ACT Syllabus and Pattern 2023: Check Section-wise Syllabus


Aishwarya Bhatnagar

Aishwarya BhatnagarStudy Abroad Expert

Updated on May 24, 2023 13:42 IST

ACT Exam Syllabus 2023: The ACT Exam Syllabus includes four main sections - English, Math, Reading, Science and Writing (optional). The ACT exam is multiple choice questions (MCQ) based test having a total of 215 questions. The ACT exam is designed in such a way that the aspirants can relate to their high school curriculum and thus the ACT exam syllabus includes topics from all major subjects for a fair assessment.

There is a list of topics that make up each section of the ACT syllabus and the exam tests students in and around those topics only. The ACT syllabus is designed in such a manner that it assesses the applicant's logical reasoning, problem-solving skills and editing skills. ACT syllabus is vast in comparison to SAT and also has two more sections, unlike SAT. There is also an optional writing section for which additional charges apply, applicable only for ACT test givers and not for SAT applicants. 

ACT Exam Syllabus 2023

ACT exam syllabus includes four sections English, Math, Reading, and Science. There is one more section, 'Writing', however, it is an optional section that includes one 30-40 minute prompt. Students are not scored on this section. Also, learn about ACT Registration.

ACT English Section Syllabus

The ACT's English section basically focuses on the following areas of study to understand the student's understanding of the language:

1. Usage/Mechanics: This section holds a weightage of 52-55% and requires students to apply knowledge of their grammar rules, usage and mechanics to assess the fault in the text.

  • Punctuation – The questions test the knowledge of internal and ‘end of sentence’ punctuation, with a focus on the relationship of punctuation to meaning.
  • Grammar and Usage – These questions test your understanding of the agreement between pronoun and antecedent, between subject and verb, and between modifiers and the word modified; pronoun case; verb formation; idiomatic usage; and 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.

2. Rhetorical Skills: The weightage for this section is between 15-17% and assesses students' knowledge of correct usage in terms of tone and consistency.

  • Strategy – These questions test how well you develop a topic by choosing appropriate expressions to an essay's purpose and audience; judging the effect of adding, deleting, or revising supporting material; and testing the relevance of statements in context.
  • Organization – These questions test how well you organize ideas, as well as how you choose an effective opening, transitional, and closing sentence.
  • Style – These questions test how well you choose appropriate words and images, manage sentence elements, maintain the level of style and tone, and avoid ambiguous pronouns.

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ACT Mathematics Section Syllabus

The mathematics section tested in the ACT is also divided into two broad categories:

1. Pre-Algebra/Elementary Algebra: This section holds a weightage of 57-60% and aims to understand the applicant's knowledge in the areas of understanding of these topics at large. 

  • Pre-Algebra – Candidates have to answer questions based on operations like whole numbers, decimals, place value; the concept of exponents; square roots and approximations; fractions, linear equations in one variable; and integers; scientific notation; factors; ratio, proportion, data collection, representation, and interpretation; and percent; and understanding descriptive statistics.
  • Elementary Algebra – Candidates have to solve questions based on solving quadratic equations, multiplying binomials, solving linear equations, inequalities, substitution, and simplifying expressions.

2. Plane Geometry/Trigonometry: The weightage of this section is between 12-15% and how students apply their knowledge is the basic catch here.

  • Plane Geometry – The questions are related to 3-D geometry, triangles, parallelograms, lines and angles, volume, polygons, and properties of circles, triangles, and parallelograms.
  • Trigonometry – The questions are based on trigonometric identities and graphs, graphing trigonometric functions, and triangles, and solving trigonometric equations.

ACT Reading Section Syllabus

The weightage of the reading section in the ACT exam is divided into three categories - Key Ideas & Details which holds a weightage of 52–60%, Craft & Structure which holds a weightage of 25–30% and Integration of Knowledge & Ideas holding a weightage of 13–23%. The students are assessed in the following areas of study:

  • Social Studies – These questions are based on passages in the areas of biography, anthropology, business, economics, psychology, history, archaeology, geography, political science, education, and sociology.
  • Natural Sciences -- These questions are based on passages in the areas of meteorology, astronomy, biology, botany, natural history, ecology, geology, physics, medicine, microbiology, anatomy, physiology, technology, chemistry, and zoology.
  • Literary Narrative or Prose Fiction – These questions are based on passages from novels, memoirs, short stories, and personal essays. Questions in the Prose Fiction section are based on passages from novels and short stories.
  • Humanities – These questions are based on passages in the areas of art, dance, film, language, radio, literary criticism, philosophy, music, television, ethics, architecture, and theatre.

ACT Science Section Syllabus

The weightage in the ACT's Science section is divided based on the subsections. Read on for more details:

  • Data Representation (25-30%) – This section has Graphic and tabular material similar to those in science journals and texts. The questions associated with this format measures skills like graph reading, interpretation of the information presented in tables, and interpretation of scatterplots.
  • Research Summaries (45-60%) - This section provides descriptions of experiments. The questions focus on the design of experiments and the explanation of results.
  • Conflicting Viewpoints (15-20%) - This section presents several hypotheses or views that might be based on differing premises or incomplete data, and are inconsistent with one another. The questions focus on the analysis, understanding, and comparison of alternative hypotheses.

