ACT Exam Syllabus 2023: ACT Exam Pattern, Structure, Duration, Topics & More

ACT Exam Syllabus 2023: ACT Exam Pattern, Structure, Duration, Topics & More

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ACT Exam Syllabus 2023: ACT Exam Pattern, Structure, Duration, Topics & More
Sahil Dahal

The ACT Exam is a standardized test student take to get into colleges and universities in the US, Canada, and other countries that accept it. It has four main sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science, and there is also an optional Writing section. The test is multiple-choice, meaning you must choose the correct answer from a list of options. There are a total of 215 questions on the test.

The ACT Exam is conducted by ACT, the organization that develops and administers the test. It assesses how well high school students are prepared for college-level studies. The exam is based on topics from all major subjects, making it a fair assessment of what students have learned in high school.

ACT Exam Pattern

The four required sections of the ACT are English, Arithmetic, Reading, and Science, with the Writing test being optional (Essay). The ACT takes 3 hours 35 minutes to complete with the essay and 2 hours 55 minutes without it. The test is interrupted twice. A brief intermission follows the second test. After the fourth exam comes to the second break, only those who are taking the optional Writing test should do this.

ACT Test Sections

Type of questions



(45 minutes)

75 multiple-choice questions


  • punctuation
  • grammar and usage
  • sentence structure

Rhetorical Skills

  • strategy
  • organization
  • style


(60 minutes)

60 multiple-choice questions

  • Coordinate geometry
  • Plane geometry
  • Trigonometry
  • Pre-algebra
  • Elementary Algebra
  • Intermediate Algebra



(35 minutes)

40 multiple-choice questions

Reading Comprehension, Four passages are given, each passage from a different section like social studies, natural science, fiction and humanities


(35 minutes)

40 multiple-choice questions

  • Data representation like graphs and tables
  • Research summaries
  • Conflicting viewpoints


Writing (optional)

(40 minutes)

1 essay

One writing prompt


3 hours and 35 minutes (excluding breaks)

215 questions

4 sections (One optional)

ACT Exam Syllabus 2023

The 2023 ACT Exam Syllabus consists of four main sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science. Additionally, an optional Writing section includes a single prompt that must be completed within 30-40 minutes. It's important to note that this section is not scored.

ACT English Section Syllabus

The English section of the ACT Exam tests students' understanding of the language in several areas:

Usage/Mechanics: This section makes up 52-55% of the English section and requires students to apply their knowledge of grammar rules, usage, and mechanics to identify errors in the text.

  • Punctuation: Questions in this area test students' knowledge of internal and end-of-sentence punctuation, focusing on how punctuation affects meaning.
  • Grammar and Usage: These questions test students' understanding of the correct agreement between pronouns and antecedents, subjects and verbs, modifiers, and the words they modify. They also cover pronoun cases, verb formation, idiomatic usage, and the formation of comparative and superlative adjectives and adverbs.
  • Sentence Structure: Candidates are tested on their understanding of relationships between and among clauses, shifts in construction, and placement of modifiers.

Rhetorical Skills: The Rhetorical Skills section of the ACT Exam makes up 15-17% of the English section and assesses students' knowledge of correct usage in tone and consistency.

  • Strategy: These questions test how well students develop a topic by choosing appropriate expressions for the essay's purpose and audience. They also assess students' ability to judge the effect of adding, deleting, or revising supporting material and test the relevance of statements in context.
  • Organization: These questions test how well students organize their ideas, as well as how they choose a compelling opening, transitional, and closing sentence.
  • Style: These questions test how well students select appropriate words and images, manage sentence elements, maintain style and tone, and avoid ambiguous pronouns.

ACT Mathematics Section Syllabus

The ACT's mathematics component is split into two major categories:

Pre-Algebra/Elementary Algebra: This section, which carries a weighted average of 57–60%, aims to gauge the applicant's general understanding of these subjects.

  • Pre-Algebra: Candidates must respond to questions on operations such as whole numbers, decimals, place value, the idea of exponents, square roots, approximations, fractions, linear equations in one variable, and integers, scientific notation, factors, ratio, proportion, data collection, representation, and interpretation, and per cent, as well as comprehending descriptive statistics.
  • Elementary Algebra: Applicants must respond to questions in elementary algebra that involve solving quadratic equations, multiplying binomials, solving linear equations, inequalities, substitution, and expression simplification.

Plane geometry and trigonometry: This portion carries a weight of between 12 and 15 per cent, and the critical element here is how the students apply their knowledge.

  • Plane geometry: The questions cover 3-D geometry, parallelograms, volumes, polygons, lines and angles, and the characteristics of circles, triangles, and parallelograms.
  • Trigonometry: The problems revolve around triangles, trigonometric functions, and graphs, as well as the solution of trigonometric equations.

ACT Reading Section Syllabus

The weighting of the reading part of the ACT exam is broken down into three categories: key ideas and details (which receives a 52–60% weighting), craft and structure (which gets a 25–30% weighting), and integration of knowledge and ideas (which receives a 13–23% weighting). The following areas of study are where the students are evaluated:

  • Social Sciences: These questions are based on texts from biography, anthropology, business, economics, psychology, history, archaeology, geography, political science, education, and sociology.
  • Natural Sciences: These questions are based on texts from meteorology, astronomy, biology, botany, natural history, ecology, geology, physics, medicine, microbiology, anatomy, physiology, technology, chemistry, and zoology.
  • Literary Narrative or Prose Fiction: The texts used as the basis for these questions are from novels, memoirs, short tales, and personal essays. The passages from novels and brief stories serve as the basis for the questions in the Prose Fiction area.
  • Humanities: These questions are based on passages from art, dance, film, language, radio, literary criticism, philosophy, music, television, ethics, architecture, and theatre.

ACT Science Section Syllabus

The ACT's Science section is separated into weight categories based on the subsections. 

  • Data Representation (25—30%): This section contains graphic and tabular information comparable to that found in scientific papers and texts. The questions used in this format evaluate abilities including reading graphs, interpreting data from tables, and interpreting scatterplots.
  • Research Summaries (45–60%): The descriptions of experiments are found in this section. The design of experiments and the justification of results are the main topics of the questions.
  • Contrasting Opinions (15–20%): This section covers a number of hypotheses or points of view that may be founded on conflicting assumptions or insufficient data and are at odds with one another. The main topics of the questions are the analysis, comprehension, and comparison of various theories.

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