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Test PrepACTReading

ACT Reading

Often times, the ACT Reading Test, with its long, frequently boring passages, is the one students dread the most. It’s easy to see why; this is the place where you can quickly become bogged down in dull detail. We can help you navigate the tedium and develop the skills necessary to improve your Reading score.

The Breakdown

The Reading Test is a 40-minute, 35-question test. You’ll receive an overall Reading score of 1-36 based on your performance on the test as well as two subscores for Arts/Literature and Social Sciences/Science. The four areas the passages touch upon are (unsurprisingly):

  • Humanities (Arts)
  • Prose Fiction (Literature)
  • Natural Sciences
  • Social Sciences
Questions are distributed evenly amongst each of these four areas.

Strategy Talk

Your strategy will be dependent on your current score, the score you hope to achieve and the gap between the two. If you have yet to take the ACT, you can use your PLAN score to predict your ACT performance. Be realistic. Boosting your score significantly can be difficult, especially if you have limited time to prep.

Time management is critical. While you want to provide an answer to every question, it may not behoove you to actually read and answer each one. Focus on those passages you are most comfortable with first and leave those that typically trouble you to the end. Which passages you tackle first depends on you; some test-takers are most comfortable with prose fiction, while others find comfort in the natural sciences passages. Only you can decide your order of difficulty.

Preparation Tips

The Reading Test is probably one of the toughest parts of the ACT when it comes to making big improvements in your score, specifically because it tests skills that aren’t easily acquired in a short period of time. Folks who ace the Reading Test tend to be voracious readers, but a love of reading is something that develops over a lifetime.

The most important thing you can probably focus on is your time management, or pacing. Next, you’ll want to make sure you have a clear attack plan for how you’ll approach each question. Then, you’ll want to learn and practice tackling reading passages without losing track of time. Our Skill Reviews will help you with each of these steps.

If you aren’t a big reader already, try to “amp up” your literary diet by skimming a news magazine every week. Additionally, you should set aside 30 minutes a day for perusing the newspaper. You don’t find world events scintillating? Don’t worry; the sports page or arts section are just as good.

For maximum benefit, when you come across a word you don’t know, try to figure out the meaning through context. Afterwards, look it up to check your accuracy. Further, to help boost and/or test your comprehension, discuss the articles with friends or family. The breakfast, lunch or dinner table (really any food based activity) is a great place to do this.


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Don Munce