Page 1 Reading Study Guide for the ACT

How to prepare for the ACT Reading Test

General Information

The Reading section of the ACT test compels you to rely on the text given and use your own powers of deduction and reasoning to determine the answers to questions. Though questions may differ, the most common type of question provides you with a text or paragraph that must be analyzed through a series of questions, checking for reading comprehension, information retention, and basic knowledge of terms related to literature and reading. One part contains two shorter passages to which the questions refer.

The entire Reading test consists of 40 multiple-choice questions to be answered in 35 minutes. Each item is related in some way to the process of reading or reading comprehension. When taking the test, it is best to first read the questions assigned to the passage, followed by the passage. This way, you can determine key points in the passage and save time searching for answers.

Your score on the ACT Reading test will include a total score, plus a subscore in each of these three areas. The percentage shown indicates the approximate portion of the Reading questions that will be used to arrive at each subscore. Note that the numbers do not add up to 100% because some questions are used to arrive at more than one subscore.

  • Key Ideas and Details (55 to 60%): You will need to be able to summarize themes, analyze relationships, and make inferences as a result of your reading.

  • Craft and Structure (25 to 30%): This score is derived from your success in understanding things like the author’s purpose, point-of-view, and the reason for the author’s use of structure and choice of words.

  • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (13 to 18%): Differentiating between fact and opinion, analyzing evidence given, and combining evidence from various sources are some of the skills needed to achieve a good score on this sub-area of Reading.

Types of Reading Material to Practice

ACT Reading test selections are approximately equally drawn from these four subject areas. Be sure to practice reading and understanding material in all of them.

Social Studies: The social studies portion will take information from anthropology, archaeology, biography, business, economics, education, geography, history, political science, psychology, and sociology. Although you do not need to be proficient in each of these areas, you should have an idea of what each area covers and involves, to be better able to answer questions in these fields.

Natural Sciences: Natural sciences include anatomy, astronomy, biology, botany, chemistry, ecology, geology, medicine, meteorology, microbiology, natural history, physiology, physics, technology, and zoology. These questions may require you to read and synthesize unfamiliar information. A basic understanding of what each category might involve can help in answering related questions.

Literary Narrative or Prose Fiction: Questions in this category involve passages taken from short stories, novels, memoirs, and personal essays.

Humanities: Humanities questions come from a wide variety of sources, including architecture, art, dance, ethics, film, language, literary criticism, music, philosophy, radio, television, and theater. These areas require a basic understanding of the humanities.

Types of Comprehension

Literal or Explicit

Literal or explicit comprehension requires you to synthesize information overtly stated in a text. This requires being capable of finding information in a work and understanding given information, whether it is written or provided in graphs and other charts.

Implied or Implicit

Implied and implicit comprehension require you to be able to go one step further; rather than simply finding information and repeating it, implied or implicit information requires you to take the information given, and determine your own conclusions based on the information provided.