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The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU Juniors Jaisan Avery and Kayla Spears paint together during Curlchella hosted by SMU Fro, Dallas Texas, Wednesday April 17, 2024 (©2024/Mikaila Neverson/SMU).
SMU Fro's Curlchella recap
Mikaila Neverson, News Editor • April 23, 2024

Is ACT Very Difficult? – A Detailed Analysis


The American College Testing or ACT is a standardized test that causes a lot of stress to students. Is ACT very hard? It could be terrifying, but it is more tricky than difficult. Nevertheless, if you know the structure of the test and understand the question format, taking it will be less of a challenge. Hopefully, you’ll be less terrified of taking the test.

For other people, learning new English words can be difficult since their studying style is different or English is not their native language. However, learning complicated math concepts might be easy for them. Therefore, the question of the level of difficulty of ACT is hard to answer since there are many possible answers.

Even though that is the case, we will explain it in this article to give you a better understanding of how difficult ACT is.

Challenges of ACT

The core concepts of ACT are basic, so you can expect the exam content to be

concepts you have studied before. Nevertheless, it can be a challenge because it will depend on your preparation and how much you have studied that content.

In the English part of ACT, it will test your grammar and writing abilities. You had likely studied this in your English class in the last years of middle school or first years of high school. The math part does not include theories that are more advanced than trigonometry or algebra 2. Therefore, the math concepts that appear on the test are the ones you studied in your second year in high school.

In the reading part, a typical freshman student in college can comprehend this section’s passages. There is no ambiguous vocabulary, and the questions are more focused on comprehension. If you had a lab class in your science class in high school, you can easily understand the science part of the test. That is because the questions are about scientific methods and experiments.
The most common difficulty test takers have in the ACT is the test format. On top of that, the time restriction in answering the question is restricted considering the reading that you have to do. Therefore, you need to understand the overall design of the test. Then, you can focus on the specific sections of the test.

Aspects That Make ACT Difficult

Time Constraint

Many test takers find the ACT very hard because of the time pressure. You need to answer all the 75 questions within 45 minutes. That means you have approximately 36 seconds to answer each question. For math, you have 60 minutes to answer 60 questions. That means you have a minute for each question. For science and reading sections, you have 35 minutes to answer 40 questions, so you spend roughly 52 seconds for each question ideally. Put simply, you do not have ample time to concentrate on certain questions. If you are not familiar with the test structure, you might not finish the test on time.


There are long passages in the English and reading parts. In the science part, you need to do some reading as well. You need to comprehend the science questions since some can have a conflicting stance.

In the reading part, there are 4 passages. These passages have corresponding questions. The questions do not often have the reference number. Therefore, you need to find the information yourself. You will end up spending some time scanning the passage for the answer. You might not be able to complete this part if you do not establish reading techniques.

Stressful Environment

The ACT causes a lot of worry and stress to students since the result of the test can greatly affect a student’s opportunity to be admitted to their dream university. Although the test has concepts that have been discussed in middle school or high school, stress plays a big role in making the test more terrifying. It can easily get overwhelming if you worry too much about committing mistakes.

New Information

Because the science part of ACT asks the test takers to decipher new information from different experiment types that were taught in class, some test takers find this section challenging. If the units are presented unusually or if it is hard for you to grasp the measurements given, understanding and interpreting the graphs and charts can be hard.

When you first look at the graphs, they can be not understandable. You can deal with this difficulty by finding the key information that you need so that you can find the right answer. Again, if you do not know the design of the test, this will be challenging.

Math Concepts

Occasionally, the ACT presents several questions about basic trigonometry and some math concepts that you might not have studied in school. Unlike the SAT, the ACT becomes more difficult since the test does not indicate the math formulas that will be used at the start of the math section. Therefore, you need to remember the right formula for a certain question.

Aspects That Make ACT Easy

Same Question and Test Format

The structure and the question types of the ACT are consistent. Therefore, it is easier to foresee what question type will likely appear in the exam since the order of the questions is the same. This can make your preparation easier since you know what to expect.

Multiple-Choice Questions

Except for the essay, all the questions on the ACT are multiple-choice type. You do not need to think of the answers on your own. All you have to do is to figure out which is the right answer among the choices given. The process of elimination will help you get rid of the incorrect answers and save you time.

No Minus Points for Guessing

You will not be deducted any points if your answers are wrong. Therefore, when you do not know the answer, leaving it unanswered or trying to guess it is just the same. That means you do not need to analyze a question a lot. You have the option to try to answer it or just leave it blank.

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