How Long Is the ACT With Writing? (2023)

How Long Is the ACT With Writing? (1)

The ACT is a standardized test that requires endurance. You're asked to answer 215 multiple-choice questions subject area by subject area—a style of testing that causes fatigue for many students. The normal four-section (English, Math, Reading, Science) ACT is already lengthy, but how much longer does it get when you add on the Writing test?

In this article, you'll find out just how long the ACT with Writing is,along with some actions you can take to deal with its monstrous length.

Feature Image Credit:Joe Haupt/Flickr

How Long Is the ACT With Writing?

The first thing to think about is how long each section of the test is on the ACT Plus Writing. In the chart below, you can see the order, time, and number of questions for each ACT section, including the optional Writing (essay) section:



# of Questions

1. English

45 minutes


2. Math

60 minutes


3. Reading

35 minutes


4. Science

35 minutes


5. Experimental*

20 minutes (approximately)


6. Writing (optional)

40 minutes

1 essay

*Given to only some test takers.

If you take the ACT with Writing,the time for each section (English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing) adds up to a total of threehours and 35 minutes of test sections (excluding breaks).

By contrast, the total time of the ACT without Writingis only two hours and 55 minutes.The exception to this rule is when there is an additional 20-minute unscored section ("Experimental" in the above chart) added to the ACT without Writing, raising the total test time to three hours and 15 minutes.

How Long Is the ACT Plus Writing Test-Taking Experience?

Just knowing the amount of time each section takes doesn't tell you the whole story. In order to get the full picture of how long the ACT with Writing is, you also have to account for breaks.Below, I've added in the two breaks that occur during the ACT Plus Writing Test:

(Video) ACT Writing Practice and Strategies | Full Essay Walk Through



1. English

45 minutes

2. Math

60 minutes


10 minutes

3. Reading

35 minutes

4. Science

35 minutes

5. Experimental*

20 minutes (approximately)


5 minutes

6. Writing

40 minutes

*Not scored; only administered to select studentsnottaking the ACT Plus Writing.

**Only for students taking the ACT Plus Writing; all other students are free to leave.

When breaks are included, the ACT Plus Writing takes a total of three hours and 50 minutes. With breaks but without Writing, the ACT is only three hours and five minutes long (or three hours and 25 minutes long if you have to take the experimental section).

Some students dislike the breaks in-between sections. While it's true that breaks do make the test longer (which, in turn, requires you to keep your brain in test mode longer), they're also beneficial. During the breaks, you'll not only be able to use the restroom, but you'll also get the chance to briefly relax your mind.These actions should lead to a higher ACT score (since you won't lose time running to the restroom mid-section, for instance), which will then save you time by making it unnecessary to retake the test.

Be aware that proctors occasionally forget about breaks or accidentally cut the breaks short. That said, the breaks between Math and Reading and between Science and Writing are absolutely your right as a test taker. If it seems as if a break is going to be shorter than the maximum time or get skipped over altogether, be sure to request a break.Read our guide to learn what to do if your ACT testing center experiences any problems like these.

ACT Plus Writing Test-Taking Experience With Extended Time

If you normally get extended time on tests in school, or if you think you might need extra time on the ACT, there are a few different accommodations that allow you to have more time.

National Extended Time for ACT Plus Writing will give you sixtotal hours(including breaks) for the ACT Plus Writing.If you qualify for Special Testing time, you may receive even more time (depending on your diagnosis and the accommodations deemed necessary).Check out our guide to learn more abouthow to request and get ACT accommodations.

How to Deal With the ACT Test Length: 5 Key Tips

Even if you don't get extended time on the test, the ACT with Writing is still pretty long. So what can you do to prepare for such a lengthy test? Here are our top tips.

#1:Build Up to It

Think of the ACT with Writing as a marathon. Some people have naturally higher endurance levels than others, but everyone still needs to train in order to get up to running 26.2 miles in one go.In the case of the ACT, this means you'll need tostart out by practicing questions on individual sections, move up to taking entire sections at once, and finally work your way up to taking afull-length, timed ACT practice test (including breaks).

#2:Make Your Practice Tests as Realistic as Possible

It's not enough to simply practice taking a full-length ACT with Writing. If you really want to know how you'll do on test day, you'll need to take practice tests under the exact same (or close to it) conditions that you'll have on test day. This means you should wake up early on a Saturday morning to take your practice test at 8 am, and find a quiet place to take it. It also means following all time restrictions on the test, including breaks.

