How Long Is the ACT?

a simple wall clock indicating that it's 10:10 to represent how long is the act -image by magoosh

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. For students needing extended time, the ACT without Writing is 4 hours and 30 minutes (270 minutes) long, while the ACT with Writing is 5 hours and 30 minutes (330 minutes) long. This does not include mandatory breaks.

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.

How Long Is the ACT by Section?

ACT sections (“tests”) vary in length. The length of individual ACT sections follows a standardized format:

Subject TestedTotal QuestionsDuration for test-takers without extended time (minutes)Duration for test-takers with extended time (minutes)
English754570
Mathematics606090
Reading403555
Science403555
Writing*14060
Total (ACT without Writing)215175 (2 hours, 55 minutes)270 (4 hours, 30 minutes)
Total (ACT with Writing)215, plus essay215 (3 hours, 35 minutes)330 (5 hours, 30 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).

Depending on your test-taking needs, below are two schedules that will give you an idea about of what the ideal test day should look like. However, it is much more likely that you’ll get out 10-40 minutes later than what’s projected in these schedules.

Note: You’ll notice that we mention “reviewing your list of reminders”—if you need help with knowing what to put on your list, check out our advice on making an ACT Cheat Sheet.

Ideal Schedule for ACT Test Day for Test-Takers Without Extended Time

TimeActivity
6:15Wake up and 15 minutes of exercise
6:30Shower, breakfast, and reading (a news article or two)
7:15Drive to test center
7:30-7:45Arrive at test center, review your reminders for the test, and check in
8:00Fill out paperwork
8:45English Test
9:30Math Test
10:30Break
10:40Reading Test
11:15Science Test
11:50Wrap Up & dismissal if no Writing test; otherwise, short break before essay
11:55Writing Test
12:35Dismissal

Ideal Schedule for ACT Test Day for Test-Takers With Extended Time

TimeActivity
6:15Wake up and 15 minutes of exercise
6:30Shower, breakfast, and reading (a news article or two)
7:15Drive to test center
7:30-7:45Arrive at test center, review your reminders for the test, and check in
8:00Fill out paperwork
8:45English Test
9:55Math Test
11:25Break
11:40Reading Test
12:35Science Test
1:30Wrap Up & Dismissal if no Writing test; otherwise, short break before essay
1:35Writing Test
2:35Dismissal

Takeaway

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!

Author

  • Kristin Fracchia

    Dr. Kristin Fracchia has over fifteen years of expertise in college and graduate school admissions and with a variety of standardized tests, including the ACT, SAT, GRE, GMAT, and LSAT, with several 99% scores. She had a PhD from the University of California, Irvine, an MA degree from The Catholic University, and BA degrees in Secondary Education and English Literature from the University of Maryland, College Park. She was the recipient of the 2013 Excellence in Teaching Award and the Chancellor’s Club Fellowship from the University of California, Irvine. She’s worked as a high school teacher and university professor, as an independent college and graduate school admissions counselor, and as an expert tutor for standardized tests, helping hundreds of students gain acceptance into premier national and international institutions. She now develops accessible and effective edtech products for Magoosh. Her free online content and YouTube videos providing test prep and college admissions advice have received over 6 million views in over 125 countries. Kristin is an advocate for improving access to education: you can check out her TEDx talk on the topic. Follow Kristin on LinkedIn!

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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