ACT Reading measures your ability to understand written content. Read on to learn how to prepare for ACT Reading!
ACT Reading is one of the shortest sections in the test (besides the ACT Science test), but it doesn’t mean it should be taken lightly. To ensure you're prepared for the ACT Reading section, read on to learn more about the section format and tips to help you ace the section with ease!
The ACT Reading section requires you to answer 40 multiple-choice questions within 35 minutes. You’ll be presented with four passages: three long and one broken up into two shorter passages. Four main groups characterize passages:
There are also different question types you should be aware of.
Five scores are reported based on your performance: an overall section score, three reporting scores (covered below), and an “Understanding Complex Texts indicator.”
This reporting area reflects your ability to:
These questions measure your proficiency in determining "big picture" ideas and the ability to differentiate key information from text.
Craft and structure questions focus on the more technical aspects of the writing you evaluate, including word and phrasing choices. This metric measures your ability to:
Overall, these questions are about analyzing why the author made particular choices and understanding perspectives and points of view.
This reporting area measures your ability to:
Overall, this category focuses on your ability to differentiate between fact and opinion and connect ideas.
Understanding the exam format and question types is imperative to preparing for the section and knowing what’s required of you. Remember, most question types focus on central themes and ideas!
Practice tests are an excellent way to help you prepare for the ACT. Here’s how practice tests can make the most out of your ACT preparation:
Let’s look at a practice test question you may stumble upon as you study.
Evaluating ACT Reading passages are an excellent study tool to help you get used to the types of questions you’ll see (including this point of view question here, for example).
If you click on the above link and read this passage, the correct answer is C. The person telling this story is never identified, even though they know a lot of information about the main character.
ACT.org has a free ACT Reading exam for you to practice with. ACT Reading practice is crucial to performing well on the test!
Skimming is a time-saving necessity in the ACT Reading section; hanging on to every word on your first read-through can eat up time. A good rule of thumb for skimming is to spend more time on the first and last sentences of paragraphs to get a broad idea of the text’s message.
Because there are so many questions for each passage, we typically recommend you skim the passage first before looking at the questions.
Whether you love social science or literary narratives, you can begin with whatever passage you want. No rule says you must complete them in order. Start with whichever passage you consider most straightforward; it can help build your confidence!
If the question asks you to evaluate information from lines 22-26, don’t search for content in 21 or 27: you’ll have enough information from those lines to find your answer.
There's a good chance you'll know some answers after your first skim through. After your first read-through, you can look at the questions and try to "predict" the answer before looking at your options: it may be correct if your prediction matches one of the options.
The ACT Reading section can get a little tricky. Ambiguous answers can confuse students, as can options that are too broad, too narrow, or use the same words as the passage, even if it's wrong. Be careful with answers that include "always, never, best, worst," or any other "extreme" words. They can sometimes be there to trip you up.
While you can use the process of elimination in all ACT sections, it can be especially helpful in ACT Reading. Cross out answers you know can't be correct: your chances of getting the correct answer can immediately increase from 25% to 50%.
Many students skip the pre-passage descriptions, but a glance can give you more context about the author, when the text was written, and any other background knowledge that can give you more insight into the author's point of view.
These ACT Reading tips can give you the confidence you need to ace the test!
If you still have questions about the ACT Reading test prep, check out these FAQs!
To practice, you can take ACT practice tests, engage with college-level texts, and evaluate the main idea and author's POVs of what you read.
The answer depends on your reading comprehension level and skill in interacting with texts. On average, you have less than one minute to answer each question: many people may consider that difficult.
The answer is subjective and depends on what your definition of a “good” ACT score is. The average ACT reading score is 20.9. However, if you consider anything above the 75th percentile good, you’ll want to score a 26 or higher: it depends on your goals.
You have 35 minutes to complete 40 questions.
You'll see questions about main themes, word choice and text structure, author POV, interactions with other texts, and more. The ACT recently added one visual element per test that will have you evaluate a graph, figure, or table related to the text.
The ACT Reading Questions may or may not be in chronological order. You may have to flip back and forth between different sections of the passage.
There are always 40 questions in the Reading section.
While reading through passages can take time, the tips in this guide can help you navigate this section more efficiently. To prepare for the test, ensure you do enough ACT Reading practice to help you get more comfortable with the content. With enough preparation, you can confidently ace the ACT Reading test.