(Video) ACT Tips & Tricks that ACTUALLY work (minimal studying) in 2023

Be sure topractice using a non-mechanical pencil, particularly on the Writing test. The more closely you can emulate real testing conditions, the better prepared you'll be for the ACT.

#3:Use the Breaks Well

Breaks are important for your mental and physical well-being. Get up and move around during these times if your energy levels are getting low. Make sure to bring a snack and water so you can replenish yourself quickly (and don't have to go hunting for a vending machine).

Get back to your seat at least two minutes before the test resumes so that you can calm back down and reenter a test-taking mindset.

If your energy or anxiety levels tend to be high during tests and you're worried that getting up and moving might break your concentration, try to at leastdo some stretches in your seat. Shaking out and stretching your hands and arms is very important (particularly before the Writing test), as your fingers can get cramped from gripping your pencil too tightly. It might also help to slowly roll around your head and stretch your neckin order to release any tension that's gathered there.

#4:Get Enough Sleep Multiple Nights Before Test Day

It's not just the night before that matters—making sure you have a solid night's rest two and three nights before the ACT can make a big difference. I know that for me, a bad night's sleep catches up with me a couple of days later rather than the next day! I recommend aiming for about eight or nine hours of sleep a night, or whatever amount you need to feel well rested.

#5:Eat a Balanced Breakfast the Morning of the Test

You don't want to have a sugar crash or an upset stomach halfway through the ACT; you also don't want to faint because you didn't eat anything that morning.

So what should you do? Eat a healthy, balanced breakfast that isn't too greasy or too sugary. Protein and complex carbohydrates (rather than something sweet like cereal) are the way to go.

How Long Is the ACT With Writing? (2)

You must ignore the seduction and sorcery that is a doughnut cupcake (?!?!?!) for your test-day breakfast. (Chris Martin/Flickr)

What’s Next?

Want a quick way to boost your ACT Writing score? Read our 15 tips and strategies for getting a high score on the ACT essay.

(Video) 3 Tips: Writing the Perfect ACT® Essay! CRUSH THE TEST!

Get to know the ACT Plus Writing even better with our article on how to get a perfect score on the ACT essay.

Discover how the length of your ACT essay is related to your ACT Writing score.

Want to improve your ACT score by 4 points?

Check out our best-in-class online ACT prep program. We guarantee your money back if you don't improve your ACT score by 4 points or more.

Our program is entirely online, and it customizes what you study to your strengths and weaknesses. If you liked this ACT Writing lesson, you'll love our program.Along with more detailed lessons, you'll get your ACT essays hand-graded by a master instructor who will give you customized feedback on how you can improve. We'll also give you a step-by-step program to follow so you'll never be confused about what to study next.

Check out our 5-day free trial:

How Long Is the ACT With Writing? (3)

Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!

How Long Is the ACT With Writing? (4)

Laura Staffaroni

About the Author

Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and earned a Master's degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel in high school.

(Video) ACT Strategies | Should I take the ACT Writing Section?

Get Free Guides to Boost Your SAT/ACT


How Long Is the ACT With Writing? ›

While overall the ACT® experience is between 4 and 5 hours, the actual test itself is 2 hours and 55 minutes or 3 hours and 35 minutes with the writing position. So, the 4-5 hour time frame incorporates all the accounted breaks throughout this long exam.

How long does an ACT with writing take? ›

The ACT is 3 hours long (technically 2 hours and 55 minutes). Including breaks, the exam takes 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete. If you sign up for the optional essay (the ACT Plus Writing), the test clocks in at 3 hours and 40 minutes or just over 4 hours with breaks.

How good is a 9 on ACT writing? ›

National Ranks for ELA and Writing Test Scores

For example, the national rank for a writing score of 9 is 96. This means that 96 percent of recent high school graduates who took the ACT writing test achieved a writing score of 9 or lower.

How long does the ACT take without the writing? ›

It depends: you have just under three hours to complete the ACT without writing. With writing, you have over 3.5 to complete the test. If you qualify for extended time, you have 4.5 hours to complete the test without writing and 5.5 hours with writing.

How good is a 7 on ACT writing? ›

The average ACT Writing score is between 6 and a 7 on the scale. You will need a score of 8 or above for getting admission to selective universities—however, scores of 10, 11, and 12 stand out and present excellent writing abilities.

Can you get a 36 on the ACT without writing? ›

It is scored differently.

