The ACT without Writing is 2 hours and 55 minutes (175 minutes) long, while the ACT with Writing is 3 hours and 35 minutes (215 minutes) long. This does not include mandatory breaks. In addition, ACT sections (“tests”) vary in length. So how long is the ACT by section? The length of individual ACT sections follows a standardized format:
How Long Is the ACT by Section?
|Subject Tested||Total Questions||Duration (minutes)|
|Total (ACT without Writing)||215||175 (2 hours, 55 minutes)|
|Total (ACT with Writing)||215, plus essay||215 (3 hours, 35 minutes)|
*The Writing test is optional.
How Long Does the ACT Take?
Of course, you are going to be spending longer in the testing room than that. You’ll spend time checking in, filling out initial information, listening to instructions, and taking breaks. All in all, you’ll likely spend a little over 4 hours in the testing center if you are taking the test without Writing and up to around 5 hours if you are taking the Writing test. So, yeah, that’s why we tell you to pack a snack.
The ACT requires you to report to the testing center by 8 AM. Likely you’ll want to get there earlier, though, so you aren’t freaking out if you hit unexpected traffic and so that you have time to mentally prepare yourself, find your testing room, use the bathroom, and so on.
Schedule for the ACT
Below you’ll see what your ACT Saturday morning is likely to look like. You may take more or less time to primp in the morning, but I highly recommend you do not take the “roll out of bed and show up in your PJs approach” to the ACT. First priority is getting enough sleep, but you should also build time into your morning for these three essentials: 1. breakfast 2. getting the blood flowing with some brief exercise 3. getting the brain warmed up with some reading (or a math problem or two).
Ideal Schedule for ACT Test Day
|6:15||Wake up and 15 minutes of exercise|
|6:30||Shower, breakfast, and reading (a news article or two)|
|7:15||Drive to test center|
|7:30-7:45||Arrive at test center, review your reminders for the test*, and check in|
|8:00||Fill out paperwork|
|12:00||Dismissal if no Writing test; otherwise, short break before essay|
*Need help with knowing what to put on your list of reminders? Check out our advice on making an ACT Cheat Sheet.
How Long is the ACT with Extended Time?
If you are approved for extended time, your ACT test is going to be longer than the standard 2 hours and 55 minutes. The most typical arrangement is a 50% time extension, or what is often referred to as “time and a half.” If you approved for ACT National Extended Time, you’ll be allowed up to 5 hours total to complete the multiple-choice sections at your own pace. Yes, this means you actually have more than time and a half. If you are taking the ACT with Writing test with extended time, you will be allowed 6 hours total to work on all five tests.
Some students also receive accommodations for multi-day testing; if this is true for you, you will instead take the test at your school during a designated three-week testing window under the supervision of your guidance counselor.
So how long is the ACT? The moral of the story here is that the ACT is long. This is why it is so important to take practice tests so you can practice your stamina and make sure you have breakfast and snacks for energy on test day–your brain has 4 to 5 hours of hard work to do!
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About Kristin Fracchia
Dr. Kristin Fracchia makes sure Magoosh's sites are full of awesome, free resources that can be found by students prepping for standardized tests. With a PhD from UC Irvine and degrees in Education and English, she’s been working in education since 2004 and has helped students prepare for standardized tests, as well as college and graduate school admissions, since 2007. She enjoys the agony and bliss of trail running, backpacking, hot yoga, and esoteric knowledge.
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