How long does the ACT take including breaks?

How long does the ACT take including breaks?

Generally speaking, the ACT tests you in two main subject areas- English language and mathematics. Amongst other skills like reading, analysis, and quantitative ability, the ACT also tests the students in time management. Therefore, management of time during the exam is an important part of your ACT preparation toolkit.

With just over 4 hours to attempt more than 200 questions (an average of 1 question per minute), managing your time well during the exam becomes paramount.

To avoid succumbing to the time pressure on the test day, it is useful to have a detailed idea about the overall test timings- timings for each section and breaks available. 

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How Long Does the ACT Take?

Typically, the ACT, without the Essay section is for 175 minutes (2 hours 55 minutes). Taking the ACT with the essay adds up to a total time of 215 minutes (3 hours 35 minutes).

The test is divided into four sections- English, Math, Reading, and Science; the sections occur in this order during the exam. The exam has to be attempted in this order, and the student cannot go back to the previous section after the allotted time is over; also you cannot skip to the next session without first completing the ongoing section (unless you have been granted extended time or special testing)

A fixed amount of time is allotted for each section, the table below gives a quick glance at the time allotted for each section and the average time per question for these sections.

Subject Area

Number Of Questions Total Time Allotted (minutes)

Time Per Question (Average)

English 75 45 36 seconds
Math 60 60 1 minute
Reading 40 35 52 seconds
Science 40 35 52 seconds
Writing 1 40 40 Minutes


The above time does not, however, account for the breaks available during the exam. Let's take a look at the break times, and how you could use these breaks to your advantage, during the exam.

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What is an ACT day like from start to end?

The previous section explains the total test timings for taking the test alone; however, the test day timings will extend taking into account your arrival at the test center, checking in for the test and breaks during the test.

Each of the sections is to be attempted in one go without a break; however, two breaks are given during the entire test (if you plan to attempt the ACT with essay). There is one 10 minute break after the first two sections are completed, which means you would have 10 minutes to spare before the reading and science section. After intense testing of close to 2 hours, this break becomes very essential and you can use this time to relax, hydrate and regain your focus; before another 70 minutes of intense testing begins (grabbing a quick bite won't be a bad idea!).

If you have decided to attempt the optional essay, another 5 minutes of a break will be granted for you post the science section; before the essay begins.  

The below table is a detailed explanation of the total time available on the ACT, including breaks and start-end time on each section.

The standard exam start time for the ACT is 8:30 am, slight differences can be accounted for (no later than 9:00 am) depending on the test center and the proctor. In an event where the start time has been delayed, the breaks and end times are adjusted accordingly. 

Extended time on the ACT is available for the test-takers who request for Extended Time (test-takers with special requirements) or students who have requested for Special Testing.

act test timings

The exam takes place on Saturdays and you can expect to leave the test center anywhere between 11:30 to 1:00 pm. 

Other then these timings, there are certain test-day procedures one should keep in mind, as they increase your total testing time window by another 30-45 minutes. These include-

  • Arrival at the test center: 7:45 am

  • Admission at the venue and check in procedure: Latest by 8:00 am (No admissions after 8:00 am)

  • Exam instructions by Proctor and filling out personal information on test sheets: 8:00-8:30 am 

  • The test begins: at 8:30 am 

More information on the test day procedures can be found here

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Quick Tips for the D-day 

With the ACT being such a time intensive test; you can be faced with fatigue, anxiety, and lack of focus during the test. It is always good to have some quick tips handy, which could help you big time in tackling these challenges-

  • Pack everything you need at the test a night before. Sleep early, so your brain is rested enough to take on the big day.

  • An early start to the day and some exercise to get the blood flow going.

  • A good breakfast before leaving for the test.

  • Don’t forget to pack up some snack for the break times and something to drink, to keep yourself hydrated.

With this in mind … Voila !!