Don’t Sweat The ACT Reading Test, Master It

Matt Larriva
Jul 28, 2023
Home » Don’t Sweat The ACT Reading Test, Master It

Anyone planning on attending college needs to pass two tests before starting applications — one of which is the American College Testing (ACT) exam. However, you may feel nervous about your upcoming ACT because the reading section may not be your strongest subject.

Here’s what you need to know about the ACT reading questions to best prepare yourself and achieve the highest score possible. You’ll be ready for anything because you strategized your preparation.

What Is the ACT Reading Test? 

The ACT reading test measures each student’s ability to apply reason to text and better understand the material. You’ll have to interpret what you’ve read and demonstrate a clear comprehension of the cause-effect relationship presented.

The reading portion of the ACT also includes 40 questions about the material, which change with each test because it’s never the same. This often makes students nervous, but you can still find ways to prepare for your ACT exam.

In fact, we have a list of the best ways to prep for the ACT here.

What Is the Order of the ACT?

Anyone wondering what order the ACT is in can expect the following on their exam day:

  • English
  • Math
  • 10-minute break
  • Reading
  • Science
  • 5-minute break
  • Writing

You’ll only get two breaks during the entire exam. Your first break starts right after you complete the ACT Math portion and is 10-minutes long. Your second break is after you complete the ACT Science portion and is 5-minutes long.

So, make sure you arrive with enough energy and clarity of mind to remain at your best through the middle portion of the ACT. That’s when you’ll get the reading material and the 40 related questions. The 8 hacks we share in this infographic will help you do just that.

student reading

How Are ACT Questions Formatted?

All ACT questions are in a multiple-choice format. This is good news if you are open to potentially switching your initial answers.

A recent study found that students who changed their initial answer on a multiple-choice question selected the correct answer on a three-to-one ratio — you’re more likely to get the right response by reflecting and revising as needed.

After finishing the reading questions on your ACT, review them again if you have time. You can use the exam structure to your advantage by changing the answers that made you most uncertain.

Remember that there is no penalty for incorrect guesses — students only receive deducted points for questions left blank.

Are ACT Reading Questions in Chronological Order?

Many students wonder if ACT reading questions are in chronological order. If they were, you could answer questions while you read to speed up your work.

Only about six of every 10 questions on the ACT are in chronological order.

Of the 40 questions, you’ll have to analyze the text’s events, meanings, or themes out of order.

In addition to the reading comprehension questions, you’ll have to answer four global queries about the material as a whole. They can also address the passage’s theme and are not chronological.

powerful prep student earns perfect ACT score

ACT Reading Prep and Exam Tips

Next, we’ll go over four tips you can use to help increase your score. Implementing these ACT reading prep and exam tips will make you feel more confident about your score.

Before we dive into the tips we want to recommend that you start studying weeks or months before your scheduled test to maximize your success.

For example:

Most students gain two to four points on their score with three months of preparation time.

Whereas, some Powerful Prep students achieve a 9-point gain on their ACT and others have even earned a perfect score on the ACT.

Add the following two guides to your reading list. Both will help you determine the perfect test prep timeline and the best date to take the ACT based on you and your goals.

Here they are:

Okay, now let’s get to those tips!

1. Tag the Line-Reference Questions

Practice tagging line-reference questions on practice ACT exams at home at least a few months before your scheduled test.

Note any questions that refer to specific line numbers before reading the material. You can use the highlighting feature on your computer to make those lines stand out in the text or underline them with your pencil during a printed ACT exam.

When you reach these lines while reading, note that they will stand out in the question portion of the exam. You may understand the material more quickly because you’ll pay closer attention to them.

2. Don’t Waste Time With Flashcards

The ACT exam doesn’t use any outside information. You’ll only need the material within the test to correctly answer each question.

All you need to do is refine your reading comprehension skills by taking classroom opportunities to read text, analyze it, and come to accurate conclusions based on your understanding of the material.

3. Establish a Goal Grade

A lack of motivation can cause students to lose interest in any portion of the ACT, especially the reading section. You’ll need to gather your energy and focus on completing the middle part of the exam. It’s easier to do that when you have a grade in mind as a driving goal.

Think about the colleges and universities you’ll apply to and find out the average ACT score each one looks for in applicants.

average act test scores of ivy league universities

The average high school student scored 20.7 in the last three years, but more competitive schools expect a score closer to 36 because they want the most competitive students. 

If you are interested in attending an Ivy League university, you can find the average ACT scores, GPA, and other admissions requirements for students accepted to any of the following elite schools by clicking the respective link below:

Use your comprehensive score goal as motivation to push through any exhaustion or confusion that may arise during your ACT reading section.

You’ll likely do better because you know you stand a better chance of getting into your school of choice.

4. Read the Passage First

Sometimes students are told to look at the ACT reading questions before reading the material. This technique only works for a select few (students who read VERY FAST and who have incredible reading comprehension skills).

For most students, reading the questions will only confuse or intimidate them. So, we recommend you read the passages first.

Use your limited time effectively by reading the ACT material.

After reading the material, keep the material in mind while working through the questions. This way you won’t waste precious seconds flipping back and forth from the questions to the passage.

taking the act test

5. Never Leave a Question Blank

Answer each question on your ACT.

This is crucial.

Blank questions become score deductions and correct answers gain students points. Incorrect answers don’t count for or against your comprehensive ACT score.

Draw lines through any answers that are clearly wrong. You’ll better guess the correct answers for the most challenging questions by eliminating options. Take your best guess, and you’ll get a better score than if you left it unanswered.

Prepare for the ACT Reading Questions

Now that you know more about the ACT reading questions and how to best solve them, you can prepare for your exam with more confidence.

Sharpen your reading comprehension skills with additional materials in and outside school by taking a practice ACT exam at home. You’ll feel comfortable with the formatting and better answer the questions when your scheduled exam begins.

Schedule a FREE Consultation

Need help determining how to get into your dream school? Find out how Powerful Prep can build a customized ACT study program to suit your student’s needs and improve their test scores. Give us a call at 714-312-1393 or complete the form below.

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