We can help you get into your dream school.

Start Magoosh SAT or Magoosh ACT Prep today!

Thomas Broderick

How to ‘Read’ on the ACT Reading Test

I’m sorry to interrupt, Magooshers. What were you reading? Ah, an ACT prep book. Good for you. I know it’s not the most engaging material ever written, but it’s an essential step on your journey to ACT test day.

Today I want to talk about the ACT, specifically the ACT Reading Test. As the name implies, you’ll have some reading to do during the test’s 35 minutes. But if you’re planning to read like you’re reading this article, time will run out long before you finish answering all 40 questions.

In this article, I will teach you how to ‘read’ on the ACT Reading Test. Why the ‘’ marks? Well, the reading skills I will impart to you today are only good for timed tests. I would hate for you to use them when you sit down with a good novel or short story (unless a part of that novel or short story shows up on the ACT Reading Test).

Questions First

The most important things on the ACT Reading Test aren’t the passages. The most important things are the questions. When you start a new passage, closely read the questions. Why? They contain the key words you will need to discover in the passages. Underline/mark any proper nouns the questions mention. Also, mark any line numbers mentioned in a question. These are your visual cues when skimming the passage, and will save you time.

Skim the Passage

Should you immediately start searching for the key words when examining a passage? Not necessarily. It’s good to have a general idea of what the passage is about. Take a moment and read the first few sentences.

Once you have a grasp on the passage, then start searching for key words. In other words, skim.


How to ‘Read’ on the ACT Reading Test -Magoosh

Know the Question Types (and do them in order of difficulty)

Before taking any practice tests, familiarize yourself with the 5 Most Frequently Tested ACT Reading Topics. Though the question types on the ACT Reading Test should go from easiest to most difficult in each passage, there’s no guarantee that the ACT won’t throw you a curve ball along the way. That’s why it pays to know the question types.

Save the Last Question for Last

Though a ‘well, duh’ piece of advice, here’s why it’s important to save the last question of each passage until the end. Generally, the last question will focus on the passage as a whole. Only after answering the other nine questions will you have a good enough grasp of the passage’s content and meaning. Try this question any earlier and you will find yourself struggling and wasting precious seconds (or worse, minutes).

Final Thoughts on ‘Reading’ on the ACT Reading Test

Well, Magooshers, I hope this article has added a few tools to your ‘reading’ toolbox. Apologies if the ‘’ marks became annoying, but I’d hate for you to be at your next book club meeting and ask, “What was the protagonist’s intent between pages 68-71?”

Till next time.

Improve your SAT or ACT score, guaranteed. Start your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh SAT Prep or your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh ACT Prep today!

magoosh logo checks

About Thomas Broderick

Thomas spent four years teaching high school English, social studies, and ACT preparation in Middle Tennessee. Now living in Northern California, he is excited to share his knowledge and experience with Magoosh's readers. In his spare time Thomas enjoys writing short fiction and hiking in the Sonoma foothills.

Leave a Reply

Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will approve and respond to comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! :) If your comment was not approved, it likely did not adhere to these guidelines. If you are a Premium Magoosh student and would like more personalized service, you can use the Help tab on the Magoosh dashboard. Thanks!