ACT Exam Pattern 2023

The ACT consists of 4 tests (English, Math, Reading, and Science) and an optional Writing test (Essay). The duration of the ACT is 3 hours 35 minutes with the essay and 2 hours 55 minutes without the essay. There are two breaks in the test. A short break is provided after the second test. The second break is after the fourth test. This is only for those who are taking the optional Writing test.

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)

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This is the ACT syllabus for all international testees. So far, there hasn't been a drastic change in the ACT syllabus, even after switching from paper-pencil test to the digital ACT test during the pandemic. 

ACT Syllabus 2023 FAQs

Q. What is included in the ACT?

A. The ACT test includes Reading, English, Math, and Science apart from the optional Writing section. Each section includes a different set of questions, you can check the above article and read in detail about the ACT syllabus. There is a total of 215 multiple-choice questions on the ACT. Each section has multiple topics which are tested and each topic in turn has a certain weightage attached to it as in the number of questions that would be tested. 

Q. What all maths topics are tested for the ACT?

A. All the questions in the math section are multiple-choice questions. Questions in the math section are covered from six areas of:

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

The Maths section syllabus for ACT exam includes mostly high school knowledge and students can prepare based on the above given syllabus plus do check the weightage assigned for each of the topics. 

Q. Is the ACT syllabus same for all international students?

A. Yes, the ACT syllabus is the same for all international students. The ACT syllabus is divided into four broad sections and each section has a designated set of topics. International students can download the ACT syllabus pdf from the official website and prepare accordingly. Each section has a dedicated time limit, check it out in the table below: 

ACT Exam Sections Number of Questions Tested Time Allocated Per Section
English 75 45 minutes
Mathematics 60 60 minutes
Reading 45 35 minutes
Science 40 35 minutes
Writing (optional) 1 essay type question 40 minutes

Q. Are ACT syllabus and SAT syllabus the same?

A. No, there is a slight difference in ACT and SAT syllabus. There is a Science section in ACT while there is no separate Science section in SAT. The ACT syllabus includes an essay writing question too which is optional but SAT doesn't have any essay types questions tested. Also there are subject tests in ACT but subject tests are not tested on SAT anymore. The ACT math section requires calculator use in some sections but SAT has allowed the use of calculators for throughout the Maths section.

Q. How is ACT different from SAT?

A. The ACT test is a pen-paper test while the SAT is now digital. Students have to attempt questions on OMR sheets provided at their respective test centres, but those appearing for SAT can appear on their own laptops, iPads or Chromebooks. The new pattern of SAT exam is also different from that of ACT. For more details check out How is ACT Different from SAT?  

Q. Is ACT syllabus vast?

A. Yes, ACT syllabus is vast and it includes testing students on various sections. The syllabus includes topics from Science, Maths and English most importantly. All major topics of these subjects are tested and are a part of the ACT exam syllabus. Hence, yes, it is not wrong to say that ACT exam syllabus is vast because of three major subjects that are tested and moreover a deeper understanding of the topics is prioritized when tested on th ACT.

Q. What is a good ACT Math score?

A. The average math score for the ACT is 20.7, so anything higher than this is above average. However, at times above average may not be enough to get into a good college. Anything above 30 or more is a good math score.

Q. Is ACT Math syllabus easier than SAT?

A. Students who hold a strong hand in math and science might find ACT math easier than SAT. Math in the ACT includes charts, graphs, and formulas and it's straightforward. Plus, maths section includes algebra, geometry, functions, etc. All major topics are tested as part of the ACT Math section syllabus. International students can prepare for ACT math syllabus based on class XII. However, SAT Math syllabus is though similar but the questions are more analytical in nature in comparison to ACT math syllabus.

Q. What is tested as part of ACT English syllabus?

A. ACT English section syllabus is based on reading comprehension and understanding of the text plus consequently answering the questions. There are other questions based on the applicant's knowledge in English language's sentence structure & formation, punctuation and how the language is used. The ACT English syllabus also includes the students to review and edit complex texts so that they are coherent and make more sense. Thus, there's mostly about how the language is put to use.

Q. In how much time can I cover ACT syllabus?

A. The ACT syllabus coverage timeline depends upon the student's previous knowledge. Some of those who have a good academic background and excelled in Maths can cover the Maths syllabus in a few weeks time, same goes for Science students. For English syllabus, it is a process and needs practice regularly to crack the section also includes Maths in this regard. Thus, overall a student should dedicate a month or two for the ACT exam preparation to be able to fully cover the ACT syllabus and practice as well.

Q. Does ACT syllabus change frequently?

A. No, ACT exam syllabus does not change frequently. The ACT syllabus has been the same for some time now and last minute changes are also out of question. Thus, whatever is given officially for ACT syllabus is final and students will be tested in and around the proposed topics only. There is nothing that is tested out of ACT syllabus. Thus, students must prepare for the exam keeping the ACT syllabus handy.



TEJ Since 2004

a year ago

na bro they removed it now. Hyderabad isn't listed due to covid

Reply to TEJ Since 2004


Rahul Singha

a year ago

Thanks for the update Tej.


TEJ Since 2004

a year ago

Why Hyderabad isn't there.

Reply to TEJ Since 2004


Rahul Singha

a year ago

Hello Tej. Hyderabad is listed as an ACT test centre. Kindly re-check the page.

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