How Long Is the ACT?

Picture of a blackboard with a clock drawn in chalk
June 1, 2022
How Many Hours Is the ACT?How Many Questions Are on the ACT?How Long Is the ACT Test with Writing?How Long Is the ACT Test with Extended Time?

”Mary

Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/4/22

You’ve aced your classes, sought out meaningful extracurricular activities, and each day brings you closer to your high school graduation. One of the only obstacles left is your college entrance exam: the ACT. 

College entrance exams are a significant stepping stone to meeting your college application requirements. You have two options: the SAT or the ACT. If you decided the ACT is more your speed, you probably want to know how long you'll be glued to your test paper on test day. 

So, how long is the ACT test? And, if you’ve requested accommodations, how long is the ACT test with extended time? Read on to learn more about the ACT, including how many hours you’ll spend completing the test, how many questions you’ll need to answer, and more. 

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How Many Hours Is the ACT? 

You'll spend just under three hours doing the test, excluding breaks and wait times, assuming you want to take the ACT without the writing section. 

The ACT official website suggests that students arrive no later than 8 a.m. on test day. Students not taking the exam's writing portion are typically dismissed at approximately 12:35 p.m., which means that you can expect your test day from arrival to departure to last about 4.5 hours. 

How Many Questions Are On the ACT? 

Minus the essay you would write if you decide to take the ACT test with writing, the entire test has 215 questions for you to answer. Here's a breakdown showing how many questions are in each section. 

Table outlining the Number of Questions, and Minutes you should spend working on each Section of the ACT
Source: ACT.org 

This table shows that you’ll have the most questions to complete in the ACT English section. Given this information, you have an average of 52 seconds to complete each question across all sections. However, some questions may be more straightforward or complex, therefore taking more or less time. 

To answer 215 questions in the allotted time, you’ll need to implement some test-taking strategies to keep yourself on track. You can save time on the ACT by: 

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. This is a common ACT pitfall that can lead to lower scores and more frustration. If you feel you’re spending too much time on a question, move on and come back to 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. 

How Long Is the ACT Test With Writing? 

Now that you know more about the time you’ll spend on the four main sections, you’re probably how long the ACT test is with writing. If you decide to try your hand at the optional essay question, be prepared to add 40 minutes to your original time. 

If you're feeling a little burnt out after spending three hours trailblazing through multiple-choice questions, you'll have the opportunity to relax a bit and sharpen your pencils before taking a stab at the writing section. Students who decide to take the writing section are typically dismissed at approximately 1:35 p.m.

Whether or not you choose to do the writing section is entirely up to you and your school list. Most colleges, including many of the country's top-ranked schools, don't require the writing test. However, it's best to do adequate college research and ensure no school on your list requires the writing test before you opt-out. 

How Long Is the ACT With Extended Time? 

So, how long is the ACT with extended time if you've requested accommodations? Through National Extended Time (also referred to as Timing Code 6), students are allowed 50% more time on each ACT section. 

This means that a test-taker who is granted National Extended Time will have

If you take the ACT writing test with extended time, you'll have 60 minutes to complete one essay. This is a relatively new addition to the ACT's policy. 

Before that, students had five hours total to self-pace through the ACT. However, studies found that "Having to pace themselves requires an additional demand of them beyond what is required of examinees testing with standard time or other types of extended time." This finding was what inspired ACT to change the policy in 2018.

Final Thoughts 

The ACT is a reasonably lengthy and challenging test that will require all of your focus for at least three hours. Now that you know how long the ACT test is with the writing test, extended time, and just the four main parts, you can plan accordingly as you study leading up to the test. 

Remember, the ACT is a marathon, not a sprint. Build up your endurance and focus using practice tests, well-tailored study strategies, and schedules. With enough preparation and endurance, you’ll be ready to ace the ACT in no time! 

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