ACT Sections


English Section

The first section is the 45 minute English test covering usage/mechanics and rhetorical skills. The 75 question test consists of a few passages with various sections underlined on one side of the page and options to correct the underlined portions on the other side of the page. There are also a few questions asking about the order of sentences in a paragraph and paragraphs in a passage and the author's tone in a section of text.


Math Section

The second section is the 60 minute, 60 question math test with 14 covering pre-algebra, 10 elementary algebra, 9 intermediate algebra, 14 plane geometry, 9 coordinate geometry, and 4 elementary trigonometry. Calculators are permitted in this section only. The calculator requirements are stricter than the SAT's in that computer algebra systems are not allowed; however, the ACT permits calculators with paper tapes, that make noise, that have wireless capabilities, and that have power cords with certified "modifications" (disabling the mentioned features), which the SAT does not allow. Also, this is the only section that has five instead of four answer choices.


Reading Section

The 35 minute, 40 question reading section measures reading comprehension in four passages (taken and edited from books and magazines) one about prose fiction (short stories and novels), one about social science (history, economics, psychology, political science, and anthropology), one about humanities (art, music, architecture, dance), and one about natural science (biology, chemistry, physics, and the physical sciences), in that order.


Science Reasoning Section

The science reasoning test is a 35 minute, 40 question test. There are seven passages each followed by five to seven questions. There are three Data Representation passages with 5 questions following each passage, 3 Research Summary passage with six questions each, and one Conflicting Viewpoints passage with 7 questions.


Writing Section

The optional writing section, which is always administered at the end of the test, is 30 minutes long. All essays must be in response to a given prompt. The prompts are about a social issue applicable to high school students. No particular essay structure is required. Two trained readers assign each essay a score between 1 and 6, where a score of 0 is reserved for essays that are blank, off-topic, non-English, not written with no. 2 pencil, or considered illegible after several attempts at reading. The scores are summed to produce a final score from 2 to 12 (or 0). If the two readers' scores differ by more than one point, then a senior third reader decides.

Although the writing section is optional, several schools do require an essay score and will factor it in to the admissions decision.