ACT Reading Tips

Before exam day

  • Read, read, read! The more you practice the ability to read passages focused on various topics and subject areas, the better your performance will be on the test. You should practice reading passages related to the four major subjects addressed on the test. Taking ACT practice tests will also help you to pinpoint areas of weakness on which to focus.
  • Practice the ability to read quickly and thoroughly. The ability to ‘skim’ a passage and to highlight the main ideas and important events will be very helpful. Remember, you only have 35 minutes to read four passages and to answer 40 questions. This gives you less than a minute to answer each question, not to mention the time needed to read the passage! You don’t want to waste time searching for important ideas and events in the passage. The best way to improve the speed and effectiveness of your reading is to practice as much as possible.
  • Taking practice ACT Reading tests and reading ACT prep books will help you to get a feel for the types of passages that will be on the tests and the types of questions asked about the readings. Taking an ACT prep course will also help you to learn how to tackle each question and each passage in order to get the best score possible!
  • Remember, the ACT will be looking for more than your ability to understand the basic idea of a reading. You will be asked to “read between the lines” and make inferences. You should practice doing this while you read to improve your speed and comprehension.

On exam day

  • Pace yourself! Remember, you have to get through four reading passages and the associated questions! Take advantage of your wristwatch and make sure that you reserve enough time to get to all four passages. Try to skim the questions before you read the passage, so you can answer the questions as you are reading the passage.
  • Glance through the four readings. If there is one reading that you feel is particularly easy, you may want to complete this portion first. However, if you decide to do this, be sure to carefully mark your answer sheet!
  • Do not dwell on any one passage or question. If there is a question which has you stumped, move on and finish the rest of the test. If you have time, return to the skipped question. If you still don’t know the answer, make an educated guess. Do not leave any questions blank!
  • You may not have time to thoroughly read each essay. If this is the case, practice your ‘skimming’ techniques. When you get to the questions, try to pinpoint the portion which is important to that particular question, answer the question, and move on. It is more important to address each question and finish the test than to spend too much time reading one or two passages and run out of time!