The 4 Types of ACT Reading Passages You Need to Know (2023)

The 4 Types of ACT Reading Passages You Need to Know (1)

One of the nice things about the ACT is that it doesn't change much from one test to another. This is especially true for the reading section: reading is always the third section of the ACT, there will always be passages in four subject areas, and each subject area will have 10 questions.

So what are the 4 types of ACT reading passages? Read on to find out!

Main image credit:fourbyAsiento Jukka, used underCC POR 2.0/Croped from the original.

4 passes to rule them all

The 4 types of ACT passages are always the same and always presented in the same order: 1.Prose Fiction/Literary Narrative, 2.Social Sciences, 3.humanities, e 4.Natural Sciences.

ACT, Inc. there is aexhaustive listof all the topics that could be covered in each of these areas, but it's a bit overwhelming. To make it a little easier to understand exactly what is covered in each subject area, I've summarized each type of passage, along with the questions you're likely to see in them, below.

Prose Fiction/Literary Narrative

These passages usually consist of extracts from fiction or literary memoirs.They are likely to ask you...

  • questions about the main topic
  • questions about the narrator's tone and intent (e.g., what did the narrator mean when he used that particular phrase or word?)
  • which questions are and which are not answered by the passage

Social Sciences

These passages usually consist of direct discussions of topics in the social sciences, including areas such as psychology (study of the mind), sociology (study of societies), and education.They are likely to ask you...

  • paraphrase how the information in the passage describes the topic of the passage
  • what statements would the author agree with (i.e. what is the main point of the passage)

If the passage is about a particular person (such as Harriet Tubman), there will often be questions about the point of view of the subject of the passage rather than the author's point of view (in contrast to prose fiction/literary narrative). passages). Humanities, which often deal with the point of view of the author or narrator).


These passages can be from personal essays or memoirs, as well as subject areas in the humanities such as the arts, literature, media, or philosophy.

(Video) Types of ACT Reading Questions - Chegg Test Prep

Questions abouthumanitiespassages are similar to prose fiction in thatyou are more likely to be asked about the tone or point of view of the passage or the narratorcompared to passages in Social Sciences or Natural Sciences.

Natural Sciences

These passages are non-fiction writings aboutSCIENCE🇧🇷 Topics can range from topics you probably covered in school, like bio, chemistry or physics, to more esoteric areas, like astronomy, technology or medicine (not paleontology yet, but I can always dream).

You don't need scientific knowledge to understand the passages; all you need are strong reading comprehension skills. 🇧🇷The same goes for the ACT Science section.🇧🇷 However, becoming familiar with scientific writing can make you feel less intimidated by these passages when dealing with them in the ACT.

Similar to Social Science questions,Natural Science questions tend to be more focused on details or specific statements that can be supported by evidence from the passage.🇧🇷 A typical question you might see is "Which of the following statements is supported by the information in the fourth paragraph?"

How do I know where my problems are?

So how do you know if you're having trouble with some types of tickets more than others? Follow these steps to discover your weaknesses.

Step 1:Take a timed practice ACT test, in order, and score.

As Reading ranks third in the ACT, it is important to take it as part of a full timed and orderly ACT.The way your brain handles the reading section when you're just practicing reading passages and answering questions about them is likely to be different from how it will be after you've worn yourself out with English and math.

step 2: Compare your subscores in Social Studies/Science and Arts/Literature.

Your Social Studies/Science subscore is simply thecombination of your scoreson questions on Social Science and Natural Science passages, while your partial score for Arts/Literature is the combination of your scores on questions on Prose Fiction/Literary Narrative/Humanities passages. Most official score tables will provide the information necessary to calculate these subscores, which will be out of 20. You can calculate them yourself: your Arts/Literature subscore = questions 1-10 + questions 21-30, whereas the Social Subscore Studies/Science = questions 11-20 + questions 31-40.

Is there a significant difference between your Social Studies/Science and Arts/Literature scores?A difference of more than 1 or 2 points between subscores indicates a difference worth reviewing.For example, if you had a subscore of 12/20 in Social Studies/Science and a subscore of 17/20 in Arts/Literature, you would definitely want to focus your study on Social Science and Natural Science passages.

Step 3: For each of the four types of passages, compare how many questions you answered incorrectly.

(Video) Understanding The 4 MOST IMPORTANT Question Types to DOMINATE the ACT READING Test

Since there are 10 questions in each section, it's fairly easy to do percentages: 1 question wrong is 90%, 4 questions wrong is 60%, and so on. Comparing your scores on each of the pass types can be really illuminating, because it can shed light on areas where you might not have realized you were having trouble.

Remember, it's not just important that you feel comfortable reading the passages: it's important that you can extract information from them to answer the questions correctly.

Example from my life: Prose fiction passages are the least easy for me to read, but I find it easier to ask questions about these types of passages because there are fewer concrete things to ask about (especially when compared to social science or science passages). natural ). When I did a timed Reading ACT practice, I got 1 error on Social Studies and 2 errors on Science passages; if I were actually taking the test, I would start studying by focusing first on the Natural Sciences passages and then on the Social Sciences passages.

Step 4:To be absolutely sure, take several timed ACT practice tests.

Sometimes, even if you normally do well in one type of pass, a particularly difficult pass can throw you off balance and cause you to miss more questions than you normally would in that area. If you think this might have been the case on the timed ACT practice test you took and you have time, feel free to take another timed practice test.The more accurate data you have, the better you can structure your study.

Step 5:Once you know which passages you are having trouble with the questions, focus your reading preparation on those passages.

While there are some questions that tend to pop up more in some types of passages than others (more on that in future articles), most of the different types of questions can and will be asked about each of the four types of passages.By focusing on the specific type of passage you are having trouble with, you will increase your ability to extract information from passages you find challenging and become familiar with the different ways in which the ACT will interrogate you.(a skill that will later carry over to all types of passages).

Be a detective and look for your weakest ACT reading passage types.

What do I do next?

Now that you know the 4 types of passages, learn more about how to do well in ACT Reading.

(Video) ACT® Reading for SLOW Readers | How to Score 30+ As a Slow Reader | ACT® Reading Tips and Strategies

Want more detailed information on what is actually tested in ACT Reading?We havethe article for you.

discover thebest way to approach ACT reading passageswith our complete guide.

Having trouble finishing the ACT reading on time?Fileour articlefor tips on how to avoid this terrible fate.

Looking for a top score?Read about howyou might get a 36 on the ACT reading.

Do you want to improve your ACT score by 4 points?

Take a look at our best online ACT prep program. we guaranteewe refund your moneyif you do not improve your ACT score by 4 points or more.

Our program is completely online and customizes your preparation program based on your strengths and weaknesses. We also have expert instructors who can grade each of your ACT practice tests and provide feedback on how to improve your score.

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The 4 Types of ACT Reading Passages You Need to Know (3)

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(Video) 3 Best ACT Reading Tips and Strategies to Raise Your ACT Reading Score

The 4 Types of ACT Reading Passages You Need to Know (4)

Laura Staffaroni

About the author

Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and an MA in Composition from Bard College's Longy School of Music. He scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel in high school.

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What are the four types of passages? ›

There are four different passage types that are always in the same order: Prose Fiction, Social Studies, Humanities, and Natural Sciences. You can do the passages in any order, so start with your strongest passage type and work from there.

What are the ACT reading question types? ›

The Reading questions on the ACT / SAT break into 6 broad categories:
  • Big picture questions. ...
  • Detail-oriented questions. ...
  • Development and function questions. ...
  • Inference questions. ...
  • Vocabulary in context questions. ...
  • Find the mistake.

What are the different types of passages? ›

The three main types of passage are narrative passages, descriptive passages, and expository passages.

What do I need to know about reading for ACT test? ›

The reading section measures your ability to read closely, reason logically about texts using evidence, and integrate information from multiple sources. The section questions focus on the mutually supportive skills that readers must bring to bear in studying written materials across a range of subject areas.

How many passages does the ACT have? ›

The exam is split up into five passages and each passage has fifteen questions, so if you are moving on to new essays every nine minutes, you are in good shape.

Should you read the passages on the ACT reading? ›

1. Read Each Passage Before its Questions. Be sure to pace yourself – don't read too slowly since you want to manage your time; however, don't read so quickly that you forget the information. Underline words that stand out to you, and make notes in the margins with the main ideas.

What are the 4 ACT Sections? ›

The ACT test consists of four multiple-choice sections— English, mathematics, reading, and science—with an optional writing section. Some colleges and universities require or accept ACT writing scores, so you may consider taking the writing section.

What is the easiest section on the ACT? ›

If you're trying to boost your ACT score, the English section is the easiest to tackle. Here's why: there is only a handful of technical grammar content covered and there are really only a handful of rhetorical skills covered.

What are the 5 types of reading passages on the SAT? ›

The SAT® Reading section consists of five passages from three different genres: literary narrative, science, and history and social science. These five passages include a combination of modern and classic published works.

How many reading passages are there? ›

There are 5 passages total: 4 single passages and 1 set of paired passages, with 500–750 words per passage or passage set.

What is a passage in reading? ›

Technically, a passage is simply a portion or section of a written work, either fiction or non-fiction. Some hold that a passage can be as short as a sentence, but most consist of at least one paragraph and usually several.

How can I pass my ACT easy? ›

12 Tips to Taking the ACT Test
  1. Get familiar with the test. Review the information found in the Preparing for the ACT practice booklet. ...
  2. Identify areas to improve. Use the practice test to identify the subjects that are most challenging for you.
  3. Update your knowledge and skills.

How do you get a high score on the ACT reading? ›

Strategy 1: Save Time on Reading Passages by Switching Your Reading Strategy. Strategy 2: Learn to Eliminate the 3 Wrong Answers. Strategy 3: Find Your Reading Skill Weaknesses and Drill Them. Strategy 4: Only Use High-Quality ACT Reading Sources.

Is ACT reading harder than SAT? ›

Timing is a bigger challenge on the ACT, as the ACT asks more questions per minute. SAT Reading has 52 questions in 65 minutes, giving you 75 seconds per question. On the other hand, ACT Reading has 40 questions in 35 minutes, which gives you just 52 seconds per question.

Why is ACT reading so hard? ›

So what makes it (seem) so hard? Timing: The ACT Reading section has 40 questions and a 35 minute time limit. That give students less than one minute per question and does not even factor in time to read the passage. In other words, the ACT Reading moves at a blistering pace, and it can be hard to keep up.

How do you get a 30 on ACT reading? ›

To get a 30, you must score highly on all four sections of the exam (excluding Writing). Specifically, you'll need to get at least a 30 on two sections and a composite score of 29.5 (which rounds to 30) or higher. This means you can only miss a handful of questions on each section.

How do you get a 36 on the ACT? ›

Based on the ACT practice tests, most sections require you to miss 0 questions to receive a score of 36. However, in the Math section, you might be able to miss 1 question and still receive a 36. Receiving a score of 35 most often entails missing 1–3 questions in each section.

Which section is the hardest on the ACT? ›

Obviously, it's not a good idea to take the ACT® unless you have a good grasp on the content that will be tested. The ACT® Reading and ACT® Science sections are both the hardest and easiest to prepare for.

Do colleges care about ACT reading score? ›

Colleges see much of the same information as you see on your ACT score report: they see your composite score, along with your scaled score for each section of the test (Reading, English, Math, and Science) and your subscores for each section.

How long should you take on each ACT reading passage? ›

It's 35 minutes long with 40 questions. The test contains four reading passages (although one of those will be a pair of two shorter passages) each with a set of 10 questions. Students have about 8 ½ minutes to read the passage and answer the 10 questions. Neither the passages nor questions are in order of difficulty.

What is a passage in ELA? ›

A literary passage is an excerpt from a written text. It can be as long as a chapter, or as short as a sentence. Usually, the length of a literary passage is several paragraphs long. This excerpt can be any genre of literature, from poetry to fiction.

What are the three types of science passages on the ACT? ›

Science Test Description for the ACT
  • Interpretation of Data (40–50%)
  • Scientific Investigation (20–30%)
  • Evaluation of Models, Inferences, and Experimental Results (25–35%)

How many types of ACT are there? ›

Common types of acts are legislative, judicial, and notarial acts.

Is taking the ACT 4 times too much? ›

You can take the ACT up to 12 times, and many students end up taking the test between 2-3 times before applying to college. Most colleges are neutral about multiple scores. Many students, in fact, make score improvements by retaking the ACT. Give yourself time to improve before you begin filling out applications.

What are the four sections of the ACT and how long are they? ›

The English section is 45 minutes, the Math section is 60 minutes, and the Reading and Science sections are each 35 minutes. If students take the Writing section at the end, that takes an additional 40 minutes, with a five-minute break given after the Science section.

What month is the hardest ACT? ›

March is the worst! Avoid it like the plague! Don't you dare take October; that's when the smart seniors are sitting. All the jocks take December, that's the surest bet for a high score!

Is a 13 good on an ACT? ›

13 ACT Score Standings

Out of the 1.91 million test-takers, 1780773 scored the same or higher than you. You can apply to 4 colleges and have a good shot at getting admitted. You have a very low chance of getting into 1495 schools with this score.

What time of year is the easiest ACT? ›

Origin of the Myth

But here's the thing: While there were studies done that showed higher scores in one month than another, those months changed year to year. First experts would cry “December is easiest! Take it in December!” and a few years later they'd swear “May is by far easier!”

Are there 6 or 7 passages in ACT science? ›

On Test Day, the ACT Science Test will always be the fourth test you'll take. It will have 6-7 passages with 5-8 questions each; you'll have 35 minutes to complete them.

How many types of reading passages are there in part 7? ›

In Part 7 you will read passages in the form of letters, ads, memos, faxes, schedules, etc. The reading section has a number of single passages and 4 double passages. You will be asked 2-4 questions about each single passage, and 5 questions for each double passage. Sometimes you will be asked for specific details.

How many types of reading passages are on the SAT? ›

The five passages on the Reading Test include four standalone passages and one pair of passages that you read together. The standalone passages and the paired set are each 500–750 words. The passages are drawn from the following types of documents: 1 literary passage from a work of fiction.

How many passages SAT Writing? ›

The Writing and Language test is a multiple-choice test in which you read passages and find and fix mistakes and weaknesses. This part of the SAT is 35 minutes long, includes 4 passages, and contains 44 multiple-choice questions.

What best prepares you for the SAT? ›

Starting early, following your personal study plan on Official SAT Practice, taking a full-length practice SAT, paying attention in class, and knowing what to expect on test day are five of the best ways to prepare for the SAT.

How many minutes is a SAT reading passage? ›

The SAT Reading Test is 65 minutes long and contains 5 passages with associated questions. This means you need to spend 13 minutes per passage on average.

What are passages examples? ›

Example Sentences

They controlled the passage of goods through their territory. the passage of food through the digestive system the passage of air into and out of the lungs the passage from life to death the passage of the seasons He left after the passage of a few hours.

Where can I find reading passages? ›

Top 6 Websites Offering Free Leveled Reading Passages
  • CommonLit delivers high-quality, free instructional materials to support literacy development for students in grades 5-12. ...
  • ...
  • ...
  • ...
  • ...

What is the best letter to guess on the ACT? ›

For most of the ACT, there is no “best” letter to guess. Except… at the end of the Math section. Most people (and tutors) tell students that, if they have no idea on a question, to just guess answer choice “C” — the middle answer on most multiple choice tests.

Is a 14 good on a ACT? ›

14 ACT Score Standings

You can apply to 5 colleges and have a good shot at getting admitted. You have a very low chance of getting into 1494 schools with this score.

