How Long is the ACT?

Written by: Kristine Thorndyke

For those with the question “how long is the ACT,” you are already thinking ahead to one of the biggest constraints of the ACT: time. With a minute per question, being able to answer questions efficiently and effectively is key!

Many choose to think of the ACT as more of a marathon than a sprint. It’s important to know how to pace yourself on the test as well as take advantage of breaks to recover before jumping back into the race. Knowing exactly what you are getting yourself into and being prepared for the test is a great way to avoid any unnecessary stress or concern on test day.

So read on and see how long the ACT takes and what exactly to expect.

How Long Does the ACT Take?

  • The ACT is 2 hours and 55 minutes in length of actual sit-down testing. Including breaks, the ACT is 3 hours and 35 minutes long.
  • If you take ACT with optional essay, the testing time is 3 hours and 35 minutes. Including breaks, the ACT with optional essay is 3 hours and 50 minutes long.

ACT Test Length By Section:

  • Section 1 – English – 45 minutes
  • Section 2 – Math – 60 minutes
  • Section 3 – Reading – 35 minutes
  • Section 4 – Science – 35 minutes
  • Optional Writing – 40 minutes

The testing usually begins between 8:30AM and 9:30AM, although all students are required to arrive at the test-taking center at 8AM for check-in. Let’s have a look at the schedule broken out by section for an 8:30AM exact start time:

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Generally speaking, this is the schedule you will experience across all testing centers. Sometimes there are differences in this schedule based on the strictness of the proctor on break time or if there is any kind of problem or disruption during the test that needs to be taken care of.

After the Math section of the MCAT, all test takers receive a 10-minute break. If your proctor attempts to skip this break, please let them know that you would like this time for a rest, as you are entitled to this 10-minute break to regroup.

What Else You Need to Know About Testing Day

Students must be checked in by 8AM Saturday morning of your test date, so it’s recommended to show up at the testing center at least 15 minutes beforehand. It’s important to keep ahold of your admissions ticket even after check-in, as you will need some of the information when filling out personal details on the test (check out our ACT checklist here!).

The variation occurs in how long it takes to check everyone in, which is why the start time can vary between 8:30 and 9:30 AM. Once the proctor has checked everyone in and read the directions, you will then need to fill out all the personal details as directed. Assuming all goes well, you then will take the test and expect to be finished between 11:30AM and 1PM.