Further, because the ACT Writing Test is optional, it is scored separately from the other sections and does not affect your ACT composite score (out of 36). This means that if you've been wondering, “Can the ACT Writing hurt your score,” you can rest easy: the answer is no.

Is ACT Writing harder than SAT? ›

The SAT is made up of 154 questions, while the ACT has 215. The SAT requires more writing and problem solving, offering students more time to complete each section. The ACT questions, however, are more straightforward and require less time to answer.

What is the lowest writing score on ACT? ›

The ACT Writing Test is scored on a scale of 2 (lowest score) to 12 (highest score). The average ACT Writing score is between a 6 and 7.

Do colleges care about ACT writing? ›

If a school accepts ACT Writing, that means they'll review your essay score if you take and send it. However, it's not something they're hugely interested in, and it may not have much or any impact on your application, even if your score is particularly high or low.

Does a bad ACT writing score matter? ›

Taking the writing test does not affect your subject area scores or your Composite score. However, without a writing test score, no English Language Arts (ELA) score will be reported.

Has the ACT gotten harder? ›

Relatively speaking, the ACT has gotten “harder” over the years. As students start to do better on ACT, the test-makers gradually adjust the difficulty level of the test. And students have gotten better. In 1970, the average composite score nationwide was 18.6.

Can you retake just ACT Writing? ›

4) You can retake the Essay (“Writing” section)!

This will just count as one of your up-to-three sections to retest. You could retake JUST the Writing, or the Writing, Math + Reading, for example. Or, just multiple-choice sections.

Can you drop writing from ACT? ›

ACT Test Options and Prices

Includes reports for you, your high school, and up to four colleges (if codes are provided when you register). You may add or remove the writing test through the late deadline in MyACT.

Is 27 a decent ACT score? ›

A 27 ACT score puts you a good deal about the national average (20.8) and makes you eligible for acceptance at a vast majority of schools. It also makes you competitive at some selective institutions, as well as eligible for merit aid! Considering those things, it's easy to say that a 27 ACT score is good.

What is a good ACT score for Ivy League? ›

Unsurprisingly, the trend is pretty consistent, and the takeaway is clear: if you want ACT scores that are competitive with the Yale average or the Harvard average, you're aiming for roughly a 34 composite.

Is a 23 on the ACT bad? ›

A score of 23 on the ACT is above the current national average and will make you a strong applicant at many universities, but it may fall below the average score for accepted students at more selective colleges. The higher your ACT score, the more options are open to you. Read on to learn more about ACT scores.

Has anyone ever gotten a 1 on the ACT? ›

The absolute minimum ACT score you can get is a 1, although this is very unlikely to happen. You might be more worried about getting a score high enough to get into college.

Is a 32 ACT good enough for Ivy League? ›

98th percentile: A 32 ACT score is above the national average. This score is excellent for most Ivy League universities. So if you are wondering, 'is 32 a good ACT score' to get into any of the highly selective Ivy League colleges, you should know that this score is sufficient to stand out among your competitors.

Is 18 a decent ACT score? ›

Earning an 18 on the ACT puts you at the 38th percentile, meaning that you scored higher than 38% of all test takers.

Do colleges prefer ACT or SAT? ›

Both ACT and SAT scores are used for college admissions decisions and awarding merit-based scholarships. Most colleges do not prefer one test over the other. Neither the SAT or ACT is harder than the other. Different students tend to do better on one test over the other.

Is the math easier or harder on the ACT? ›

The ACT tests slightly more complex, more advanced math. Both exams test almost identical mathematical material. You need a strong grasp on arithmetic, algebra, and geometry to thrive. And the New SAT has added some of the advanced concepts formerly reserved only for the ACT.

Is the ACT reading easier? ›

Our advice? If you struggle with interconnected questions or having concrete reasons for selecting a certain answer, you may find the ACT easier since it's Reading section doesn't include these types of questions.

What is the lowest score colleges will accept on ACT? ›

Many students who are applying to the most selective colleges and universities aim for a 34 or higher on the ACT, and may retake the test if they get below a 32. However there are many, many other excellent schools that are not as competitive and accept students with lower ACT scores.

Is it better to take ACT with writing or without? ›

The writing test complements the English and reading sections really well, so if you're aiming for a higher score, we suggest taking the ACT with the writing portion.

What is a decent ACT writing score? ›

At the least, shoot for an 8+ overall score for a “good” ACT Writing score. A score of 9+ is an ideal score for applications to selective schools.

