Are you one of the many college hopefuls that are planning to take the ACT? For those planning to take the ACT, a common question is, “How long is the exam?”
ACT and Admissions
The ACT measure’s academic college readiness by testing students in the following subjects: English, math, reading, science, and, as an option, writing in essay format. While the writing section is optional, check to find out if your desired colleges require it. High school students most commonly sit for the exam in the spring of their junior year or fall of senior year. Some students who aren’t happy with their scores opt to take the test more than once.
Colleges and universities use the ACT score along with your high school GPA, transcript of completed classes, recommendation letters, information on extracurricular and volunteer activities, college application, and possibly an interview, an essay, and additional testing. The weight of the ACT score varies in each institution.
As for the length of the ACT, it varies based on whether you completed the Writing section. If you don’t do the essay:
- The actual testing time is 2 hours and 55 minutes.
- Including the breaks given, the test takes 3 hours and 30 minutes.
If the optional Writing essay is taken:
- The actual testing time is 3 hours and 40 minutes.
- Including the breaks given, the test takes just over 4 hours.
At 3+ hours, the ACT definitely qualifies as a long test! The test length, along with the thought of sitting and focusing for that amount of time, can be stressful. Knowing how the test is broken down into sections will help you understand how much time you’ll spend on each topic.
The ACT now comes in both paper-and-pencil and online formats. Students can choose the online version at testing centers when taking the ACT on national exam dates, while high schools or school districts can opt to offer the online ACT during state and district testing. Benefits of online testing include receiving scores more quickly, in as little as two business days, and having access to an onscreen timer. In any case, the section time limits remain the same.
The English, Math, Reading, and Science sections consist of multiple-choice questions. Answer as many questions as possible as wrong answers don’t count against you. If you guess on a question that you’d otherwise leave blank and get a correct answer by chance, you win.
Set for Success
You Can’t Study Too Much
No one wants to put hours and hours into studying, but for such an important exam as the ACT, it’s necessary. If you begin early and plan regularly self-scheduled sessions, the process won’t seem so overwhelming. Are you still in school? Do you have a classmate that will study with you? Maybe there are three or four people who’d like to form a group. Working with others can help to keep you motivated.
Whether you’re studying alone or with others, purchase good study materials such as a study guide and a flashcard system. These products will help to reinforce the right material since the contents are based on the actual exam. Find areas in which you may have less understanding and focus more time on those topics. Don’t give up! The test date will come before you know it, and you’ll know a lot more material by then.
Learn to Play the Game
Taking ACT practice tests helps you learn a lot about the test content and questions. Practice tests reinforce what you know and identify areas where more study is needed. Answering questions helps you to get used to the process, and you’ll become more efficient over time. That’s important in a timed test! In fact, the best way to prepare for completing the test efficiency is to complete some practice tests within the actual time limit on test day.
As a reminder, only correct responses count. Be sure to complete the questions that you can answer with confidence since those correct responses make up your score. For questions on which you don’t know the response, guessing is the most efficient option, considering you have less than a minute to respond to each question. Otherwise, in the paper-and-pencil version, you can mark the question and go back to it if you have time left after answering all other section questions.
Get Ready for the Big Day
How do you prepare for a long day of testing? When you get a registration date and time from a testing center or your school, put your ticket in a safe place. Emails can get lost, so be careful with the information. Mark it on your calendar and find out what you’re allowed to take and need at the test center or school’s testing site. A few days before the test session, put everything together. You might even put your ticket and ID in the car you’ll take to the test center.
Check the site location for travel time and to know you have good directions available. Plan your arrival time for 30 minutes before check-in. Paper-and-pencil tests taken at a test center generally require an arrival time by 8 a.m. The online version may have morning or afternoon times scheduled. If you’re taking the test through your high school, follow the test time given to you by the school’s test coordinator.
The night before the test, set your alarm so you’re ready to go early, and get a good night’s sleep. If you’ve studied and developed a good test-taking strategy, you’re about as ready as you can be.
Ace the ACT
Acing the ACT is about taking the whole experience in stride because you’re prepared to get a good score. You should feel good walking into the test center, knowing that you’ve done everything you can to prepare, including studying, taking practice tests, and planning for test day. Confidence helps to reduce nervousness, eliminating time-wasting uncertainty. It doesn’t matter that the ACT is a long test because you’ll be ready for it.