About ACT® Reading Test
Are you struggling with how to prepare for your ACT® Reading test? Here is everything you need to know – test format, syllabus, and scoring pattern. We also discuss the difficulty level of the questions and share some review tips to help kickstart your preparations.
What Is the ACT Reading Test?
The third section of the ACT, the Reading section, evaluates your reading and reasoning skills. In the Reading section, you read and evaluate passages representing the kinds of text you may see in your first year of college. The questions following each passage ask you to identify the main ideas of the passages, interpret details, comprehend cause-effect relationships, understand the sequence of events, and make comparisons. You are evaluated on your ability to understand the author's idea behind the passage, analyze arguments, and compile information from multiple texts.
The ACT Reading test measures your understanding of the following:
ACT Reading Format and Syllabus
The Reading section has 40 multiple choice questions (MCQs) to be answered in 35 minutes. This gives you 52 seconds to answer each question. There are three long passages and one paired set which has two short passages that need to be read together.
The four types of passages that you see in this section are:
Literary Narrative or Prose Fiction
Types of ACT Reading Questions
The ACT Reading section includes the following types of questions:
Central Idea Questions
These questions revolve around the theme or the central idea of the passage, and check your overall understanding of the information provided in the passage.
These questions evaluate your understanding of specific portions of the passage, such as lines or phrases.
These questions ask you the meaning of words or phrases, testing your ability to infer their definition using the context of a passage.
Function & Development Questions
These questions ask you to elaborate on how a word, phrase, or sentence affects the context of a passage. You will also be asked to evaluate how well ideas are arranged in a passage to deliver information.
Implied Ideas Questions
These questions check how well you understand the implied meaning of words, phrases, and sentences within a passage.
If you are interested in knowing what topics are covered on other ACT subjects, be sure to check out our article on the ACT syllabus.
Try active learning with UWorld. Easier, smarter, quicker.
Is the ACT Reading Section Hard?
The ACT Reading section may seem straightforward and easy to prepare for, but many students are caught off guard when they learn the Reading section has no defined syllabus. While the Math and English sections have well-structured syllabi, the reading section does not require memorizing formulas or grammar rules. The answer choices intend to trick students, so you might feel that several of the answer choices for each question could be correct. There are 40 questions to be done in 35 minutes, giving students less than a minute per question; thus, it can become challenging to keep up with the pace of the test.
To keep up with this pace and excel on the exam, you need to develop strong reading comprehension skills which you can apply in a timed setting. Because of this, students who practice reading and answering ACT Reading questions are able to score higher on the Reading section.
Do the ACT Reading section questions become progressively harder as the test goes on?
No, the ACT Reading test does not become progressively harder. The biggest challenge students face during this test is reading the passages and answering all the questions within the allotted time.
How to Calculate ACT Reading Score
The ACT Reading score ranges from 1-36 and is calculated by converting your raw scores to scaled scores. The raw score is the number of questions you answer correctly on your test. There is no penalty for a wrong answer or for the questions you leave blank on your test. The raw score depends on the number of questions in a section. As the Reading test consists of 40 questions, the raw score range for this section is 0-40. Once your raw score is calculated, it is converted to a standardized scale of 1-36. Note that the raw-to-scaled score conversion chart is released by the ACT every year.
To learn in detail how the ACT Reading score is calculated and how different section scores make up your final score, read our ACT scoring guide.
What is the passing score for the ACT Reading test?
There is no defined ACT Reading passing score. However, getting a below-average score may not be accepted by many colleges for admissions.
What is a good ACT Reading score?
A good ACT Reading score can be determined by the average ACT score for a particular year. If you score above average, it can be considered a good score.
What is the average ACT Reading score?
The average ACT Reading score changes from year to year depending on the number of students who take the test. In 2022, the average ACT reading score was 20.4.
What is a bad ACT Reading score?
If you score below the average ACT score for a particular year, it may be considered a fairly low score.
From study questions to explanations, we have everything you need to succeed on the ACT
ACT Reading Review Tips
Now that you know everything about what is tested on the ACT Reading test, here are some useful strategies to keep in mind while taking the test:
Learn the theme of the passage
Reading the introduction of the passage or knowing where the passage is taken from can help you understand its theme and main purpose. For example, if a passage is based on psychology, you can deduce that the content would be informational, objective, and explanatory.
Consider reading the questions first
By reading the questions prior to reading the passage, you get a better idea of what you need to look for in the passage. This allows you to stop and mark answers as you read the passage, saving you valuable time.
Use the elimination method
Sometimes, while answering a question, all four answer options may seem plausible at first. Remember, if you can’t find evidence in the passage to support an answer choice, you can start eliminating answers. The answer that’s left at the end is most likely correct.
Don’t struggle between the bubble sheet and the test booklet
Going back and forth between the test booklet and the bubble sheet for every question can be time-consuming. Marking answers on the test booklet first and then filling out the bubble sheet can save you a lot of time.
Before starting your test prep, the most important thing to do is to make a study plan and follow it in a disciplined way. Check out our ACT Reading study guide for tips on how to prepare for this section to get a perfect score. Ultimately, the more you practice, the better you get. UWorld’s ACT Reading practice test offers thousands of exam-like questions to help you achieve for your target score. You will also be able to improve on your weak points with our in-depth answer explanations and performance-tracking tools.