The Reading section of the ACT has four passages. You will be asked 40 questions to be answered in 35 minutes. There are various types of questions that will be asked:
- Main Idea questions that ask about the passage as a whole.
- Inference and writer’s view questions that ask you to understand something that isn’t directly stated in the passage.
- Detail questions that ask about specific parts of the passage.
- Vocabulary-in-context questions that ask about a word as it is used in the passage.
- Function questions that ask about the purpose of a specific part of the passage.
To tackle all of this, you just need to be quick and methodical. Below are some tips to help you approach this section of the ACT.
1. Read the questions first: This sounds counterproductive because you might feel you’re losing time by reading the questions twice. Consider it an investment, though. Reading the questions first will allow you to know what you should be looking for in the passage. Though you will be reading the entire passage, it’s good to know what to focus on.
2. Don’t be scared of unfamiliar subjects: The readings cover four topics—natural science, humanities, social science, and prose fiction. The purpose of this section is to test your reading, not your knowledge of these subjects. The writing will be on your level, so don’t be intimidated if the subject is neuroscience!
3. Always read the full passage: Because you read the questions first, you know what to focus on in the reading. That doesn’t mean you should skim the passage, though. Read all of it.
4. Use process of elimination: You might not be able to eliminate all of the incorrect choices, but there will likely be some answers you can eliminate right away.
5. Read the part the question asks about: You might remember the part of the passage that the question is referring to, but you should still read the part being asked about to be certain you remember it correctly.
6. Choose the best answer: Don’t choose the answer that sounds the smartest; choose the answer that has textual evidence to support it.
7. Know the scoring: You won’t lose points for a wrong answer, so answer every question—even if you just have to guess.
8. Take notes: When you read the passage, write short notes next to each paragraph. These notes can cover the purpose of the passage, mention of different people, and different opinions.
9. Predict the answer: Before you read the answer choices and have the opportunity to be misled by incorrect choices, predict what the answer will be.