ACT Syllabus 2021

Updated by: Neha Kumari on Aug. 23, 2021, 1:31 p.m.

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ACT Syllabus

ACT syllabus is extensive and defines topics for four main sections English, Reading, Maths and Science. ACT Writing Test is optional and whether to take it or not is up to the choice of the candidate. The syllabus of ACT for each section covers important topics taught in high school. The level of difficulty of ACT resembles that of the senior secondary level. 

To prepare well for the ACT, the applicant must go through a detailed ACT Syllabus to understand the concepts that need to be covered while preparing for the ACT. ACT syllabus provides an insight into the type of questions that might appear in the final exam. Knowing the content and structure of the ACT help students to get familiarised with ACT which eventually results in a good performance on the final test day. 

A good score in the ACT is required for admission in undergraduate courses at popular universities abroad like the University of Central Florida, University of South Carolina, Columbia; Princeton University, Princeton; Northwestern University, Evanston; Cornell University, University of Florida and Florida State University.

Check the section-wise descriptive ACT syllabus here: 

COVID-19 Update 2021  

 There is no change in the ACT exam pattern and syllabus. Students can register and appear for online ACT tests on the defined ACT test dates and ACT Test Centre. ACT test dates were earlier postponed across various test centres due to COVID- 19 pandemic. However, now the ACT registration window is open for the upcoming months of 2021 and 2022. The is being conducted on defined dates at various locations including India.  

Need Guidance to Prepare for ACT?

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ACT Syllabus Highlights

Check section-wise highlights of ACT Syllabus 


Type of Questions

Topics Covered

Question Format 



Multiple Essays or Passages

Sentence Structure and Formation, Punctuation, English usage. 

Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)


Graph, Charts, Formula Based etc. 

Algebra, Number and Quantity, Functions, Geometry, Statistics and Probability etc. 


Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)



Long Passage or Short Prose 

Inferences and Conclusions, Logical Reasoning, Interpretation etc. 

Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)



Essay Writing 




Tables and graphs, diagrams, Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs), Scientific phenomena questions 

Biology, Chemistry, Earth/ Space Sciences

(e.g Geology, Astronomy, and Meteorology and Physics

Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)

ACT Syllabus for English

The English test encompasses four or five essays or passages and multiple-choice questions are asked based on them. The questions will refer to the aforementioned paragraph and will present the candidates with four options to pick the correct one from. Some questions might have an option of “No Error” as well. 

The motive of the test is to analyse the omitting, editing, rephrasing and revising abilities of the aspirant. The English test can be subdivided into three sections and their specified weightage.

1. Production of Writing (29%- 32%)

This section evaluates the ability of candidates to analyse and understand a piece of writing. This section covers the following aspect of the English language:

Topic Development- In this sub-section, the candidate needs to identify the purpose of the text and if the text has met the intended goal. The candidate will have to evaluate the relevance in the text. 

Organization, Unity, and Cohesion- Under this subsection, the candidate must apply various strategies to identify if the text is organised logically or not. He/ She must also determine the smooth flow of text and ensure that the passage or summary has an effective introduction and conclusion

2. Proficiency of Language (13-19%)

The questions under this subsection are designed to analyse the candidate’s fluency in the English language. It looks closely at the precise choice of words, style and consistency in the tone of the applicant.

3. Conventions of Standard English (51-56%)

This subsection evaluates the command over sentence formation and structure, usage of grammar, and punctuation. It also analyses the mechanics of the candidate to edit the texts. 

ACT Syllabus for Reading

The reading section of the ACT test has multiple parts that includes long prose passage and short prose passages. The passages will come with a relevant title, source, author and relevant background information. It provides an idea to the purpose of the passage. 
Along with the language proficiency, this section is also used to analyse the logical reasoning and interpretation skills of the candidate. 
Each passage contains a set of multiple-choice questions. The weightage of questions to identify different skills of candidates is categorised as follows:

Significant Details and Ideas (55-60%)

It is a subcategory under which the candidate must read the texts carefully and determine the central theme and idea of the passage. The candidate must summarise the idea of the passage most accurately and try to draw a logical relation between the sentences and also draw a logical conclusion. 

Structure and Craft (25-30%)

The questions that are framed under this sub-category will require candidates to identify the meaning of the words and phrases, analyse the choice of words of the author, his perspective and point of view and also analyse the structure of text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (13–18%)

The questions asked under this category requires the candidate to understand the claim of the author and differentiate between his opinion and facts.  The candidate must use evidences to make connections between texts. In some questions, the candidate will be required to evaluate the reasonings and evidences from various sources. 

