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The ACT Reading Test asks you to answer 40 questions - 10 questions about each of four passages - in 35 minutes. The passages in the Reading Test come from published materials such as books and magazines. There are four categories of reading passages: Social Studies, Natural Sciences, Humanities, and Prose Fiction. You'll get one passage in each category. The passages are about 1,000 words long and are written at about the same difficulty level as college textbooks and readings.

  • Social Studies - anthropology, archaeology, business, economics, education, geography, history, political science, psychology, sociology
  • Natural Sciences - anatomy, astronomy, biology, botany, chemistry, ecology, geology, medicine, microbiology, natural history, physiology, physics, technology, zoology
  • Humanities - architecture, art, dance, ethics, film, language, literary, criticism, music, philosophy, radio, television, theater
  • Prose Fiction - intact short stories or excepts from short stories or novels
The Social Studies, Natural Science, and Humanities passages are usually well-organized essays. You are asked to recognize the theme, to comprehend specific facts, and to understand the structure of the essay. Prose Fiction passages require you to understand the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of fictional characters, even when these are not explicitly stated in the passage. After each passage, you'll find ten questions in the following three categories:
  • Specific Detail Questions ask about things stated explicitly in the passage.
  • Inference Questions require you to make an inference from the passage (to "reading between lines").
  • Big Picture Questions ask about the passage as a whole, requiring you to find the theme, tone, or structure of the passage, or ask you to evaluate the writing.
The reading directions may look like this:
Directions: This test contains four passages, each followed by several questions. After reading a passage, select the best answer to each question and fill in the corresponding oval on your answer sheet. You are allowed to refer to the passage while answering the questions.

The reading questions evaluate your ability to understand the passages. They do not test your ability to remember relevant facts from outside the passage. You don't need to be knowledgeable about the subject area that a passage covers in order to do well on the questions, but you do need to read attentively and to think carefully about what you read. The passages may deal with subjects you're familiar with, or you may know almost nothing about the subjects of the passages. It doesn't matter, though: the passages contain all the information you need to answer the questions.

You are expected to be able to read a passage in a relatively short amount of time and quickly answer questions based upon it. Your reading skills are probably pretty set by now. If you are 17, you are not going to change the way you've been reading for the past 12 years. However, this fact does not mean you cannot improve your reading score. Through practicing at this site, you will be able to improve your reading speed and to learn the tricks to recognize and avoid traps built into the reading questions.

Testing strategies for Reading Questions are discussed in the later section "ACT Strategies".

If you want to start practicing now, click here to login "ACT Practice" section.
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