Does Harvard want ACT with writing? ›

If you choose to submit standardized tests, you may submit the SAT or ACT (with or without the writing component). While the College Board no longer offers Subject Tests and they are not a requirement for applying, you may submit Subject Tests taken in the last 5 years.

Does Harvard take ACT with writing? ›

For those students who would like standardized test scores considered as part of their application materials, students may submit the SAT or ACT (with or without writing). You may self report your SAT and ACT test scores as well as Advanced Placement or other scores.

Do colleges look more at GPA or ACT? ›

When it comes to the GPA and the ACT, students often wonder which one is more important. Although college admissions officers often say that they give much more weight to a student's GPA, even they will admit that your ACT score is of considerable importance.

Does reading improve ACT score? ›

In short, improving your ACT Reading score will bump up your average composite score. And improving your ACT composite score, even by just 5 points, can make a huge difference in your chances of getting into your target colleges.

What is an acceptable ACT score for most colleges? ›

Schools vary considerably in the kinds of ACT scores they look for in applicants. Less selective institutions tend to accept scores closer to the national average (21), whereas more competitive universities often prefer scores in the 32-36 range.

Which month is the ACT easier? ›

Origin of the Myth

But here's the thing: While there were studies done that showed higher scores in one month than another, those months changed year to year. First experts would cry “December is easiest! Take it in December!” and a few years later they'd swear “May is by far easier!”

What percent of people fail the ACT? ›

In 2021, 38 percent of ACT test takers failed to meet any of the benchmarks. “Academic preparedness is where we are seeing the decline,” said Rose Babington. She is senior director for state partnerships for the ACT.

Is it easy to get a 29 on the ACT? ›

A 29 ACT score puts you in the 91st percentile — that means you scored higher than 91% of all test takers. That's a brilliant accomplishment and you should be proud!

What percentage of students retake the ACT? ›

According to the ACT website, 43 percent of students take the ACT again, and more than half of those students earn higher scores.

Do colleges care if you retake the ACT? ›

Retaking an exam will certainly not hinder your college chances. With adequate preparation, your score will typically increase — and that will make you even more competitive in the admissions process. And with superscoring, colleges probably won't even consider your lower scores. One-and-done is done.

What happens if I retake the ACT and get a lower score? ›

Getting a lower score on a retake won't affect college admission. Luckily, some schools do not require you to send all of your scores if you don't want to. Your chances of getting into you dream school aren't ruined just because of a score decrease.

What to do if you are sick on ACT test day? ›

What if I don't feel well on test day? If you don't feel well, please stay home! If you did not test, you can go into your MyACT account and make a test date change. If you are unable to make the change through your account, please contact ACT.

Can you still go to college if you fail the ACT? ›

Nothing can be more nerve-racking than waiting for your ACT score to come out. Getting a passing ACT score, as most students believe, can spell the difference between attending your dream school and going to a school you don't like. There are no passing ACT scores. Likewise, there are no failing ACT scores.

How do I not send my ACT Writing score? ›

Use your My Colleges tab to double check the standardized test policy for each of your colleges. If your colleges do not require "ACT with Essay" or "SAT with Essay", you do not need to report your writing scores.

Can I get into Yale with a 27 ACT? ›

The 25th percentile ACT score is 33, and the 75th percentile ACT score is 35. In other words, a 33 places you below average, while a 35 will move you up to above average. There's no absolute ACT requirement at Yale, but they really want to see at least a 33 to have a chance at being considered.

How do you go from 27 to 30 on the ACT? ›

To get a 30, you must score highly on all four sections of the exam (excluding Writing). Specifically, you'll need to get at least a 30 on two sections and a composite score of 29.5 (which rounds to 30) or higher. This means you can only miss a handful of questions on each section.

How many questions can you miss on the ACT to get a 27? ›

How Many Questions Can You Miss on the ACT?
Scale ScoreEnglish Raw ScoreMath Raw Score
32 more rows

What is the lowest ACT score for Harvard? ›

Harvard College is extremely selective with an acceptance rate of 4%. Students that get into Harvard College have an ACT score of 34–36. Regular applications are due January 1.

What's the lowest ACT score Harvard has accepted? ›

The average ACT score of Harvard-accepted students is 33. Although Harvard claims there is no minimum ACT score, if you apply with a 29 or lower, you'll have difficulty getting in. So, to get into Harvard, it is important to note the different Harvard University requirements for test scores.

What is the lowest ACT score accepted to Harvard? ›

There's no absolute ACT requirement at Harvard, but they really want to see at least a 33 to have a chance at being considered.

