What Time Does the ACT Start?

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Technically, the ACT starts sometime between 8:30 and 9:00 AM (depending on how long it takes to get everyone checked in and seated). Your admission ticket instructs you to report to your test center by 8:00.

In reality, for you as an ACT athlete in peak condition, the test actually starts at 7:45. Plan to arrive at or before that time. From then on, you should be present (physically and mentally), alert, and ready to go.

Seven-forty-five is usually the time at which students are allowed into the building. If you’re already there–calm and focused–you’ll have a big psychological advantage. Showing up early translates into higher scores.

You’ll need several minutes to check in, stash your bag and snacks, use the bathroom, and find your assigned seat in the testing room.

After that, the proctor will take at least half an hour to pass out test booklets and give instructions.

Once that’s all done, your ACT begins.

What Time Do the Individual ACT Sections Start?

The four multiple choice sub-sections (English, Math, Reading, and Science) take 2 hours and 55 minutes all together. There’s also a 10-minute break, bringing the total time up to 3 hours and 5 minutes.

If you’re writing the optional essay, your total test time (including a 5-minute break after Science) will be 3 hours and 50 minutes.

Assuming that your ACT starts at 8:30, here’s a rundown on the starting times of the individual sections:

SectionStart TimeTotal Time For This Section
English8:3045 minutes
Math9:1560 minutes
Break10:1510 minutes
Reading10:2535 minutes
Science11:0035 minutes
Break11:355 minutes
Writing (optional)11:4040 minutes

Once in a while, students are required to complete an extra experimental section after Science and before Writing. If you get stuck doing one of these, know that it’s only 16 minutes long. It won’t influence your test results in any way, but you should still try to do your best.

For help getting the scores you want (in the time you want), utilize prep courses like Kaplan, ACT Online, Barron’s, and The Princeton Review.