ACT Exam Pattern, Syllabus, Fees, Test Dates 2022 Preparation

The American College Testing or ACT is a standardized test taken by students to qualify for admission in undergrad, in the US & Canada. It draws a parallel with the SAT exam, especially in terms of the number of appearing candidates. The exam is set in a way to assess the written, mathematical, verbal, and scientific skills of the candidates. 

Until 2015, the ACT was a paper-based test but since then it is conducted in a computer-based format. The total duration of the test is 3 hours. If a candidate attempts the optional writing section the total test time goes up by 40 minutes. There are a total of 215 questions: all multiple choice & the scaled score in each subject area can range from 1 to 36. The composite score is then calculated as the average of all the other subjects’ scores, similarly in the range of 1 to 36. Throughout the test, there are two breaks. One after the Mathematics section & the other(optional) right before the writing test. Check out the official ACT site.

The decision to attempt the writing section should be dependent on the school you plan to apply. Some schools require it, while some don’t. It could also depend on the type of program you are opting for. It’s expected on your part to research the requisites of applying to a particular school and decide accordingly. 

ACT Exam Pattern

As mentioned earlier, the test consists of four sections & the optional fifth one. Below is a chart describing a brief structure of the exam pattern. 

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Just like most other competitive exams, the ACT has 4 answer choices for every section, but with an exception in the Mathematics section. In the mathematics section, each question has 5 answer choices. Additionally, the odd-numbered questions have answer choices labeled as A to D or E (for mathematics) and the even-numbered questions have it labeled F to J or K(for mathematics) while eliminating I in between. 

Read SAT vs ACT: What are the differences and which one to choose?

ACT Syllabus


The English section in ACT consists of 75 questions & spans a duration of 45 minutes. In this section, primarily Usage Mechanics & Rhetorical skills are tested. There are a total of 5 passages and each passage includes 15 MCQ questions. 

The type of questions that are being asked under usage mechanics are as follows:

  • Punctuation: Your basic understanding of punctuation is tested here. This part has 10 questions. 
  • Grammar usage: Understanding of grammatical rules is tested here with 12 questions.
  • Sentence Structure

The rhetorical skills consist of:

  • Sentence structure: Developing sentences in a grammatically correct manner. 
  • Organization: Opening or closing a sentence.
  • Style: Usage of right words.


The questions in the mathematics section are as follows:

  • 14 Pre-algebra-based questions
  • 10 Elementary algebra-based questions
  • 9 Intermediate Algebra-based questions
  • 9 Coordinate geometry-based questions
  • 14 Plane geometry-based questions
  • 4 trigonometry-based questions

All these question types account for a total of 60 questions. A calculator will be permitted for this section. 


There are a total of four passages in this section, three of which consist of lengthy prose, and the other consists of two brief prose. The passage belongs to the following domains: natural science, humanities, social science, and literary fiction. 

The type of questions in this section is central idea questions, detail-oriented questions, vocabulary questions, function questions, and questions asking implied ideas. There are a total of 40 questions with 10 questions based on every passage. Although not necessary, the test taker can attempt the passage from the easy ones to the relatively tough ones.


Contrary to what the general assumption would be; In this section, the reasoning utilized when learning scientific methods is tested over the typical ‘learning of data’ study. In this section, there are a total of 40 questions spread over 7 passages. 

The topics of the passage revolve around Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Earth Sciences. The section also consists of tables, graphs, and charts. The type of questions in this section is data interpretation, Scientific Investigation, and Preliminary inferences model and result. 


As the name suggests, the writing section will test your writing skills. This section is put in place to assess the candidate’s ability to create an argument or defend one while maintaining articulacy. Here, you are not expected to deliver a perfect essay, rather maintaining the standard of a well-written first draft is a requirement.

In this section, you will be given a passage along with 3 viewpoints. Your task will be to analyze the passage, infer the merits and demerits, find flaws and raise a compelling argument. You can navigate through the presented issue with the assistance of the available viewpoints. 

Your resulting score will be assigned by taking into consideration Ideas and reasoning skills, organization and development, language use, and structure. The time allotted to complete the essay will be 40 minutes.

ACT Exam Dates 2022

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Preparation tips for the ACT

  • Familiarize yourself with the test pattern before you start your preparation. Once you’re done with understanding the pattern, focus on getting a thorough understanding of the syllabus. Also, it’s essential to start preparation early to make sure that you are well prepared for the test. 
  • The best way to optimize your preparation is to formulate a study plan. Initially make a rough plan until you understand your strengths and weaknesses. Once you do, make the respective changes to the plan so that you cover all ground when it comes to preparation.
  • Test yourself frequently. Practice test sets can help you best with that. Try your best to emulate the environment and time of the actual exam to get accurate results. 
  • Not all topics need equal attention, there are topics that you are inherently good at while others give you a hard time. Focus on the weak topics. Practice tests help you best in identifying your strengths and weaknesses, take full advantage of the provided analysis. 
  • Other additives like increasing reading speed and memorizing formulas can give a little extra push to your preparation. 

If you’ve read until here, you’ve familiarized yourself with most of what is to be known about the ACT. Remember, preparing early and preparing enough is of utmost importance to secure admission to a reputed US university. All the best!

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