9 Tips to Improve ACT Reading Score

The keys to the ACT Reading test are strategy and pacing. You need to have a plan for how you will read each passage, tackle the questions, and finish in the allotted time; otherwise it will be hard to achieve your desired score.

1. Find the author's point of view as you read

Do you find yourself getting lost in the details, or reading too quickly and missing some of the important information? For the ACT Reading Test, you have to strike a balance between reading for the author’s point of view and for the function of each paragraph, while also noting the location of important details in case you need to come back later.

2. Underline anything that seems significant to you

Look for words and phrases that reveal the author’s opinion, or give the main idea of each paragraph. Underline, circle, write 3-5 word summaries of each paragraph, whatever works for you. Don’t get so carried away with the note taking that you run out of time.

3. Time yourself as you practice

If you are spending more than three minutes reading and marking passages, you are risking not being able to finish all of the questions on the test day. As you become more and more confident with your accuracy, try to get as precise as possible with the timing of your note taking.

4. Complete ACT Reading practice tests

Find a quiet place where you can take the practice ACT, and clear off the table or desk. Try and eliminate any distractions and do the best you can to mimic your test-day environment. Keep a clock or timer in front of you so you can periodically check and see how you are doing. You may want to set the timer to go off every 9-10 minutes. Don’t rush, but make sure you can move confidently from one passage to the next and answer all questions in the time allotted.

5. For Vocabulary in Context questions, go back to the passage

A commonly used vocab word often takes on a secondary definition within ACT passages. Do not assume that the common meaning is the correct answer; there may be several meanings you do not know. Go back to the passage and see how the word is being used in context.

6. Always pre-phrase an answer

Before you look at the answer choices, use the passage to predict your own answer. Then match your prediction to the answer choices. This will save you time. Don’t get stuck weighing answer choices. Cross out all answer choices that don’t match your prediction, pick the best available answer, and move on.

7. Tackle complicated questions

If you read a question and it is confusing or unclear to you, rephrase it in simpler terms. Think of it as though you were going to explain the question to a small child. What is it really asking?

8. After nine minutes, move on to the next passage

The ACT Reading Test is 35 minutes long and contains 40 questions (10 questions in each passage). This means you have slightly less than 9 minutes to spend on each of the four passages, so pacing yourself is essential.

9. Do the passages in any order

You will always see four passages and you must always answer all 40 questions. But that doesn’t mean you have to approach the passages in the order in which they are presented on the test. As you practice, you will start to realize which passages are easier and which are more challenging for you.