The ACT Reading test is 35 minutes long, and has 40 questions split evenly over 4 different passages.
The four sections are as follows:
Prose Fiction, which is an excerpt from a novel or short story, Social science, which will be research based, analyzing civilizations and societies, Humanities, which analyzes art or literature, and Natural Science which analyzes science and experiments.
Check out TutorMe’s ACT Preparation Course for in depth breakdowns and strategy for each of these categories.
Fiction and Non-Fiction
An important part of the ACT Reading test is understanding the difference between the fiction and non-fiction passages. For the fiction passage, you should be asking yourself, Who are the characters in the passage? What are their names? What are their relationships to each other? What is their mood or state of mind? How do they feel about what’s going on and about each other? What is the author’s attitude? Does he or she have an opinion on the scene? Are they trying to convey a message or an explicit theme?
For the Non-fiction passage: don’t fret unfamiliar vocabulary. Some of these passages will feature complicated language that you’re not expected to recognize. Instead, you will be asked to use the context clues of the passage to determine the meaning of these unfamiliar words. On a similar note, you’re not expected to be familiar with the subject of the passage.
Skip passages you find difficult on the ACT Reading test. That being said, you shouldn’t make this decision immediately, because most passages don’t have a clear introduction. Remember, these are passages, not complete texts. You are being dropped into the middle of something, don’t decide it’s too hard just based off of the first couple sentences.
Skipping passages you find difficult does not mean you should not complete them at all, it just means you should do them last. Answer the passages in the order that you feel most comfortable in. You should not skip passage to passage answering a few questions in each. Complete one full passage at a time before moving on. Skipping between them will prove difficult when trying to remember the content and order of each different passage.
You should take an average of 30 seconds per question on the ACT Reading test. This is just an estimate. Some questions will take a much shorter amount of time, and others will take a little longer.
When you’re running out of time, look for questions with specific line references. These are easier and take less time to answer, because they tell you exactly where to look in the passage for the answer. They don’t require you to go digging back through the entire passage, or to sum up general concepts about the passage as a whole.
Remember, guess on all the remaining questions. The ACT Reading test is no different than the other tests… make sure you fill in an answer for every question. You are not penalized for wrong answers.
It’s important to remember that the questions will not be presented in an order that coincides with the order of the passage. Meaning the first question is not always going to be found in the first paragraph, the second question in the second paragraph, etc. etc.
Let the questions guide you through the passage. Some questions will cite specific sentences and paragraphs in the passages. Others will refer to the passage on the whole. Don’t try and memorize everything in the passage before attacking the questions.
Good luck! And don’t forget to check out TutorMe’s ACT Preparation Course for in depth breakdowns and strategy for every aspect of the ACT Reading test.
If you need help on the other tests, check out our posts for the English, Science, and Math tests.