Let’s Ace Reading Section in ACT


The ACT test is a standardized test that measures a student’s readiness for undergraduate programs. Universities uses ACT scores to evaluate students during the admissions process. ACT has five sections – English, math, Reading, Science and Essay (Optional). In this article, we will discuss important key points to be followed for Reading section of the ACT.

Exam Structure


Time Allotted

Number of Questions


45 minutes



60 minutes



35 minutes



35 minutes


Essay Writing

40 minutes

1 Essay


3 hours 35 minutes

(2 hours 55 minutes without essay)

154 ( +1 Essay Prompt)


Format of Reading Section

By the time you reach this section, you’ve already spent 105 minutes on the test with ups and down on respective sections and taken a break to refresh yourself. You’re back to the test mode, in fact more alert and ready to perform better. This section consists of 40 questions with total 35 minutes i.e. on an average about 50 seconds per question, but eventually there will be little lesser time as relevant amount is required to read and comprehend the passages. Reading section has four – 750 words passages with 10 questions each with multiple choice answers.

Major topic areas tested on ACT reading section passages:

  1. literary fiction
  2. Humanities
  3. Social studies and,
  4. Natural sciences.

Reading Tips

  1. You know the structure of the test. This section appears after a 15 minutes long break. There are 4 passages with 10 questions each, in specific topic order. Start with your strong passage type as you can follow any order as per your specifications.
  2. This section is more like an open book test. Prose Fiction, Social Studies, Humanities (history and fine art), and Natural Science are the types on which students have to keep reading to ace this section. One or two passages could be unfamiliar, rest all looks similar to what you had been practicing and reading all these prep weeks.
  3. Keep a complete focus on topic and purpose of the passage. Keep writing short notes next to the paragraph. Read questions, use line references and identify helpful hints to predict the answer before even looking at the answer choices.
  4. Start with reading the passage as they generally start with short introduction, also it is not possible to remember 10 questions while reading 750-800 words passage. Everything you need to know to answer the questions can be found directly in the passage so read and grasp it very carefully.
  5. Read answer choices carefully and look for that one word which at times helps to eliminate the entire answer choice. Look for flaws to cut off the answer choice. Look for textual evidence and support from the passage and mark the best answer choice. There is no penalty for wrong answer, so make sure that you attempt all the questions.

Time is critical factor on almost every section of ACT. Attempt practice sections and full-length tests to make your own techniques and plans to attempt/skip/comeback question types. Whatever strategies you follow, keep in mind that you should be able to maximize the number of correct questions. It may be taxing to go through a series of passages with variety of topics in one go. The ACT has passages about weird topics like Victorian novels, underwater basket-weaving etc. And, you won’t initially enjoy all the subjects you'll read. So as you start, convince your mind of how entertaining it is. This might take some time, but then ultimately you will be able to relate them to your existing knowledge.

There is no magic wand to 36 that works universally for all aspirants. That's because one-size-fits-all, techniques and tips do not actually exist on our exam. To aim high composite score, one has to perform well on all the sections. Rigorous practice and Error log are the two key factors to achieve success on an aptitude test. Keep practising mock tests to score high on your ACT.


Good Luck!

Team Doyen-Ed