31 Aug 2017

ACT Reading Test Introduction

The ACT reading test is the 3rd test (or section) of the ACT.  It is scored on a scale of 0-36, and that score is then averaged with all the other sections for the final composite score of 0-36.  The reading follows the Writing and Math tests, which are 45 minutes and 60 minutes respectively.  For test takers, this means you’re already tired from spending approximately 2 hours on the previous tests, so you’re probably in no mood to deal with the reading.

The reading itself is 35 minutes long, has 4 passages, and consists of 40 questions.  The passages always come in the same order: Prose Fiction, Social Science, Humanities, and Natural Science.  One of those passages will be a dual passage, meaning there will be two related source texts instead of only one.  The reason I’m mentioning the order of the passages is because one of the first strategies of the Reading test is to take it in your own order, not the order it’s presented in. The biggest mistake people make is taking the test in the order it’s given, wasting valuable time on passages with less chance of success. For example, if you are more successful at answering Natural Science questions, then you should do that passage first.  If Prose Fiction is the bane of your existence, you should leave that one for last.

Just as with the SAT, the best way to maximize your score on the ACT reading test is by using the technique that works best for you. I’ll address how to answer the questions effectively in my next post, because today I want to focus on how to deal with the passages. An incredibly important idea, although often overlooked, is that the different passages are written with different goals in mind. Prose Fiction is concerned with character and plot, while Natural Science is concerned with explaining a concept or experiment.  Although they both use words, their purposes are different, which means we should read them with their individual purpose in mind.

Furthermore, there is also the matter of reading itself. Some people are able to read an entire passage in 2 minutes and have a relatively fair understanding of what that passage was about. On the other hand, some students read for 3-4 minutes but have only the vaguest understanding of what actually happened.  Although this doesn’t necessarily reflect a student’s prowess at reading, their approaches to reading are necessarily going to be different: the first hypothetical student should read the entire passage, marking and underlining the important or relevant points; the second student should instead focus on the questions, ordering them according to the layout of the passage and work backwards towards understanding the passage.

Each student is different when it comes to a successful approach, and in later columns we’ll address this in further detail.  Until then, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us at

Phone call: 02 266 6079

Mail to: [email protected] or visit our website: yprepacademy.com

And as always, thanks for reading. As a reward for your time, here’s a sloth: