ACT Series: How to Prepare for the Reading Section of the ACT Test

The ACT is important to high school students in Missouri and across the U.S. for several reasons. It is an important factor that is considered in college admissions and how scholarships are awarded. It can help students become eligible for the A+ Scholarship and in some parts of the state it is a requirement to graduate. While the level of importance can differ among students, based on their plans, it is a tough challenge for everyone their first time. Students take timed tests in multiple subjects, answering questions that can confuse them or make them second guess themselves.

To help students prepare for the ACT test, Journey to College has prepared a four-part series of articles discussing each area of the test. This is the third article of the series on the ACT, describing each of the subject tests and how to prepare for them. The reading portion of the test is the subject of this article.

The basics of the reading test

In the reading portion of the test, students read several passages and answer questions about that information. It challenges students to retain information quickly, think critically about the text, and infer additional information based on what they read. Students have 35 minutes to answer 40 questions.

How do I prepare for the test?

a young man laying on a yellow couch reading a book.The ACT publishes a test breakdown, which describes how much of the test is focused on one topic. In each topic, it is further broken down into certain types of questioning. A majority of the reading test will question you about key details from the text, including picking up context clues and coming to conclusions based on the information given.

To help students prepare for the test, the ACT also provides old versions of the test online and in print. Ask your counselor if they have copies of old booklets so you can take practice tests and time yourself.

How is the test graded?

The ACT has released its scoring rubric so you can know ahead of time what to expect. This is very helpful for students who are aiming for a specific score.

What is your biggest tip for this test?

Learn to skim the material. If you spend a minute on every question, you will run out of time before finishing the test. This doesn’t take into account how much time you will spend reading the section. Briefly going over the passage can still give you information about context and conclusions. If a question stumps you, refer back to the reading but do not reread the entire section.

Final thoughts

The reading section will give you the best chance to score high marks because all the information is provided. Some students have a natural affinity for reading quickly and might perform more naturally on this test. However, that doesn’t mean studying won’t help you improve. Learning to skim or looking at the questions first help you get basic information about the passage. Try to budget your time equally between passages so you are not rushing at the end.


Read the other parts of the ACT Series