When you are preparing for the ACT test, it is crucial to understand how long the ACT takes. Knowing how long the ACT test takes will help you manage your study time, set sensible expectations for test day, and get ready for the unforeseen. In addition, knowing how long the test is will enable me to better plan and schedule for ACT practice tests.

How long is the ACT test?

The ACT test is composed of four sections and an optional fifth one. Together, they contain 215 questions, and all four sections usually take around three hours. To be precise, it is two hours and fifty-five minutes (175 minutes) without a ten-minute break, or three hours and five minutes with the scheduled interval.

However, the added time required to fill in administrative information during the exam and the ten-minute break between Mathematics and Reading must be taken into consideration.

All in all, the total time for the examination amounts to three and a half hours. Each subject takes anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. In case you’re wondering, what is the time required for the ACT with the optional subject and breaks? The answer is 3 hours and 55 minutes.


How long is each section of the ACT?

The English section consists of 75 questions to be completed in a duration of 45 minutes, while the Math section consists of 60 questions to be finished in 60 minutes. After laboriously working for 105 minutes, a 10-minute rest is provided.

Following the break, both the reading and science sections each have 40 questions with a time limit of 35 minutes. Moreover, a brief 5-minute intermission is granted specifically to those taking the writing exam. Candidates who did not opt-in for the optional writing section can make their way to the exit after submitting their test papers to the administrator.

Students who have chosen to take the optional writing test must be aware that it consists of one essay of 40 minutes. Here is a summary of the timing and questions for each section in the table below:

ACT Exam Section 

Duration (minutes)

Total Questions 















Break (for writing students only)


Optional Section 



What Time Does the ACT Start?

The standard starting time for national ACT tests is 8 am, so make sure to not be late as otherwise you will not be allowed entry. If you are taking the test in an unfamiliar place, it is best to arrive even earlier so you can find parking, the test room (and the restroom), and become acclimated.

Students taking the ACT (non-writing) typically finish around 12:35 pm, while those taking the writing section usually complete their test by 1:35 pm. To ensure sufficient time to complete the test, we advise arriving no later than 7:45 am.

Extended Time on the ACT

In 2018, the policy regarding extended time on the ACT was changed, allowing approved students to get 50% extra time on each section of the test.

Previously, students had five hours to complete the exam, which was self-paced. However, presently, there is a definitive end to each section. As such, students are allotted:

  • 70 minutes to complete English
  • 90 minutes to complete Mathematics
  • 55 minutes to complete Reading
  • 55 minutes to complete Science

To learn more or to request accommodations, visit the ACT website.

When do you need to arrive on the ACT test date?

Candidates must make sure to get sufficient rest in the evening prior to  ACT test so that they can be on time for their exams. Are you wondering why this is an important factor?

Students must arrive at the exam center by at the latest 7:45 a.m. Testing administrators are strict with timing and will not allow you to enter after 8 a.m. So, instead of being late, arrive as early as possible at the exam center. Wait for the proctor to give you the question pamphlet and answer sheet. Then, you can start your exam at 8:30 a.m.

ACT Timing Tips

To ensure you answer all 215 questions in the given timeline, you will need to utilize a few test-taking strategies. These ACT timing tips can help to maximize the amount of time you have:

Skimming passages:

Try reading every passage's first and last sentence and skimming the rest first. There will be times you need to read more carefully, but this is a great way to save time. After all, the ACT requires a lot of reading.

Cross out answers you know aren't correct:

This can help you focus your thinking and help you get to the correct answer sooner.

Start with more straightforward questions:

No rule says you have to complete all questions in order. Feel free to leave the more complex questions that require more time for the end.

Move on if you’re stuck:

Making this mistake on the ACT can lead to less-than-ideal scores, as well as feelings of exasperation. If you realize you have been spending too much time on a particular problem, it is best to move on and revisit it later.

This can seem like a lot of content to cover in three short hours; however, learning more about the ACT’s format and honing your skills can help you navigate the test with speed and accuracy.

If you’ve used these strategies and your score isn’t increasing, click here to learn some tried and tested score-boosting tactics.