ACT Syllabus: The Complete ACT Syllabus & Pattern for 2021 Image
Exams Know-how

ACT Syllabus: The Complete ACT Syllabus & Pattern for 2021

Yocket Editorial Team
21 mins read

ACT is one of the most trusted exams when it comes to seeking admissions in colleges/universities in the US and Canada. So, if you are dreaming of pursuing a bachelor’s in the US, you must first acquaint yourself with the latest ACT Syllabus and pattern. A clarity regarding the structure and concepts, will not only help them gear up for the exam but will also help devise an optimal study plan. In this article we help you understand the section-wise descriptive ACT syllabus.


SUGGESTED READING: Everything you need to know about ACT 2021


The Revised ACT Syllabus & Pattern for 2021


Before we delve into the details of the ACT Syllabus and Pattern, let us first take a look at the quick overview of the same.


ACT exam tests the high school level language skills and analytical abilities of the interested candidates for four subjects i.e., Math, English, Reading and Science. Each section aims at assessing a set of subject-specific skills of the student. Along with this, there is also an optional writing section, whose main purpose is to assess the writing skills of the student.


Multiple-Choice questions pattern is followed for the four subjects with 215 questions in total. The Optional Written exam has a different format and is to be written in the form of an essay. Here’s a table of the ACT exam pattern to help you understand the structure of the ACT better:



Number of Questions

Time Limit



45 min



60 min



35 min



35 min

Writing (optional)

1 essay

40 min


215 MCQs + 1 Essay

2 hours 55 minutes + 40 minutes


For every correct answer on the ACT exam, the candidate receives a raw point, and there is no penalty for wrong answers. These scores are then converted into scale scores of 1-36.The ACT writing test score ranges on a scale from 2–12. This score does not affect the composite score.


A good ACT score can not only ensure you get into the best colleges, but also opens up the possibility of merit scholarships for the outperforming students. We at Yocket have designed a special preparation guide for all ACT aspirants.


While there are four answer choices to the MCQs in English, Reading, and Science sections., five options are made available for MCQs in the Math Section.


There is a unique feature in the ACT exam structure. The odd-numbered questions have answer choices labeled from A to D or E, and the even-numbered questions have answer choices labeled from F to J or K, excluding the ‘I’.


Latest ACT English: Pattern & Syllabus 2021


Let us first begin by understanding the pattern and syllabus for English Section of the ACT Exam. The English section is broadly designed to assess the english language knowledge of the aspirant.


What is the Latest Exam Format of the ACT English Section?


The English section has five passages and each passage is followed by 15 multiple questions. A student is tested for three broad skills (or reporting categories) under this section and each one has a specific weightage.


Skill Tested


Production of Writing (POW)


Knowledge of Language (KLA)


Conventions of Standard English (CSE)



What is Included in the ACT English Syllabus for 2021?


This test evaluates students on 3 skills – Production of Writing, Knowledge of Language and Conventions of Standard English. Each question is detail-based or conceptualizes an overall idea, related to a particular paragraph from a passage or the entire passage. The following skills are tested under each reporting category:


  1. Production of Writing


POW aims at testing the student’s ability to comprehend the purpose and focus of a passage. The two main sub categories tested under POW are:


  • Topic Development: The candidate here needs to demonstrate her/his understanding of the rhetorical aspects of the text. Questions in this section ask students to identify the purposes of parts of texts, choose its intended goal, and evaluate the relevance of the material in terms of the focus of the text.
  • Organization, Unity, and Cohesion: This section tests a student’s ability to comprehend whether a text is logically organized, has a smooth flow, and has an effective introduction and conclusion.


  1. Knowledge of Language


The questions under this reporting category require students to demonstrate the use of language effectively. It also checks whether students are able to maintain concision and consistency in the style and tone of writing.


  1. Conventions of Standard English


This reporting category holds the maximum weightage under the English section The questions in this section test your understanding of the basics of English grammar, usage and mechanics. You will broadly be tested for the following skills here:


  • Sentence Structure and Formation: Understand and amend sentence structure and formation to improve writing.
  • Punctuation: Identify and amend the common punctuation problems.
  • Usage: Identify and amend common problems with standard English usage


Latest ACT Math: Pattern & Syllabus 2021


The math section aims to assess a candidate's numerical and logical abilities that they have acquired up till high school. For this section, a student is expected to have the knowledge of basic formulas and computational abilities.


