ACT Reading

The ACT Reading Test assesses your ability to understand what you read. It will ask you to find information that is directly stated in a passage as well as understand and interpret it on a basic level.



What to Know:

  • Reading is the third section of the ACT
  • You have a 35-minute time limit
  • You will read 4 passages (one fiction, one social science, one humanities, and one natural science)
  • You will see 40 multiple choice questions (10 for each passage)


What to Study:

  • If you aren’t reading regularly, start now. Read high-quality fiction and nonfiction, such as newspapers and newsmagazines covering a variety of topics.
  • Active reading. Whenever you read something new, practice:
    • Determining the main idea of the entire piece as well as individual paragraphs
    • Finding cause-effect relationships
    • Figuring out the sequence of events
    • Understanding the author’s tone and purpose
    • The ACT will test you on all of the above!
  • Vocabulary, only if it is a real weakness of yours. The ACT will not test you on very difficult words, but you will see a few “word-in-context” vocabulary questions and you will need a decent high school-level vocabulary to fully understand the passages.


What Not to Study:

  • Outside knowledge (although we at Magoosh are fans of knowledge in general, everything you need to answer the reading questions are contained within the passages, whether you are familiar with the topic or not)
  • Difficult vocabulary words (It’s not the SAT; you get a break here!)


Where to Start:

Right here! Here, we are compiling all the essential reading strategies and pacing advice to help you conquer the ACT Reading test. Start studying with our complete list of ACT Reading posts:


By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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