ACT Syllabus for Maths

In the maths section, students will be asked two types of 12th-grade questions, complex and straightforward. The former will test your skills of demonstrating fluency, applying varied concepts, understanding connections, solving complex problems. The maths test is subdivided into two sections mentioned below.

Essential Skills (40-43%): It involves complex problems such as proportional relationships, rates and percentages, surface area, area, volume, median, average and expressing numbers in different ways. The key topic in this section is Modeling. It tests how to use modelling skills to tackle mathematical problems.

Higher Mathematics (57-60%): It includes basic topics such as Number and Quantity, Algebra, Functions, Statistics and Probability and Geometry. Mentioned below are important topics an aspirant must study for this section.

Maths Topic

Maths Sub Topics

Number and Quantity (7-10%): 

Numerical quantity reasoning, Real and complex number systems, rational exponents, Integers, Matrices and Vectors

Algebra (12 – 15%)

Polynomial, Linear, exponential relationships, Radical, Multiple types of expressions, Graphs and Simple matrix equations

Functions (12 – 15%)

Notations, Linear, Definitions, Representations and application, Radical, polynomial, Piecewise, Logarithmic functions along with graphical representations

Geometry (12 – 15%)

Surface area, Shapes, Volume, Circles, Missing values in triangles and other shapes, Equations of the conic sections and Trigonometric ratios

Statistics and Probability (8 – 12%)

Bivariate data, Data collection methods, Sample space and distributions and Probabilities

ACT Syllabus for Science

In the science syllabus, vivid skills of the candidates are checked in the ACT test that includes evaluation, interpretation, analyses, reasoning and problem-solving. The questions are raised on the actual scientific scenario from biology, chemistry, geology, earth/space science, meteorology, physics and astronomy. Only basics are required as opposed to the advanced knowledge in the science test. The science test is dived into three sections as displayed below.

Scientific Investigation (20-30%): It involves procedures, experimental tools, controls, variables, design, extensions, comparisons and modifications related to the field of science.

Interpretation of Data (45 -50%): It consists of analysis and manipulation of scientific data, graphs, tables and diagrams.

Experimental Models, Inferences and Results (25 – 35%): The section involves judgment of scientific information, predictions based on the scientific phenomenon and formulate conclusions.

ACT Syllabus for Writing

The writing skills of the candidate are judged through this section. Candidates will be provided with a topic related to any complex issue of the society, legal, social, political or economical domains. The essay written by the applicant must explain the issue with its effects, causes and solutions. The writing of the candidate will be judged on the following parameters.

Analysis and Ideas: The students will be judged on their generation and engagement with the topic. Critical views and ideas of the candidates will be examined.

Support and Development: The way of presenting discussions, arguments, ideas and instances are checked. The ability of the writer to stimulate the reader’s mind is measured here.

Organization: The candidate’s ability to organize the article in a manner that engages the audience, the sequence of events, the series of facts, their relations and explanations etc. are analysed.

Language Usage: The level of language used by the writer is tested. It is essential for the aspirants to keep in mind the language clarity, words usage, style, grammar and tone to communicate efficiently and effectively.

FAQs on ACT Syllabus 2021

1. How many sections are covered in the ACT Test?

The ACT test comprises of four sections namely:  English, Reading, Maths and Science

2.  What is the level of questions asked in the ACT test? 

The level of questions asked in the ACT test is that of Senior Secondary High School. 

3. Is the writing section compulsory in the ACT Test? 

The writing section of the ACT Test is optional. 

4. What is the syllabus of the English section of the ACT? 

The English section contains Multiple Essays or Passages.  Sentence Structure and Formation, Punctuation, English usage are the main topics covered in the English section. 

5. What is the syllabus of the Reading section of the ACT? 

ACT Reading Section contains Long Passage or Short Prose.  Inferences and Conclusions, Logical Reasoning, Interpretation are the main topics covered in the Reading section of the ACT test. 

6. What is the syllabus of the Mathematics section of ACT? 

Number and Quantity, Algebra, Functions, Geometry and Statistics and Probability are the main topics asked in the Maths section of the ACT test

7. What is the syllabus of the Science section of ACT? 

Biology, Chemistry, Earth/ Space Sciences (Geology, Astronomy, and Meteorology and Physics) in the form of tables, graphs, diagrams are asked in the Science section. 

8. How is ACT Scored?  

The score for each section of ACT varies from a low of 1 to a high of 36. The total ACT score is an average of all section scores.

9. What is the duration of the ACT test?

The duration of the ACT test is 3 hours. The optional writing section is of the additional duration of 40 minutes. 

10. What is the format of questions asked in the ACT test? 

The types of questions asked in the ACT Test is Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ)

Admission 2021

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