What is the Latest Exam Format of the ACT Math Section?


The mathematics section contains 60 questions. While some questions may be part of a group of questions, others may be self-contained. Under the math section, student marks are reported for the following skills:


Skill Tested


Preparing for Higher Mathematics (PHM)

Number & Quantity




Statistics & Probability



12- 15%




Integrating Essential Skills (IES)





Source: Official PDF by ACT, Inc.


*Questions under this category are already evaluated under PHM and IES and therefore, hold no separate weightage


What is Included in the ACT Math Syllabus for 2021?


The ACT math syllabus evaluates the skills of the students on three broad skills – Preparing for Higher Mathematics, Integrating Essential Skills and Modeling. The requirements under each skill are given below.


  1. Preparing for Higher Mathematics


This is a very broad category and includes all the main mathematics categories that students have been learning up till high school. It includes the following 5 sub categories:


  • Number & Quantity- Tests the knowledge of real and complex number systems. Questions can be asked around integers, rational exponents, vectors and matrices.
  • Algebra- Assesses the ability to find solutions to different forms of equations including linear, polynomial, radical and exponential. You may be asked to solve, graph, and model multiple types of expressions.
  • Functions – Focuses on evaluating knowledge of function: definition, notation, representation, and application. Questions centre around using and interpreting functions such as linear, radical, polynomial, and logarithmic.
  • Geometry – Aims to assess the application of your knowledge of shapes and solids, using principles of geometry. Questions may be asked about solving for missing values in triangles, circles, squares, and other figures. Use of trigonometric ratios and equations of conic sections should also be known to the candidate.
  • Statistics & Probability Students are expected to understand the spread of distributions. Questions in this section revolve around understanding and analysis of data collection. Students may also be tested for their understanding of model relationships in bivariate data and calculating probabilities.


  1. Integrating Essential Skills


Questions in this section focus on measuring the candidate’s ability to synthesize and apply their skills to solve complex problems. This section may include questions on concepts including rates and percentages; proportional relationships; area, surface area, and volume; average and median; and expressing numbers in different ways. Questions may be based on one concept or a combination of two or more.


  1. Modeling


All questions that deal with producing, interpreting, understanding, evaluating, and improving models, are included under this category. This section has no weightage of its own because each question under this category has already been assigned to the previous two reporting categories i.e., IES and PHM.


Latest ACT Reading: Pattern & Syllabus 2021


ACT Reading test evaluates the candidate's ability to read closely, reason logically using evidence, and integrate information from multiple sources.


What is the Exam Format of the ACT Reading Section?


The reading section has multiple parts. Each part consists of a long prose passage or shorter prose passages. There are 40 multiple-choice questions in total based on these passages.


Students are evaluated on three broad skills as stated under:


Skill Tested


Key Ideas and Details (KID)


Craft and Structure (CS)


Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (IKI)



 Source: Official PDF by ACT, Inc.


What is included in the ACT Reading Syllabus for 2021?


In the reading section, multiple-choice questions are asked pertaining to the given passages. No questions are based on recall of facts from outside the passage or rules of formal logic or general vocabulary.


Questions in the reading section assess a student’s ability to interpret the given passages for the following skills–


  1. Key Ideas and Details


Under this category students are required to read the passages thoroughly to answer questions pertaining to:


  • understand the central themes and ideas
  • locate details within a written text
  • ability to summarize information/ideas accurately
  • understand relationships
  • draw logical conclusions
  • make comparisons
  • understand cause-effect relationships


  1. Craft and Structure


In this category questions are related to the following themes:


  • determine word and phrase meanings
  • decode the flow of events
  • Analyze rhetorically an author’s word choice and decisions
  • analyze text structure
  • understand the author’s tone and purpose
  • analyze characters’ points of view
  • differentiate between various perspectives and sources of information


  1. Integration of Knowledge and Ideas


This category requires you to understand and ideas specific to:


  • understand authors’ claims
  • differentiate between facts and opinions
  • use evidence to make connections between different texts
  • analyse claims and evidence in arguments
  • integrate information from multiple texts


Latest ACT Science: Pattern & Syllabus 2021


The science section of the ACT exam assesses a candidate’s ability of interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem-solving skills needed in the natural sciences.


