions are multiple choice). Skills evaluated include analysis, interpretation, problem-solving, and reasoning. Reporting categories are as follows: Interpretation of Data (16 questions), Scientific Investigation (10 questions), and Evaluation of Models, Inferences, and Experimental Results (14 questions). Students will answer questions on reading passages and on visual representations of information (graphs, charts, and tables). ACT science exercises encompass the scientific disciplines of biology, chemistry, physics, and earth science, and are intended to prepare students for introductory science courses at the university level. Test-takers are assumed to have undergone three years of secondary-level science classes.
In order to receive an ACT composite score, students must take the English, reading, math, and science sections, but the writing test is optional and scored separately. The ACT writing test consists of one essay, for which test-takers are given 40 minutes. Students are presented with an essay prompt that includes three distinct perspectives on a contemporary issue. They are asked to write an essay that presents their own views on that issue, which must be related to at least one of the given positions. Two ACT graders evaluate ACT essays on a scale of 1 to 6 in four domains: Ideas and Analysis, Development and Support, Organization, and Language Use and Convention (the score for each will be between 2 and 12). Students will also receive a total writing score that is the average of all domain scores, rounded up or down as appropriate.