Here are seven tips to Improve Your ACT Reading Score. This short 35-minute section contains four passages with 10 questions each to test your reading comprehension. It might seem 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 paragraph is in a different font at the beginning of each reading passage. The paragraph 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 of the four types of ACT Reading passages you’re starting: 

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

Read the first paragraph (and some of the second) 

Take time to carefully read the first paragraph and part or most of the second. Again, it’s important to understand the passage’s context passage, especially if you need to more quickly read the following paragraphs 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. 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 without spending the entire time reading the passage and missing the chance to answer some of the questions. 

Remember to bring your watch with you on test day to 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 might help you answer questions later. This usually includes names, dates, places, and numbers. 

When 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. This section contains difficult questions, and sometimes you might struggle to pick between two similar answers. You’ve knocked out the ones that are obviously incorrect, but you’re still conflicted.  

If this is the case, avoid too extreme answers: “too much,” or “too narrow.” With multiple answers 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 check every answer choice to know why your answer is (or isn’t) the best one. Remember: if an answer is only partially correct, 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 prep can help you build confidence in your reading skills and learn more strategies to increase your score.

Ready to get started? Learn more about our In-Person (Lincoln or Omaha, NE) or online ACT prep!