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Home »GRE Practice Set »ACT Test Breakdown

ACT Test Breakdown

ACT Test Breakdown

Many prospective college students will need or want to take the ACT exam. This exam was developed by the ACT (formerly American College Testing) to measure general academic ability. The basic core of the ACT test is four multiple-choice tests in the following content areas: English, mathematics, reading, and science. The English section contains 75 questions and must be completed in 45 minutes. The content of the English exam can be divided into two basic sections, usage/mechanics and rhetorical skills. In turn, these two categories can be broken down into 6 parts: punctuation (13% of the exam); grammar and usage (16%); sentence structure (24%); rhetorical strategy (16%); rhetorical organization (15%); and rhetorical style (16%). The English section is composed of five prose passages, followed by questions. The math section contains 60 multiple-choice questions and must be completed in 60 minutes. This section can be broken into 6 constituent parts: pre-algebra (23%); elementary algebra (17%); intermediate algebra (15%); coordinate geometry (15%); plane geometry (23%); and trigonometry (7%). The reading test contains 40 multiple-choice questions and must be completed in 35 minutes. Four passages will be presented to the candidate, each of which is roughly at the level of difficulty found in college freshman courses. The four content areas from which these passages are drawn are social studies, natural science, fiction, and the humanities. The questions that follow these passages are meant to assess the candidateís ability to understand and evaluate material, rather than the ability to recall obscure facts or define vocabulary. The science section contains 40 questions and must be completed in 35 minutes. In order to succeed in this section, candidates will need to have taken Earth science, physical science, and biology. This test seeks to measure the candidateís ability to apply scientific reasoning skills. Content will be presented in the following formats: data representation, as for instance graphs and tables (38% of the exam); research summaries (45%); and conflicting viewpoints (17%). Students will be able to access a copy of their score report within a couple of weeks. 

The raw score is calculated as the number of questions answered correctly. There is no penalty for incorrect answers on the ACT test, so students should guess on questions they do not know. The raw scores are then converted into scores on a scale of 1 to 36 for each of the four multiple-choice tests. These four scores are averaged to produce the studentís composite score. The score report will also show the studentís percentile rank in each of the four tests and on the test as a whole. The ACT test is administered six times during the school year at testing locations across the country. 

Here are the sections on the ACT test:


Total amount of time allotted

Number of questions

Time to read each passage

Time to answer each question


45 min


1 min, 20 sec

30 sec


60 min



1 min


35 min


3 min, 54 sec

30 sec


35 min


2 min, 9 sec

30 sec






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