How long does the ACT take is one of the significant details you need to know to ace your ACT test. There are also several tips, which include…

How Long Is the ACT? 2023 Ultimate Guide

How Long Is the ACT

Aside from preparing for your upcoming ACT test, it is also important to ask yourself how long does the ACT takes? Knowing the answer will help you manage your time wisely, set realistic expectations, and prepare for the unexpected. Moreover, it’s the best way to identify at what pace you should practice to ace the test.

We would say, use time as your friend. See it as a reminder for you to build endurance and stamina that are much needed when you are already in college. In this post, we will help you get ready for your actual ACT test day. 

How Long is the ACT Test?

There are four sections and an optional writing test that can affect the ACT test length. If you don’t take the writing test, the ACT test takes 2 hours and 55 minutes plus a 10-minute-break which makes it a total of 3 hours and 5 minutes. 

If you are taking the writing test, then it takes 3 hours and 35 minutes plus a 10-minute-break after the Math section and a 5-minute-section before the writing test. This is a total of 3 hours and 50 minutes. Below is a table for better visual reference.


  Length Break Total
4 Sections Without Writing 2 hours, 55 minutes 10 minutes (after Math section) 3 hours, 5 minutes
4 Sections With Writing 3 hours, 35 minutes 10 minutes (after Math section) & 5 minutes (before Writing test) 3 hours, 50 minutes

How Long is the ACT Test by Section?

The ACT test is quite lengthy and here’s a breakdown on how long each section takes and how many questions are on each of the ACT sections. How it is laid down below is the correct order of subject areas in the actual ACT test. The writing test is at the end if you’re taking it.

Section Number of Questions Time (in minutes)
English 75 45 minutes
Math 60 60 minutes
Reading 40 35 minutes
Science 40 35 minutes
Writing (optional) 1 essay 40 minutes

What Is the Ideal Pacing for Every Section?

Long ACT

The overall ACT time is lengthy, but the total time allotted for each section and the number of questions each section has makes proper pacing difficult to master. Thus, the need to know how long is the ACT test beforehand.

Remember that you need time to read the passages thoroughly and a time to answer. You must know how long all these takes in total. 

Also, always leave time for you to review your answers per section. This will help you check if you’ve missed a question, misspelled an answer, and other possible errors.

Below is a breakdown of the ideal ACT timing or pacing for each section.

Section Time
English 36 seconds
Math 1 minute
Reading 52 seconds
Science 52 seconds

How to Prepare for Each Section?

Prepare Section


This section has 75 questions that you need to answer within 45 minutes. We recommend you answer the easiest questions first. Once you’re done with them, you can go back to the difficult ones. This way, you won’t get stuck with complicated questions. 


The Math section is mostly ordered by difficulty, so build the right pacing for each question. Leave more time for review, especially because this section involves lots of analyses and calculations. Increase your speed without sacrificing the accuracy of your answers. The goal is to answer is each question within 1 minute.


This section involves a lot of passages that may include a research report, charts, and other forms of data. Figure out a strategy that works for you. You can either skim through the passages and data first before reading the answers, or you can do it vice versa.


The Science test is closely similar to the Reading section in terms of format, so it means there are several passages and charts involved. Your goal for this section is to understand the gist of the passage and data much quickly without being hasty.

As we have said, there is an ideal ACT time limit for each question, but if you can decrease that time the better. It’s important to leave a few minutes for review. Doing so will also help you improve your speed while making sure of the accuracy of your answers.


You have 40 minutes to come up with a well-written essay. Make sure to outline your ideas first to have a smooth flow. Organization and cohesion are some of the keys to an excellent write-up. You can check for more ideas and tips here (1).

What Time Does the ACT Start?

The ACT test time standards require that you arrive at the test center by 8:00 am. The earlier the better. Although testing centers remain close until 8:00 am, arriving earlier will give you more time to prepare and settle down. 

The test usually starts at 8:30 am when all test-takers have already registered and are seated in their designated spots. There are testing centers that may not start until 9:00 am because it may take longer to register all participants and distribute the test materials.

What Are the Essential Things to Bring During the ACT Test?

Aside from knowing how long is the ACT, be guided on what to bring on the actual test day to avoid any mishaps.

  • Printed admissions ticket – Make sure to bring the printed version of your admissions ticket, because, without it, you won’t be able to take the test.

  • Photo ID – Be sure to bring a photo ID that’s accepted according to the ACT standards. Here are the accepted photo identifications that are recognized by the ACT organization.
    •   Unexpired official photo identification – Your photo ID should be your current (not expired) ID. It should also be the original, not photocopied. Lastly, it must be issued by a school, city, state, or federal government agency.
    •  ACT student ID form (with photo) – If you don’t have any of the IDs accepted by the ACT, then you can opt to present this. However, you need to have it lined up and filled out one week before the ACT test. 
  • Two #2 pencils with erasers – You can bring two or more of the #2 pencils with erasers. This type of pencil is the only allowable type of pencil for the ACT test. Mechanical pencils and other types are not allowed.
  • Approved calculator – Most questions in the Math section can be solved without using a calculator, but it’s a disadvantage not to bring any. There are certain questions that can be better solved using a calculator. However, be sure to bring an acceptable calculator according to ACT’s calculator policy (2).

Bring a watch to help you track the time, but avoid wearing a watch that has a fitness tracker, camera, and internet access because they are not allowed and might be confiscated. 

What are the Other Test Day Tips?

Some of the vital ones are:

Eat a carbohydrate-rich breakfast. Avoid a sweet-dense breakfast. Instead, a breakfast meal loaded with carbohydrates will sustain you with lots of energy as you finish the entire test.

Do a few breathing exercises. This will help you warm-up before the test to avoid feeling nervous.

Utilize the break schedule. Use your break time to go to the comfort room even if you don’t have the need to go. Your bodily needs might manifest when you’re already in the right place. 

Bring a bottle of water and a healthy snack. You need to stay hydrated during the test, so a bottle of water is a must. A healthy portion of snack will also fill you up moderately, enough to make you last the test.


Equip yourself with all the information to complete your test prep. You will certainly thank yourself for paying attention to these guidelines because an excellent ACT test output means a well-prepared student. 

How long does the ACT last? To get a clear and better idea, take as many ACT practice tests as you can.