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How to Prepare for the ACT Reading Test Effectively?

Discover proven strategies for effective ACT Reading test prep. Learn how to tackle passages, improve comprehension, and boost your score.
How to Prepare for the ACT Reading Test Effectively?

So, are you struggling with your ACT reading test? Or are you worried about getting a perfect score? Achieving the best results might not be easy, but it is doable if you have dedication and know the right strategies. That’s exactly what we’ll go through in this guide to help you overcome any possible challenges with the ACT reading section and increase your score.

FAQ: What Is the ACT Reading Test?

Reading holds significant weight in the ACT test. Your performance here impacts your overall score and, as a result, admission prospects for colleges and universities. To excel, you have to grasp this section’s demands and prepare accordingly.

Why Is the ACT Reading Test Required?

Unlike writing, reading is a required part of the ACT exam. It evaluates your ability to interpret details and draw generalizations. Also, it checks your logical reasoning and understanding of a specific vocabulary in the context. 

What Is the ACT Reading Test Format?

In the ACT reading section, you need to answer 40 questions split into 4 parts: 

  • Humanities
  • Natural science
  • Social science
  • Prose fiction/literary narrative. 

The section includes long and short prose passages resembling college curricula. Each consists of 10 questions with four answer choices (e.g., A, B, C, and D). The important thing is that you don’t need any prior subject knowledge. These questions evaluate comprehension, not expertise. In addition, the reading section might include a passage with visual data. This option was added only in 2021. To answer these questions correctly, you need to combine information from the text and visuals. Being able to answer questions with visuals will boost your overall reading score. It is meant to show that you can process not only text but also visual data.


How Long Does the ACT Reading Test Take?

In total, the ACT exam lasts 2 hours and 55 minutes, while the reading section takes only 35 minutes. This means you have around 52 seconds per question or under nine minutes per passage. Before the math and reading section, you will have a 10-minute break. 

What is ACT Reading Test Grading Scale?

In the ACT reading section, you’ll get a score from 1 to 36. The average ACT reading score is 21.3, which is the highest among the ACT multiple-choice sections. The reading exam represents your ability to work with the key, integration, and complex text understanding. It also shows your readiness for college-level reading. That’s why all the questions focus on three areas, each differently contributing to the test score:

  • Key ideas and details. This part of the reading exam takes about 55–60% of the test score. It aims to check your ability to assess central ideas, themes, summaries, and inferences within texts.
  • Craft and structure. This test area takes 25–30% of the score. It figures out your ability to determine word meanings, the author’s choices, and their impact on the text.
  • Integration of knowledge and ideas. The last part takes about 13–18% of the test score. It examines how well students can identify connections between ideas and analyze arguments.

4 Steps to Prepare for the ACT Reading Test Effectively

When studying for the ACT reading section, there are many preparation strategies to choose from. Still, some time-proven methods can significantly boost your efforts. Here are a few practical ACT reading tips to help you out. 

Step 1: Understand the Requirements

Before taking the ACT reading test, grasp its requirements. First, learn the basics, such as allocated time, assignment types, and grading. Next, review past examples of the exam to know what you should expect. A clear understanding of the fundamentals and practical details is vital for success. Still, the most important part is your preparation process. To enhance it, use suitable study materials, ask for help, and practice consistently. While getting ready for the exam, you will find your perfect approach and flow.

Remember that some common advice might not work for you, and there is nothing wrong with this. For example, you could have come across a suggestion of reading questions before the main text. But, this tactic can be overwhelming when facing an unfamiliar article. Instead, you could focus on understanding the main idea of the passage and, after, review all the questions. For many, this technique proves to be more efficient and time-saving. Yet, again, it will all depend on your personal preferences. 

Step 2: Figure Out Your Weaknesses

Every student faces unique ACT reading challenges. Some lack strategies for passage questions, while others struggle with speed. Identify your weaknesses by taking several timed training tests. When practicing, note the time it takes you to give the correct answer. Then mark answers which took longer. After that, calculate both your realistic and extra-time scores.

Generally, students deal with both timing and content challenges. But one might be more dominant. For instance, if you score 36 when taking extra time but 32 with a standard test duration, focus on time management to improve your result. Whatever your challenge is, the best solution would be to go through as many practice tests as possible. For some, a more suitable option might be to get a tutor who can give personalized advice.

Step 3: Manage Your Time

Managing your time effectively in the ACT reading section is essential for success. If a question takes too long to answer, leave it for a moment and return to it later on. In case you are aiming for a perfect score, concentrate on spending less than 52 seconds per question.

For lower targets, focus on the questions that seem easy to you, and don’t be afraid to skip more challenging parts and go back to them after. After that, try to analyze the complicated parts and mark lengthy or confusing questions. They might have some similarities. If so, you can work on that to improve your overall score as a result. Besides, while keeping an eye on the clock is a good idea, avoid checking it too often. Otherwise, you can end up distracting too much for no reason. 

Step 4: Practice, Practice, Practice

Practicing and upgrading your skills regularly always pays off. That’s why you can follow different ACT reading practices and take the pre-ACT as well. Using various methods for preparation, including ACT prep books, online resources, or tutors, will boost your chances for success.

Also, it will be a good idea to familiarize yourself with passage types and subjects to save time during the actual test. Practice tests don’t only enhance your ACT reading scores but also make you more confident. They introduce the typical exam content to you, boost speed, improve accuracy, and help you understand that the test isn’t as hard as you might have expected. As a result, timed practice in a quiet environment reduces test-day anxiety. 


Feel free to select any strategy to prepare for the ACT reading test. Yet, remember that to find what’s truly yours, you have to try several options. At the end of the day, your strategies impact your final score. And proper preparation is one of the best ways to reduce stress, show better results, and get into the college you dreamt of. 



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