You’re refreshed after a ten-minute break and ready to hit the ground running with the ACT Reading section! This quick 35-minute section contains four passages with 10 questions each to test your reading comprehension. It might seem a bit intimidating at first, but equipped with these reading tips and lots of practice, you’ll be ready to do your best and jump your ACT Reading score!

Read the pre-paragraph

This is the paragraph in a different font at the beginning of each reading passage. This passage is worth the ten seconds it takes to read. It gives you context for the passage and helps you prepare your mind for what you’re about to read. 

Example: LITERARY NARRATIVE: This passage is adapted from the novel The Men of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor (©1998 by Gloria Naylor).

This also helps you know which passage you’re starting; there are four types of ACT Reading passages: 

  1. literary narrative
  2. social science
  3. humanities
  4. natural science

Read the first paragraph (and some of the second) 

As you get started, take time to carefully read the first paragraph and part or most of the second. Again, it’s important to understand the context of the passage, especially if you need to read the following paragraphs a bit faster due to time constraints. 

Efficiency is key

At 35 minutes for four passages, you only have an average of 8 minutes and 45 seconds for each reading passage. That means efficiency is key when it comes to this section of the ACT. 

Figure out the rhythm that works best for you. Some students are quick readers and can easily read through the entire passage in the time given. Some, however, might struggle a bit more and need to read the first two lines of each paragraph (other than the first two paragraphs) before moving on. This can help you understand the basic concepts in the passage without spending the entire reading the passage and missing the chance to answer some of the questions. 

Remember to bring your watch with you on test day so you can keep an eye on the time you have left.

 Reading tips to increase your ACT score

Underline key terms

As you read, underline or circle details in the passage that you think might help you answer questions later on. This usually includes information such as names, dates, places, and numbers. 

There isn’t a science to it, but as you prepare and practice more passages, you’ll learn what to look for and what types of questions will be asked later in the section. 

By marking up your passage, you’re helping your brain focus on the key terms and move through the passage so that you can make the most of your time. 

Avoid extremes

Let’s be honest. There are difficult questions in this section, and sometimes you might struggle to pick between two answers that seem similar. You’ve knocked out the ones that are obviously incorrect, but you’re still conflicted.  

If this is the case, avoid answers that are too extreme: “too much,” or “too narrow.” When there are multiple answers you need to choose between, the correct answer is typically the more moderate one.

Practice your ACT Reading tips

Take it one passage at a time when you’re getting started. Set your timer for 8 minutes and 45 seconds and complete one passage in the time allotted. From there, correct it and review your answers.  Make sure you review every answer choice so that you know why your answer is (or isn’t) the best one. Remember: if an answer is only partially correct, that means it’s partially wrong too and can’t be the right answer!

Strategic practice is the best way to improve your Reading score. So grab a pencil, a timer, and an ACT test—and start practicing. 

Invest in ACT prep

While these tips are a good starting point, investing in ACT test prep can help you build confidence in your reading skills and can help you learn more strategies to help you increase your score.

Ready to get started? Learn more about our online ACT prep!