ACT Reading Tips

September 22, 2022
By AdmissionSight

ACT Reading Tips

The American College Testing (ACT) exam is one of the two standardized tests that prospective college students need to pass before they can even begin the application process. On the other hand, you might be feeling anxious about your upcoming ACT test because you know that reading isn’t one of your strongest areas of study. It’s important to know more about ACT reading tips.

Is the reading section of the ACT the most challenging aspect of the test for you? Do you find that reading the passages and attempting to comprehend what they are trying to say, causes you to feel frustrated? These ACT reading tips will highlight some strategies that can help you improve your score.

What to expect from the ACT reading test?

The ability of each student to apply reason to a text in order to better understand the material is evaluated as part of the ACT reading test. You’ll need to provide an interpretation of what you’ve read and show that you have a good understanding of the cause-and-effect relationship that was presented to you.

The reading section of the ACT consists of 40 questions about the material and all of which are different from one test to the next and is never repeated. Students are understandably anxious as a result of this, but there are still plenty of ways to get ready.

What are the types of ACT reading passages and the ACT reading tips you can use for each?

Male student answering an exam in his desk.

First things first, it is important for students to be aware that the reading section of the ACT typically follows a predetermined order of passage types. This indicates that students have the opportunity to adequately prepare themselves for the various kinds of questions and reading skills that are required by each type of passage.

1. Prose Fiction

It is highly likely that this passage will be an excerpt from a longer short story, novel, or other work of fiction. Students typically find this to be the passage that is the least difficult to read and comprehend. This is due to the fact that these works of fiction are written for a broad audience and do not include any specialized vocabulary. Because these passages were written much more recently, students shouldn’t be concerned that they won’t be able to understand the old-fashioned writing style that was used.

In the prose section, you shouldn’t be concentrating on the story’s plot. The comprehension of larger concepts, such as the order of events, the ability to draw conclusions, or characterization and the relationships between characters is actually being tested by the prose fiction passage, despite the fact that you may have the impression that each and every minor detail in the first passage is essential to answering the questions.

When you are reading a passage that contains descriptions of settings or dialogue between characters, it is important to pay attention to what these specifics reveal about the main ideas conveyed by the passage as a whole such as how a character is feeling or the general tenor of the circumstance.

2.  Social Science

This section will discuss a topic that falls under the purview of one of the following academic disciplines: sociology, political science, anthropology, education, history, and history.

The organization of this passage follows a logical sequence, such as beginning with the presentation of a problem, then describing various viewpoints or developments on the problem, and finally concluding with a discussion of the most recent research or the present standing of the problem.

Rephrasing and skimming in the field of social science can be the most effective ACT reading tips that you can use. Your comprehension of the material will be put to the test in a good number of the questions in the social science passage, which will ask you questions about the author’s point of view or opinions they would agree or disagree with.

If you want to answer these questions, you should be able to read the text and then rephrase the same concepts or ideas in your own words after you’ve finished reading it. If you possess this ability, it will be possible for you to determine whether or not you are truly comprehending the information that is presented in the passage. This is especially useful when the author employs a great deal of detailed explanation in order to convey a straightforward point.

3. Humanities

The passage in the humanities is typically a talk or an essay that the author has written about themselves, or it may relate to other subjects like art, literature, ethics, or philosophy. Because of the passage’s use of older English style, some students may have difficulty reading it because it could even be from the previous century.

Students in the humanities may be required to draw inferences about the author’s message if the text they are studying is an essay, a memoir, or a speech. Literary devices such as similes, metaphors, and hyperboles are examples of such devices.

You should be acquiring an understanding of the underlying meaning in the humanities. The passage from the humanities typically has a fervent, even emotional, tone, as well as a great deal of ornate language and literary devices, all of which are used to bolster the author’s purpose and main points.

The key to successfully comprehending a passage from the humanities is to focus on identifying the overarching central idea rather than getting bogged down in the specifics of the language style. To accomplish this, be sure to take note of the heading that comes before the passage, as well as any information about the context that it provides. For instance, if the passage is a speech, the heading might describe the occasion and place where the speaker will be delivering the speech.

4. Natural Science

This can be related to subjects such as technology, biology, chemistry, or physics. Students may find this passage particularly challenging due to the specialized terminology that is typical of the field as well as the detailed explanations of a variety of scientific concepts.

On the other hand, just like the social science passage, this piece of informative writing will adhere to a logical progression that places emphasis on the explanation of a concept through the use of distinct topic sentences in each paragraph.

In natural science, you should pay attention to both the main idea and the passage structure. The natural science passage contains a lot of technical details and abstract ideas, and it’s easy to get lost in all of them. However, the most important thing is to understand the overarching point that the author is trying to make.

Before delving into the specifics of the topic, which may be more difficult to grasp, there will be a topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph in the passage. Take note of the structure of the passage; does the author focus on a central idea and then explain the history of its discovery, or are they describing different perspectives or components of a topic instead? Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the extensive amount of information regarding the topic, the structure of the passage will assist you in comprehending the passage in its entirety.

