How long is the ACT? 

The four sections of the ACT officially take 2 hours and 55 minutes to complete with 215 questions total.  

But the ten-minute break between Math and Reading and some time at the beginning to fill out paperwork increase the total time to about three and a half hours.

The English section is 45 minutes. The Math section is 60 minutes. And, the Reading and Science sections are each 35 minutes. 

Students who take the optional Writing section at the end will stay an additional 40 minutes, including a five-minute break given after the Science section.

How Long is Each Section? 

How long is each section of the ACT

English Section

Students have 45 minutes to complete 75 questions. This averages out to approximately 36 seconds per question. 

Math Section

The Math section is the longest, with 60 minutes to complete 60 questions. Once you complete Math, you’re over halfway through and have earned your ten-minute break.

Reading & Science Sections

Students have 35 minutes to complete 40 questions on both the Reading and Science sections, which means you have 52 seconds per question or a little less than nine minutes for each of the four Reading passages and a little less than six minutes for each of the six Science passages. These sections, especially Reading can be challenging for many students who struggle with the quick pace that is required.

Practice is important so that you can work more quickly as you gain a better feel for the types of passages and questions you’ll encounter. 

What Time Does the ACT Start?

For national ACT dates, the starting time is usually 8 am. Don’t be late, otherwise you might not be admitted to the test! If you are testing somewhere unfamiliar, arrive even earlier so you can find a parking space, the testing room (and the bathroom), and get settled. Students taking the ACT (without writing) normally finish around 12:35 pm, and students who also take the writing section normally finish around 1:35 pm. We recommend a 7:45 am arrival at the latest.

Extended Time on the ACT

Some students who have requested accommodations from the ACT receive extended time on the test thanks to an updated policy in 2018, approved students have 50% extended time for each section of the ACT. 

Before this change, students had five hours to complete the test, self-paced. But now there is a hard stop after each section. This means students have: 

  • 70 minutes to complete English
  • 90 minutes to complete Mathematics
  • 55 minutes to complete Reading
  • 55 minutes to complete Science

To learn more or to request accommodations, visit the ACT website

ACT Endurance Training Strategies

For some, 2 hours and 55 minutes is a long time to stay alert and mentally active! Just like running a marathon or long-distance race, you can’t just show up and expect to finish well without practice! Here are a few ways to prepare your brain for the length of the ACT. 

Read a book

Not only will focused time reading prepare your brain for the Reading section of the ACT, but it will also help you expand your concentration and attention span. So you’ll be ready to read and comprehend the other sections of the test as well. When you feel your brain drifting, try to keep reading a bit longer. Challenge yourself and build your focus.

Do brain-training (or jigsaw) puzzles

Lumosity is one of many websites to train your brain to remember details and focus. Or you could break out an actual jigsaw puzzle. Your grandma would probably love to spend an evening doing a puzzle with you, especially if she knows it could jump your ACT score.

Take practice ACTs

Beyond taking the ACT multiple times during your junior and senior years, you should also take practice ACTs. Do what you can to create test-like surroundings and make sure you time yourself. You aren’t just preparing for the questions—you’re preparing yourself to answer them under the pressure of a time limit.

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The timing of the ACT can be a challenge. But you can practice strategies to help you manage your time on the ACT. Want to prepare to crush the test? Check out our online ACT courses and get started today.