How To Prep For the ACT Reading Section

ACT Reading section: 40 questions, 35 minutes
For most students, reading less is better.  This might seem counterintuitive, but most people take too much time reading the passage and then remember too little of it.  The better option is to attack the passage strategically so that you don’t have to read the entire thing, or if you do, read it in small chunks.

Look at the questions and see if there are any key words.  These include proper nouns, dates or other numbers, or definition or category words.  Try to find that key word in the passage and then read the couple sentences around it.  Keep in mind that any words that are capitalized or numbers will pop out easily in the passage.  Don’t be afraid to underline these words or write yourself reminders in the margins!  This way, you will know where to go back and look if a future question centers around the same issue.

Also try to strategize the order to do the passages.  The ACT Reading always has four passages and they are always in the same order.

Prose Fiction: This passage is an excerpt from a book or a short story.  The key word strategy works to varying degrees on this passage.  Sometimes the best option is to read this because stories are easier to remember than a collection of facts.

Social Sciences: Covers issues like sociology, or how people work in history, or psychology.  These passages might talk about a government program, or how people react to technology, or how reporters cover a story.  Contains facts.

Humanities: Includes things like music, art, literature, and entertainment.  A passage could be about jazz, or the modern art movement, or a specific television show.

Natural Sciences: This is a science passage that usually uses technical language and covers some kind of scientific discovery or movement.

Start with the section you feel the most comfortable with and understand the best.  Save the hardest for last.  That way, if you run out of time, you will have to guess on a passage where you might have guessed on several questions anyway.

Remember: if it’s not in the passage, don’t pick that answer!  Some answers sound good but are not actually in the passage.  Find a sentence or word that backs up your answer choice.  The more you can justify the choice, the more likely it is to be correct. If you want to ensure you are prepared for this section, consider taking some ACT practice tests, reviewing a prep book, or meeting with an ACT Reading tutor to enhance your skills.