English Language ACT module blueprint
On this section you’ll be presented with passages. You’ll either have to choose the correct version of a sentence within the passage or will have to answer more broad questions about the construction of the passage itself (you’ll see a couple examples shortly).
The ACT English section tends to heavily favor a few main grammar and style rules, and just lightly touches on the other minor ones. This means (unless you’re aiming for a very high score), you can focus primarily on these main rules as you prepare for the test.
There are two main types of English questions: ones that test usage and/or mechanics, and ones that test rhetorical skills. Below you’ll find approximate breakdowns for the number of each question type you’ll see on the test.
When it comes to Usage and Mechanics (about 40 out of a total of 75 questions), the main grammar rules tested on the ACT are:
- Correctly forming and joining sentences (20.5% of grammar questions)
- Correct use of commas, dashes, and colons (17.7% of grammar questions)
- Correctly using nonessential clauses and relative pronouns (9.6% of grammar questions)
- Correct verb tense and form (9.6% of grammar questions)
When it comes to Rhetorical Skills (about 30 out of a total of 75 questions), the main rhetorical rules tested on the ACT are:
- Logical transitions (18% of rhetorical questions)
- Adding information (16.7% of rhetorical questions)
- Conciseness (15.5% of rhetorical questions)
- Replacing and re-wording information (15.5% of rhetorical questions)
Most of the questions on ACT English test this content by asking you to choose the most correct version of a sentence within a passage - you’ll have to choose among four answer choices in this section. For example:
A question where you choose the correct version of a sentence.
Some questions are formatted a bit differently, and instead ask you about a passage as a whole. For example:
Mathematics ACT module blueprint
The math section is a little different from other ACT sections. Some math questions are stand-alone - they won’t be linked to any other questions in the section - whereas others are linked “sets.” You’ll have to choose from five multiple-choice responses instead of four (which obviously makes things more difficult).
Math questions are also roughly arranged in order of difficulty. You can generally split the section into three zones:
- Questions 1-20: Easy
- Questions 21-40: Medium
- Questions 41-60: Hard
Difficulty is determined by the amount of time you’ll need to solve a problem, the number of steps required, the number of math concepts you must employ, and the likelihood that you’ll be familiar with the material. Learn about how to take advantage of this organization of question by difficulty.
Because they’re arranged by difficulty, these questions are also roughly arranged by content, with “easier” math concepts (i.e. ones you’ve spent more years studying) at the beginning of the section and “hard” concepts (i.e. ones you’re less familiar with) at the end.
Generally, you’ll see more algebra questions toward the beginning and more geometry and trig toward the end of any ACT math section. Here’s a breakdown of the topics you’ll see on ACT math for a general overview:
- Pre-algebra: about 20-25% of questions
- Elementary algebra: about 15-20% of questions
- Intermediate algebra: about 15-20% of questions
- Coordinate geometry: about 15-20% of questions
- Plane geometry: about 20-25% of questions
- Trigonometry: about 5-10% of questions
Read our more detailed guide to ACT math content for more information.
Now, on to some examples. Most questions on this section are stand-alone questions, meaning they’re in no way related to any other question on the section. A stand-alone question may look like this:
You might see some sets of math questions on the ACT where two or more questions are related to each other, or refer to the same figure. Here’s an example of what a prompt like that would look like:
Reading ACT module blueprint
The ACT Reading test is made up of four different subsections. Each of these subsections has either one long passage or two shorter, paired passages. In this section, every question will ask you to respond to or interpret the passages.
The Reading section will present you with one reading passage for each subsection, and the types of passages you’ll see will always be in the same order:
- Prose Fiction/Literary Narrative
- Social Science
- Natural Science
The ACT tests this content with a variety of question types. Fortunately, we have a general idea of how often each question type shows up on the average Reading section - with this information, you can think more critically about question types that you may need to spend more time preparing.
Here’s a typical section breakdown by question type:
Average Number of Questions
Percentage of Questions
Vocabulary in Context
Development and Function
The info above isn’t helpful if you can’t identify the sorts of questions you’ll see on the Reading section, right? Here are the main question types you’ll see on the English section, followed by examples:
Big Picture - Deal with the main point of the passage or the narrator’s overall point of view. These types of questions require you to look at the passage holistically rather than focusing on one specific section.
Little Picture/Detail - Ask about a small piece of factual information in a passage. They are the most straightforward questions because they’re so literal - you just have to find the correct information.
Vocabulary in Context - Ask about the meaning of a word in the context of the passage. They may also reference something in the passage and ask you to choose a vocabulary word that best describes it.
Development and Function - Ask about how a certain paragraph, sentence, or phrase functions in the context of the passage, how the argument in the passage was developed, or how the author structured the passage.
Inference - Ask you to make inferences based on a logical extension of information found in a passage.
the Science ACT module blueprint
The ACT Science section consists of several “passages” where you’ll have to respond to short paragraphs, charts, graphs, tables, or some combination thereof - they’re not like the passages in the Reading section where you just respond to a wall of text. All of these passages are just different ways of presenting data for you to interpret.
Because of the way the section is formatted, you’ll see sets of questions, like you sometimes see on Math, rather than stand-alone questions.
The passages themselves may be on a variety of topics, including:
- Earth/space sciences
Just like with the Reading section, it’s not necessary for you to have specific background knowledge in these topic areas - you just need the skills to interpret the passages correctly.
There are three main passage formats. Each format will present data in a different way - a set of multiple-choice questions after each passage will ask you to interpret and/or analyze this information. Here’s what to expect for each format:
Format #1: Data Representation
This format presents one or more sets of data in some sort of graphical representation.
- What you’re asked to do: understand, evaluate, and interpret information presented in graphs, tables, or charts
- Number of questions: About 15 (38% of total ACT Science questions)
Here’s what a “passage” may look like in a Data Representation format:
And here’s what a multiple-choice question may look like in response to the Data Representation format:
Passage Format #2: Research Summaries
This format presents the results of two or more experiments, usually with text in addition to graphs or charts.
- What you’re asked to do: understand, evaluate, and analyze one or more experiments
- Number of questions: About 18 (45% of total ACT Science questions)
Here’s what a “passage” may look like in a Research Summaries format:
Here’s what a multiple-choice question may look like in response to the Research Summaries format:
Passage Format #3: Conflicting Viewpoints
This format presents several different conflicting scientific hypotheses, usually in a text passage.
- What you’re asked to do: understand and evaluate conflicting viewpoints, theories, or hypotheses on a specific topic
- Number of questions: About 7 (17% of total ACT Science questions)
Here’s what a “passage” may look like in a Conflicting Viewpoints format:
Here’s what a multiple-choice question may look like in response to the Conflicting Viewpoints format:
the Writing ACT module blueprint
The ACT Writing section is completely optional - that being said, I’d encourage you to do some research before deciding not to take it (as tempting as that may be)!
Students have 40 minutes to plan, write, and edit an essay in response to one writing prompt. Prompts tend to address contemporary issues (e.g. the pros and cons of living in an increasingly automated society).
So what exactly do these prompts look like?
Well, students are provided with three diverse perspectives on a particular issue. After reading these perspectives, students are asked to develop their own take on the topic and explain the relationships between the original perspectives.
Put simply, your jobs are to:
- Take a position on a topic (and defend it)
- Address all the diverse perspectives presented to you
- Explain the relationships between those three perspectives
Here’s an example of what an ACT writing prompt looks like: