Topics and Questions in ACT Reading Test

The reading test measures your reading comprehension in three general areas:

  1. Key ideas and details
  2. Craft and structure
  3. Integration of knowledge and ideas

The test comprises four sections, each containing one long or two shorter prose passages that are representative of the level and kinds of text commonly encountered in first-year college curricula.

Passages on topics in social studies, natural sciences, literary narrative (including prose fiction), and the humanities are included, and the passages vary in terms of how challenging and complex they are.

Key Ideas and Details

Questions that test reading comprehension focus primarily on identifying key details in the passage and grasping the overall meaning of the passage. Reading skills tested are divided into three categories:

  1. Close reading
  2. Central ideas, themes, and summaries
  3. Relationships

Close Reading

Close-reading skills involve your ability to do the following:

  • Locate and interpret facts or details in a passage
  • Draw logical conclusions
  • Paraphrase statements

Central Ideas, Themes, and Summaries

Questions that focus on central ideas, themes, and summaries challenge your ability to do the following:

  • Identify the topic and distinguish it from the central idea or theme
  • Identify or infer the central idea or theme of a passage
  • Summarize key supporting ideas or details


Relationship questions involve the ability to do the following:

  • Identify the sequence of events or place events in their correct sequence
  • Identify stated or implied cause-effect relationships
  • Identify stated or implied comparative relationships

Craft and Structure

Some reading questions go beyond the meaning of the passage to challenge your understanding of how the author crafted and structured the passage. Reading skills tested in this area are divided into three categories:

  1. Word meanings and word choice
  2. Text structure
  3. Purpose and point of view

Word Meanings and Word Choice

Reading questions may focus on the meaning or impact of a word or phrase, challenging your ability to do the following:

  • Interpret the meaning of a word or phrase, including determining technical, academic, connotative, and figurative meanings
  • Understand the implication of a word or phrase and of descriptive language
  • Analyze how the choice of a specific word or phrase shapes the meaning or tone of a passage

Text Structure

Text-structure questions ask you to analyze how various structural elements function to serve a specific purpose in the passage. To answer such questions, you may need to do one of the following:

  • Analyze how one or more sentences in passages relate to the whole passage
  • Identify or infer the function of one or more paragraphs
  • Analyze the overall structure of a passage

Purpose and Point of View

The reading test may include questions that challenge your ability to do the following:

  • Identify or infer the author’s or narrator’s purpose or intent
  • Determine how an author’s or narrator’s purpose or intent shapes the content and style of the passage
  • Recognize an author’s or narrator’s point of view

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

Reading questions may require that you go beyond simply reading and understanding a passage to analyzing one or more passages. Reading skills tested in the area of integration of knowledge and ideas are divided into two categories:

  1. Arguments
  2. Multiple texts


Questions related to argumentative essays may test your ability to do the following:

  • Identify or infer the central claim being presented in the passage
  • Analyze how one or more sentences offer reasons for or support the claim

Multiple Texts

Multiple-text questions involve reading two passages and doing the following:

  • Compare the two passages
  • Draw logical conclusions using information from the two passages