ACT Reading Skills

Which exact skills will be tested on the ACT Reading test?

The Reading Test focuses on your ability to read and understand four types of reading selections: Prose Fiction, Natural Sciences, Social Studies, and Humanities. You will receive two sub-scores on the English test: Social Studies/Sciences and Arts/Literature. The Social Sciences/Sciences sub-score is based on your understanding of the Social Studies and Natural Sciences passages while the Arts/Literature sub-score is based on your understanding of the Prose Fiction and Humanities readings. Here is a breakdown of the skills addressed in each section:

Social Studies/Sciences

Social Studies (25%) This section tests your ability to understand passages in the areas of anthropology, archaeology, business, biology, education, economics, geography, history, political science, sociology, and psychology.

Natural Sciences (25%) This section tests your ability to understand passages in the areas of astronomy, biology, botany, chemistry, geology, medicine, meteorology, natural history, physics, technology, and zoology.

Arts/Literature

Prose Fiction (25%) This section tests your ability to understand passages or narratives from short stories or novels.

Humanities (25%) This section tests your ability to understand passages in the content areas of art, architecture, art, dance, film, literature, music, philosophy, ratio, television, and theatre.

But I don’t know anything about one or more of the topics on the test…

That’s okay! This test isn’t designed to test your knowledge of economics or geology or any of the other above topics! The test is about reading comprehension. The variety of topics on the test ensures that the focus of the testing is your ability to understand and apply what you have read and not on any prior knowledge in the topics of the passages.

Here are the reading and comprehension skills which will be addressed on this portion of the exam:

  • The ability to determine the main idea
  • Having an understanding of sequences of events
  • Locating and interpreting important details
  • Making comparisons
  • Drawing generalizations and making inferences
  • Understanding cause and effect
  • The ability to analyze the author’s style, mood, and method

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