What Subjects Are on the ACT?

Are you in the process of applying to colleges? Are you bombarded by information on entrance exams such as the ACT and SAT? Are you trying to figure out what subjects are on the ACT or SAT as well?

what subjects are on the actCollege applications are often confusing and stressful, but you don’t have to worry. Let this be your guide to help you understand what subjects are on the ACT, how it is scored, and a few other crucial tips to success. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming once you understand the basics of each of the tests.

The ACT is divided into four, sometimes five sections – the writing test is optional, so it is important to check as some colleges or universities require its completion. So check all of your schools before you make any decisions regarding the the reading section.

Check out the table below for a simple summary of what subjects are on the ACT.

Subjects on the ACT Test:


  • Number of questions: 75
  • Type of questions: Multiple Choice
  • Section Time: 45 min
  • Topics Covered:
    • Grammar,
    • punctuation,
    • sentence structure,
    • strategy,
    • organization and rhetorical skills.


  • Number of questions: 60
  • Type of questions: Multiple Choice
  • Section Time: 60 min
  • Topics Covered:


  • Number of questions: 40
  • Type of questions: Multiple choice related to four different passages
  • Section Time: 35 min
  • Topics Covered:
    • Reading comprehension of what is stated or implied around topics such as prose fiction, social studies,
    • humanities,
    • natural sciences


  • Number of questions: 40
  • Type of questions: Multiple choice linked to scientific passages
  • Section Time: 35 min
  • Topics Covered:
    • Interpretation,
    • analysis,
    • evaluation,
    • problem-solving,
    • reasoning


  • Number of questions: 1
  • Type of questions: Essay
  • Section Time: 40 min
  • Topics Covered:
    • Various writing skills

How Long is the ACT?

Calendar ExamIn total the ACT takes 2 hours and 55 minutes, or 3 hours and 25 minutes if you sit the writing section of the test as well this time around.

Now, let’s look at each section in a little more detail. By getting an understanding of each of the subjects, you can better understand what’s covered as well as if this test is a better option for you compared to the SAT test.

In addition, this will help if you feel you need a bit of extra help in a certain area.


The 75 questions in English section are divided between five passages that you have to review and understand. This means that each passage has 15 questions related to it. Some questions will be linked to the passage as a whole, while others will be more specific and draw your attention  to a particular part of the passage. It’s up to you to read the passages and then answer each of the questions to the best of your ability.


Quite simply, there are 60 different multiple choice questions relating to algebra, geometry and trigonometry – with the focus in that order. In other words, if trigonometry isn’t your forte, don’t stress too much as there is significantly more focus on the other two areas. When studying, your focus should be on algebra and geometry. A calculator is permitted for the math section of the test.

Reviewing and test prep can make a tremendous difference in your results here. So make the time for that before the exam.

You Might Also Be Interested In: How to Study Math: 35 Easy Math Tips You Need to Know


There are four passages in the reading section, each with ten questions. The questions will relate directly to the passage, sometimes drawing your attention to a particular part of the passage, and will test your ability to make comparisons, understand ideas, draw generalizations, and determine the meaning of words, statements or phrases within a particular context.

This is an area that makes many student nervous as there can be a wide range of topics in the passages. Some of the passages you might have more knowledge of than others. Just do the best you can with what you’re offered, knowing that all the other students taking the test are facing the same topics.


The science section of the ACT also revolves around passages. These passages will include graphs, diagrams, charts, and tables, followed by around four to seven questions. The questions will require you to gather the information presented in the passage and choose the most correct answer from the selection of four multiple choice responses.

If you have trouble recalling scientific information, don’t worry, you are tested more on your skills and ability to analyze, evaluate and interpret, than you are on actual science-based information.


This optional section of the ACT requires you to read a small passage on a given topic and evaluate perspectives on the topic. You will need to show that you can analyze different arguments by forming different viewpoints and opinions into a coherent essay.

It’s important here to not only present a thoughtful response but to also present it well. Taking a bit of time to outline what your thoughts will be before you start writing can make this section a lot easier as well as get you better results.

How is the ACT Scored?

Studying FemalesAt first this may seem a little complicated, but it’s actually quite simple. It’s not quite as straightforward as recording how many questions you answered correctly – that would be really simple! But that is the first step.

Basically, you get a mark for every correct answer, blank or incorrect answers receive no marks. This is called your raw score. Your raw score is then converted to your scaled score, which is a number between one and 36.  The reason the scores are scaled is to ensure results are consistent across tests taken on different dates and in different locations.

Act vs SAT, Which to Choose?

Deciding between ACT vs the SAT is a question that many students ask. And many of those end up taking both tests one or more times. However, perhaps it can be made a bit simpler for you? Look at the additional topics within the ACT test. Are you someone that does well in science? Then taking the ACT test where you get the boost from the science section might help your overall score.

Whichever way you decide to go, just make sure that you create a plan to prepare for the exam and follow the plan. We wish you the best of luck this year as you navigate the college process!

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