The following are the ACT reading tips that will help you to improve your ACT reading score:

1. Familiarize yourself with the format of the test.

It is important so that you will not be caught off guard by the length, format, or layout of the ACT reading section on the day of the exam. You should give yourself a lot of opportunities to practice tests so that you can become familiar with the time limits of the section and precisely how much time you need for each kind of passage. Because the various types of passages are distinct from one another, the amount of time you spend on each passage may vary.

2. Before reading the passages, read the questions that accompany them.

Students who preview the questions before delving into the passage will have a much better idea of exactly what they need to look for in order to answer the questions that will be on the test. This is one of the most important strategies that test-takers can use. Before beginning to read the passage, take a moment to quickly review the questions that will be asked and then mark the passage up in accordance with your findings.

Female student studying in a room.

For instance, if a question asks you to identify the primary idea presented in the third paragraph of the passage, draw a large bracket next to the paragraph in your test booklet. This will serve as a visual cue to remind you to pay particular attention to that paragraph while you are reading the passage.

3. Search for words that serve as transitions.

Words that serve as transitions indicate a change in the flow of the passage. One example of a transition word is the phrase “In conclusion,” which is used to signify the summarizing of main ideas at the end of a passage. Another example is the word “notably,” which is used to draw attention to an interesting piece of information.

Learn the meanings of the transitional words that are most frequently used and become familiar with the functions that these words serve so that you can understand what they mean as you move through the passages.

4. Be sure to highlight everything that you think is important in the document.

Because the test booklet is your instrument, you should annotate it as thoroughly as possible with simple symbols such as underlining, brackets, stars, scribbles, and so on. You might be wondering exactly what qualifies as important enough to underline in the ACT reading section. Any line or paragraph that is the specific question or information that is preceded by an important transition word is worth underlining.

5. Before reading the passage, make a mental note of the heading.

Before each passage, there will be a few brief lines that explain the type of passage, the author, and other background information such as the publication date, the setting, or the context of the passage. If you know this background information, it will help you understand the main idea of the passage, and this is especially helpful for humanities passages, which can contain things like speeches or memoirs.

6. Discard any responses that are incorrect.

When taking the reading portion of the ACT, one of the most common mistakes that students make is narrowing down all of the answer choices to just two possible answers, and then selecting the incorrect one. Focus on ruling out answers you already know are incorrect by looking for specific text evidence to prove them wrong. This will help you avoid the uncomfortable feeling of being confused between two different answer choices.

Unidentified person taking an exam in a desk.

It’s usually a good idea to give the answer choices that make generalizations a closer look, especially if they contain words like “always,” “never,” or “everyone,” to see if any of them can be eliminated.

7. Ignore questions that require a lot of thought.

The reading portion of the ACT has very strict time limits, with only 52 seconds allotted to each question; therefore, if you find that you are struggling with a question for more than 90 seconds, you should skip it. You should not waste time trying to figure out the more difficult questions because you can use that same time to get points for the questions that are easier to answer. After you have provided answers to all of the questions that you are able to, come back and take a look at the ones that you are unable to answer.

8. If you don’t know the word, don’t panic about it.

On the reading portion of the ACT, students are asked questions that require them to determine the meaning of a word based on the context in which it is used. Although it may make you feel uneasy if you are not already familiar with the meaning of the word, the reality is that answering these questions does not require you to have prior knowledge regarding the meanings of difficult words. Instead, it is up to you to figure out what the word means by figuring out its meaning in context.

9. Read, read, and read some more!

There are many ACT reading tips that you can use, but the best way is to read. Read as much and as widely as you can and try to understand what you are reading. The reading portion of the ACT is primarily designed to gauge how quickly and accurately a candidate can comprehend and evaluate a passage.

Students taking a tests in their classroom.

Reading more is, of course, the tried-and-true method for enhancing both one’s speed and attention while reading. Make it a point to read more in your day-to-day life, whether it be fiction or nonfiction books, short stories, or even news and magazine articles on subjects that interest you!

10. Create an ACT study plan that is tailored specifically to your needs.

When you study effectively, you focus on improving the areas in which you struggle the most. Make sure you are aware of the portion of the ACT reading section that presents the greatest challenge for you, whether it is a specific type of passage or a certain kind of question.

Practicing your ACT reading tips can go a long way. Taking it one passage at a time when you’re getting started can be very beneficial. Your reading score can be improved the most by engaging in the strategic practice, so let’s get yourself an ACT practice test, a pencil, and a timer, and get to work on improving it.

Great academic guidance will also point you in the right direction so that you can put your skills up and be confident enough to do well in your tests! Students can significantly improve both their scores and their chances of admission by taking advantage of the one-on-one, individualized instruction that we offer here at AdmissionSight.

Group of people taking a tests in a desk.

The average ACT score of our students who go through our program is greater than 35, which is the benchmark score that top-tier educational institutions look for in highly qualified applicants.

For over a decade, AdmissionSight has been guiding students through the challenging application process required to enter some of the world’s most prominent universities. On average, 75% of our students are accepted to an Ivy League schools like Stanford, MIT, University of Chicago, or Caltech, making us one of the most successful educational institutions in the world. Do not hesitate to get in touch with us right away to arrange your initial consultation.



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