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How to Tackle the Reading Section

For some students, the reading section of the ACT is their favorite section, and for others, it is their least favorite. No matter which side of the debate you find yourself on, these tips will help you to better navigate the reading section, retain more information, and ideally improve your reading score.

I will be outlining three general concepts to support any student in gaining more confidence with the reading section of the ACT; Time management, identifying your favorite topic and practicing reading. So let’s dive in…

Time Management:

Time management for the ACT is centered around how much time you are spending on each section.. A general breakdown we suggest is as follows:

Time to Read Per Passage: 3:30 min.

Time to Answer Questions Per Passage: 5:00 min.

Total Time Per Passage: 8:30 min.

Total Time Used for Passages: 34 min.

Time Left for Mistakes: 1:00 min.

This can be modified to your specific needs, but we find it helpful to use this as a general outline. Now that the general timing outline has been established, we can get into other important tips that are a part of managing your time. An important skill to use, not just for the Reading section of the ACT, but for any section, is the process of elimination. Narrowing down your answer options will save time and help keep you from getting overwhelmed. If you’re able, eliminate answers that you know to be incorrect based on the information in the passage.

An additional tactic in time management is skipping questions that are taking you longer to finish. Questions that eat up unnecessary time are a detriment to your overall efficacy and score results. Time management and prioritization are valuable skills and developing them will be of great benefit for taking the ACT and for your educational career in general!

Identifying your favorite topic:

You may be thinking “How can identifying your favorite reading topic help in the ACT test?”. The answer is, it is helpful in several ways. There are four types of passages that are featured in the reading section of the ACT: Prose Fiction, Social Science, Humanities, and Natural Science. Read an excerpt of each of these types of passages (which are conveniently available in our book coming out soon- “Master the ACT”) and identify which topic you prefer. Once you have specified this, apply it to take the test by beginning with your favorite passage and working your way to your least favorite. Keep in mind, the ACT reading section always goes in this order: prose fiction, social science, humanities, natural science.

Practice Reading:

Last but not least, practice reading! Reading a physical book/text is a skill that improves with practice, or conversely, declines with lack of practice. I notice that the more I read consistently (even just 10 minutes a day), the easier it is to keep my attention on the reading and the longer I can read. However, when I haven’t read in a while and decide to pick up a book, I find myself feeling bored or getting distracted more easily. I have a personal practice of reading with a cup of tea on my balcony every morning for between 10-45 minutes. I like to do this prior to looking at my phone, to start my day off grounded. On days that I work or have obligations early, I may only read for 10 minutes. But if I have the day off work and no other obligations, then I may read for 45 minutes. Either way, it’s easy for me to prioritize reading because I have made it a consistent habit, and I recommend you do the same. We are confident that these tips will support you in having a confident grasp of the reading section of the ACT.

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