ACT Reading Test Questions, Content, and Scores

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Getting ready to master the ACT test? For those high school students who have decided to take the ACT as your college admissions test, and for those required to take it as a high school exit exam, you'd better prepare yourself for the ACT Reading portion of the exam. The ACT Reading section is one of five sections upon which you will be during the ACT Test, and for many students, it is the most difficult. Not only will you need reading strategies to master it, but you will also need to practice, practice, practice. The other test sections you'll need to prepare for are as follows:

The ACT Reading Basics

When you flip open your testing booklet to the ACT Reading portion, you'll face the following: 

  • 40 questions
  • 35 minutes
  • 4 reading passages with 10 multiple choice questions following each reading passage.
  • 3 of the reading passages contain one long passage. One of the reading passages contains a pair of related passages. 

Although it seems like it would be relatively easy to answer forty questions in 35 minutes, this test is difficult because you also must read the four accompanying passages or sets of passages in addition to answering the questions. Alone, or in pairs, the passages are roughly 80 to 90 lines in length. 

ACT Reading Scores

Just like the other ACT sections, the ACT Reading section can earn you between 1 and 36 points. The average ACT Reading score is approximately a 20, but your fellow test-takers are scoring higher than that to get into the really good schools.

This score is also combined with the Writing score and English score to give you an ELA average score out of 36. 

ACT Reading Skills

The ACT Reading section does not test your memorization of vocabulary words in isolation, facts outside of the text, or logical skills. Here are the skills on which you'll be tested:

Key Ideas and Details: (approximately 22 to 24 questions)

Craft and Structure: (approximately 10 to 12 questions)

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: (approximately 5 to 7 questions)

  • Analyzing and evaluating author's claims
  • Differentiating between fact and opinion
  • Using evidence to connect texts

ACT Reading Test Content

The good news is that you won't have to interpret poetry. All the text on the ACT Reading section is prose. As stated before, you will not be held accountable for knowledge outside of the text, so you don't need to check out books from the library to cram on these topics. Just keep in mind that you could be reading passages about one of the following subjects, so at least you'll know what you're up against.

  • Social Studies: anthropology, archaeology, biography, business, economics, education, geography, history, political science, psychology, and sociology.
  • Natural Sciences: anatomy, astronomy, biology, botany, chemistry, ecology, geology, medicine, meteorology, microbiology, natural history, physiology, physics, technology, and zoology.
  • Prose Fiction: short stories or excerpts from short stories or novels.
  • Humanities: memoirs and personal essays and in the content areas of architecture, art, dance, ethics, film, language, literary criticism, music, philosophy, radio, television, and theater.

ACT Reading Strategies

It's imperative that you prepare for ACT Reading strategies for this test. Since you'll have to answer 40 questions in just 30 minutes and read the four passages (either one long passage or two shorter, related passages), you will not have enough time to just go at it like you usually would in class. You must use some strategies before plunging in, or else you may only get to two or three of the passages. Incorporating even some of the reading strategies along with reading comprehension activities can help boost your score. 


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Roell, Kelly. "ACT Reading Test Questions, Content, and Scores." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Roell, Kelly. (2020, August 28). ACT Reading Test Questions, Content, and Scores. Retrieved from Roell, Kelly. "ACT Reading Test Questions, Content, and Scores." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 11, 2023).