What is a good ACT score for scholarships? ›

Generally speaking, it's best to aim for an ACT composite score that's in the 75th percentile or above – this means a score of at least 24. However, a score that's "good" for you may not be the same as for somebody else – your ACT score goal will vary based on your college, scholarship, and career goals for the future.

Will a 31 on the ACT get scholarships? ›

A 31 ACT score will earn you plenty of merit-based scholarship and aid.

How hard is it to get a 32 on the ACT? ›

A 32 ACT score puts you at the 97th percentile — that means you scored higher than 97% all test takers!

Is an 8 good for ACT Writing? ›

As you can see from this table, the mean, or average, score on the ACT Writing section is 6. It's a good idea to aim for at least the 75th percentile, so in this case a good ACT writing score would be an 8 or above. A 9 or above would put you in the 96th percentile, which is great!

Is it good to take the ACT with writing? ›

ACT Test Scores: Writing. Taking the ACT with writing will provide you and the schools to which you have ACT report scores with additional scores.

Is it worth taking ACT Writing? ›

A Good ACT Writing Score Can Boost Your Chances of Admission—Slightly. Even if a school doesn't require the test, a high score on the ACT Writing may give your application a slight boost, since it serves as an indication of strong writing and analysis abilities.

Do colleges look at writing ACT? ›

If a school accepts ACT Writing, that means they'll review your essay score if you take and send it. However, it's not something they're hugely interested in, and it may not have much or any impact on your application, even if your score is particularly high or low.

Is 15 a bad ACT score? ›

The average ACT score is 20.

The 25th percentile score is 15, and the 75th percentile score is 24. This means that if you got 15, you'd have scored the same as or better than 25% of all test takers. Meanwhile, the 75th percentile means you scored better than 75% of test takers.

Is 32 ACT score good enough? ›

All that considered, yes, 32 is a good ACT score. To show you just how good, we have to look at the percentiles. A 32 ACT score puts you at the 97th percentile — that means you scored higher than 97% all test takers!

Do most students take ACT with writing? ›

Whatever the format, the ACT contains the same sections: English, math, reading, and science. However, there's one optional section that not all students are required to take: writing.

Does ACT writing boost your score? ›

Your score in the writing section will not affect your scores on the multiple-choice or your Composite score. The writing section is a 40-minute essay test that measures your writing skills—specifically, writing skills taught in high school English classes and in entry-level college composition courses.

Is ACT more important than GPA? ›

A GPA has always been an important part of the university admissions process in the United States. According to a 2020 study, high school GPA is a better predictor of college graduation than ACT scores.

Why ACT is better than GPA? ›

Most college admissions officers—the people who are evaluating your ACT score in the context of your application—are intellectuals themselves, and they tend to value intellect in their applicants. For this reason they are more likely to dismiss less-than-desirable grades when accompanied by a high ACT score.

Should I take the ACT with writing for the first time? ›

The ACT Writing section is optional, but, if you sign up for it, that doesn't mean you should wing it! Colleges and universities will see you're taking the extra step to take this portion of the exam, but they'll also want to see you score well. So succeeding on the writing section of the ACT is a must.

What ACT Writing score is needed for college? ›

An average score on the current ACT Writing Exam is a a 6.5. For highly selective colleges, you'll want a score of 8 or higher. Scores of 10, 11, and 12 truly stand out and highlight strong writing skills.


1. ACT: Intro to Writing
2. 2023 Writing Test Practice: Sentences Using Official USCIS Vocabulary| US Citizenship | Written Exam
(U.S. Citizenship Help Guide)
3. Disturbing and Misogynistic Writing by Trans Woman Who Won Pulitzer, with Liz Wolfe & Sara Gonzales
(Megyn Kelly)
4. Writing an essay last minute be like
(Dylan Zitkus)
5. Concluding Sentence | SAT/ACT Writing Explained
(Quad Education Group)
6. How to CONQUER ACT® Writing: Part 1
(5 Academy)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Catherine Tremblay

Last Updated: 02/09/2023

Views: 5890

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (67 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Catherine Tremblay

Birthday: 1999-09-23

Address: Suite 461 73643 Sherril Loaf, Dickinsonland, AZ 47941-2379

Phone: +2678139151039

Job: International Administration Supervisor

Hobby: Dowsing, Snowboarding, Rowing, Beekeeping, Calligraphy, Shooting, Air sports

Introduction: My name is Catherine Tremblay, I am a precious, perfect, tasty, enthusiastic, inexpensive, vast, kind person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.