act sections

The ACT tests a student’s ability to apply their existing knowledge to familiar and unfamiliar concepts to gauge a student’s college readiness. It covers four main sections:

  • English
  • Math
  • Reading
  • Science

This exam also offers an optional writing section where students can showcase their writing skills. Since this section can’t be taken as a standalone test, students must complete the main four sections prior to taking the writing section.

The ACT also assesses your critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. These skills are essential for success in college and beyond, making the ACT an excellent way to prepare yourself for future challenges.

While the ACT exam plays a significant role in determining a student’s readiness for college, it’s equally important to delve deeper into what each section entails. This understanding not only helps in preparing more effectively but also equips the student with the knowledge of what to expect during the examination.

Let’s explore each section in more depth.

ACT English Section

The English section on the ACT tests a student’s ability to examine texts and strengthen the overall meaning and flow of various pieces of writing. This section requires students to identify and remove irrelevant details, rearrange the structure of a piece of writing, edit sections without compromising the intended meaning, and more. This section is graded on three components:

  • Production of writing
  • Knowledge of language
  • Conventions of standard English

The production of writing components test a student’s ability to identify the purpose and relevancy of a piece of content. It allows the student to determine the goal of a piece of writing and if it was met. Students will also analyze the flow, or structure, of a piece of writing and decide if it’s logical and well-organized.

The knowledge of language components test a student’s ability to maintain a consistent style and tone while making revisions. It also tests their vocabulary and ability to choose the best word or phrase without altering a sentence’s meaning.

The conventions of standard English components evaluate a student’s ability to identify and correct errors in writing. This includes mistakes in verb tense, subject-verb agreement, and pronoun usage. Students should also have a strong grasp on commonly confused words and how they are used in sentences. This section also tests a student’s understanding of punctuation, word usage, and sentence structure.

Students will have 45 minutes to answer 75 questions in the English section.

ACT Math Section

The math section assesses knowledge gained throughout high school. It covers:

  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Statistics and probability
  • Trigonometry
  • Modeling

The math section is designed to test a student’s understanding of formulas, equations, geometric concepts, algebraic expressions, percentages and more. Students will need to apply these concepts to solve practical problems. Students will also need to analyze and interpret data, make predictions, and solve real-life scenarios using math.

This section will also assess a student’s ability to follow logical arguments and make decisions based on the information presented. Students will need to make connections, identify patterns, and analyze various mathematical concepts. Students are allowed to use their calculator throughout this portion of the exam.

Students will have 60 minutes to answer 60 questions in this section.

ACT Reading Section

The reading section is designed to evaluate a student’s ability to draw connections between and analyze various types of texts. It covers four content areas:

  • Literary narrative or prose fiction
  • Social studies or sciences
  • Humanities
  • Natural sciences

Each area is presented through a passage or pair of shorter passages. Students will interpret and draw conclusions about the content, ideas, and elements of each passage. They must also use context clues to determine the meaning of words and phrases and compare different viewpoints.

Moreover, students are tested on their ability to identify cause and effect relationships, comprehend relationships between characters or events, and understand the author’s perspectives.

Students have 35 minutes to complete 40 questions.

ACT Science Section

The science section gauges a student’s ability to interpret, analyze, evaluate, make sound decisions, and solve problems in scientific scenarios. The passages in this section cover STEM related topics to test a student’s ability to critically analyze information and make logical predictions.

It’s important to stress this section tests a student’s adaptability and ability to make logical choices using the information presented. This means students don’t need to complete advanced level science courses prior to taking the ACT. Instead, students will need to demonstrate their ability to apply basic scientific principles to answer these questions.

Students have 35 minutes to answer 40 questions.

Writing Test

Traditionally, the writing section was an optional test students could take to showcase their writing skills to potential colleges. Students who registered for this exam would take it after completing the first four sections. In this section, students would write a persuasive essay based on the prompt provided.

Students analyzed competing perspectives and formed their own opinion on the issue provided. This test was a chance for students to showcase their mastery of grammar, language, and persuasive writing. However, this section is no longer recommended.

Since their performance on this exam doesn’t impact their overall score and students can showcase their writing abilities in their personal statements, students no longer need to prioritize this section.

ACT Prep Designed for Your Student

Earning a top score on the ACT may feel like a daunting task. It tests a wide range of material and your student’s ability to apply existing knowledge to unfamiliar concepts. While students can prepare for this exam alone, we recommend students prepare for their ACT with a tutor.

At C2, we offer an ACT prep program that is tailored to the unique needs of your child. Our program will help highlight their strengths and address their weaknesses. Our team of ACT prep experts bring their knowledge and experience to each session to help your student master material and test-taking strategies.

Ready to increase your student’s chance of earning their dream score? Visit a C2 center near you to get started.