ACT Reading Format

How long is the ACT Reading test? What will I be tested on?

The Reading section has 40 questions in 35 minutes. You will be given reading passages covering various topics, such as prose fiction, social science, humanities and natural science. This test measures how well you can understand and apply knowledge from things that you have read. Skills that will be tested include determining main ideas, statements with implied meanings, understanding sequencing, and the ability to analyze the narrator’s voice and method.

What will the passages on the ACT Reading Test be about?

The passages will cover four topics: Prose Fiction (a story or personal narrative), Social Science (essays or articles about History, Education, and Economics), Humanities (essays or articles about literature, art, music or media), and Natural Science (essays or articles based on the Science fields). You do not need to have a great deal of knowledge in any of these areas. The test is based on how well you understand something that you read, not any prior understanding of the topics addressed in the passages.

What does the ACT Reading Test look like?

Similar to the English section, the reading section is ‘cut’ in the middle of the page. On the left side, you will find the reading passage. On the right side, you will find the questions. The lines in the passage will be numbered in fives, and the questions might use these line numbers as a reference point. There are four passages on the exam with ten associated questions each. There may be a few questions that refer to an underlined passage, but for the most part, there are not underlined or numbered portions as there were in the English test.

What general academic skills will help me on the ACT Reading Test?

This test assesses your ability to understand what you have read and your ability to make inferences and draw conclusions based on the passage. Skills that are helpful are the ability to read quickly and thoroughly, understanding sequences and details of events in a passage, as well as being able to understand both direct and implied meanings in a passage.

I’m a slow reader! What can I do?

Practice ‘skimming’ articles and passages in books for important information. Although there will be more detailed questions asked, these questions often have a reference point (in terms of a line number). You will have to read the entire passage, but having the ability to identify the important points and events in the passage will be very helpful during the exam. Start practicing now with different types of essays and articles. You can even ask your English teacher to give you some extra reading assignments to help you prepare for the ACT.