Is ACT math easier or harder? ›

Difficulty Depends on the Student

While there are similar mathematical concepts on both tests, students might find one or the other more difficult based on their own math skills. This is true of the tests themselves as well. The ACT isn't harder than the SAT or vice versa, despite what the myths say.

Are ACT reading questions in order? ›

Many students wonder if ACT reading questions are in chronological order. If they were, you could answer questions while you read to speed up your work. Only about six of every 10 questions on the ACT are in chronological order.

How do you skim an ACT reading passage? ›

Skimming: Skimming a passage requires you to read the passage very quickly, only looking for the most important information. The easiest way to do this is to read the first sentence of each paragraph and just look at the rest of the words without carefully reading them.

What is the average ACT score? ›

The average Composite score declined by 0.5 points, from 20.3 in 2021 to 19.8 in 2022. It is the first time that the average Composite score has been below 20.0 since at least as far back as 1991.

Do colleges prefer ACT or SAT? ›

Both ACT and SAT scores are used for college admissions decisions and awarding merit-based scholarships. Most colleges do not prefer one test over the other. Neither the SAT or ACT is harder than the other. Different students tend to do better on one test over the other.

Is ACT more reading or math? ›

Both tests focus heavily on algebra, but unlike the SAT, the ACT also has a larger section on geometry and trigonometry, and the ACT allows calculators for all aspects of the test (whereas the SAT has one math section that does not allow a calculator).

Is the ACT as respected as the SAT? ›

All colleges view the SAT and ACT equally. Neither test is seen as more prestigious or important by admissions officers. You should take the ACT if you score higher on the ACT and the SAT if you score higher on the SAT. Again, you can compare your scores SAT and ACT scores here.

What are the 3 types of questions you will see on the ACT English test? ›

There are two types of ACT English questions: Usage/Mechanics questions and Rhetorical Skills questions.

What are the 3 big questions in reading? ›

The Three Big Questions strategy challenges readers to annotate in the margins by marking passages that answer the questions: "What surprised me?", "What did the author think I already knew?", and "What challenged, changed, or confirmed what I already knew?".

Which of the reading test question types is most common on the ACT? ›

Detail questions are the most common questions on the ACT Reading section. On the tests we analyzed, detail questions made up from 12 to 21 questions out of 40, so as much as half of the entire Reading section. On average, they're about 45% of each test.

How many ACT reading questions are there? ›

An actual ACT Reading Test contains 40 questions to be answered in 35 minutes. Read the passage(s) carefully. Read and consider all of the answer choices before you choose the one that best responds to the question.

What is the best answer to pick on the ACT? ›

For most of the ACT, there is no “best” letter to guess. Except… at the end of the Math section. Most people (and tutors) tell students that, if they have no idea on a question, to just guess answer choice “C” — the middle answer on most multiple choice tests.

What is the fastest way to answer a question ACT? ›

8 Ways to Improve Your Speed on the SAT/ACT
  1. Use a dull pencil. ...
  2. Cross out incorrect answers. ...
  3. Circle answers first, then bubble in your scantron one test page at a time. ...
  4. Skip the hard stuff on a first pass. ...
  5. Locate line-specific questions before reading the passage. ...
  6. Practice, and time yourself by individual passages.
Feb 9, 2019

What are the Big 5 areas of reading? ›

The National Reading Panel identified five key concepts at the core of every effective reading instruction program: Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension.

What are the big 6 components of reading? ›

Research has shown that there are six key components that contribute to successful beginning reading. Because of the importance of these components, they have become known as the 'Big Six': oral language, phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension.

What is the 3 step reading process? ›

These three phases are pre-reading, while-reading and after-reading phases. Each of them has its own important role. They are all necessary parts of a reading activity. In language classrooms, these phases have to be put in consideration in order to achieve to develop students' reading skills.

What is the hardest section of the ACT? ›

Do You Feel Confident in the Content? Obviously, it's not a good idea to take the ACT® unless you have a good grasp on the content that will be tested. The ACT® Reading and ACT® Science sections are both the hardest and easiest to prepare for.


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