What is the Exam Format of the ACT Science Section?


Students are presented with several authentic scientific scenarios pertaining to biology, chemistry, Earth/space sciences, and physics in the form of passages. Each of these are followed by a number of multiple-choice questions and there are a total of 40 MCQs in the section.


The questions assess the scientific abilities of the student for three different skills as given below:


Skill Tested


Interpretation of Data (IOD)


Scientific Investigation (SIN)


Evaluation of Models, Inferences, and Experimental Results (EMI)



Source: Official PDF by ACT, Inc.


What is Included in the ACT Science Syllabus for 2021?


Students attempting the science section of the ACT exam are expected to have a basic knowledge of scientific concepts and principles.


Students are given scientific scenarios in the form of passages. These generally appear in the following three formats

  • Data Representation (30–40%): The scientific information is presented in a graphic and tabular form.
  • Research Summaries (45–55%): Descriptions and results of an experiment are shared with the students.
  • Conflicting Viewpoints (15–20%): Two or more explanations for the same scientific phenomena are shared.


The questions based on these passages test the skills of students on three reporting categories:


  1. Interpretation of Data


This category asks you to work with the scientific data provided in scientific tables, graphs, and diagrams. Questions require you to:

  • utilize and analyze data
  • recognize data trends
  • convert tabular data into graphs
  • interpolate and extrapolate data
  • reason mathematically


  1. Scientific Investigation


Here students are required to understand

  • experimental tools, procedures, and design
  • compare, extend, and modify experiments


  1. Evaluation of Models, Inferences, and Experimental Results


The questions under this section ask the candidate to:

  • judge the validity of scientific information
  • formulate conclusions and predictions based on the given information


ACT Writing Test (Optional): Pattern & Syllabus 2021


The Writing test is optional and is necessary only if the college the candidates apply to requires an essay score.


What is the Latest Exam Format of the ACT Writing Test?


The writing section is a 40-minute essay test that measures your writing skills. The essay prompt in this test consists of three perspectives on a debatable issue. Here, you will have to either develop your own perspective or choose one of the given perspectives and justify your position on that issue.


You are marked between the scale of 2-12 for your essay.


What is Included in the ACT Writing Syllabus for 2021?


An essay is paramount for the ACT optional writing test. In this test, the candidate's skill to assimilate different lines of reasoning is tested along with their ability to present a compelling essay.


In this test, the candidate gets a short passage on a specific topic. Three different viewpoints or perspectives accompany this passage. A student is expected to be skilled at analyzing all the three viewpoints, understanding their merits/demerits, identifying their flaws with reasoning, discussing their impact and scope of the argument, and contrasting one argument against the others.


Students are marked on four skills based on their essay - 


  1.  Ideas and Analysis


Reflects the ability to generate productive ideas and engage critically with multiple perspectives on the given issue. As a good writer you must understand the issue, purpose of writing and your audience to make a compelling case through the essay. 


  1. Development and Support


Assesses the ability to discuss ideas, offer rationale, and augment an argument. A good piece would explain ideas, discuss implications, and illustrate the scenario through examples to make it easier for the reader to grasp.


  1. Organization


Here the focus must be on your ability to organize ideas with clarity and purpose. Make sure that the flow of the essay is easy for the reader to follow and helps them understand the relationship between ideas perfectly.


  1. Language Use and Conventions


 Tests the use of written language to convey arguments with clarity. Follow the basic rules of grammar, syntax, word usage, and mechanics. Also, depending on your audience, adjust the style and tone of their writing to communicate ideas effectively.


An in-depth knowledge of the latest ACT syllabus and pattern can go a long way in setting your expectation for the upcoming ACT exam. Make sure you understand the requirements under section carefully. This will help you identify your areas of strength and weakness and work on it before the final exam.


All the Best :)

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