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Reading Test Description for the ACT

The ACT reading test is a 40-question, 35-minute test that measures your reading comprehension. The test questions ask you to derive meaning from several texts by (1) referring to what is explicitly stated and (2) reasoning to determine implicit meanings. Specifically, questions will ask you to use referring and reasoning skills to determine main ideas; locate and interpret significant details; understand sequences of events; make comparisons; comprehend cause-effect relationships; determine the meaning of context-dependent words, phrases, and statements; draw generalizations; and analyze the author’s or narrator’s voice and method.

The test comprises four sections, three of which contain one long prose passage and one which contains two shorter prose passages. The passages are representative of the levels and kinds of text commonly encountered in first-year college curricula.

Each passage is preceded by a heading that identifies what type of passage it is (e.g., “Literary Narrative”), names the author, and may include a brief note that helps in understanding the passage. Each section contains a set of multiple-choice test questions. These questions do not test the rote recall of facts from outside the passage, isolated vocabulary items, or rules of formal logic. In sections that contain two short passages, some of the questions involve both of the passages in the section. Four scores are reported for the ACT reading test: a total test score based on all 40 questions and three reporting category scores based on specific knowledge and skills.

Content Covered by the ACT Reading Test

The reading test assesses skills in three reporting categories: Key Ideas and Details, Craft and Structure, and Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. A brief description and the approximate percentage of the test devoted to each reporting category are given below.

Key Ideas and Details (55–60%)

Read texts closely to determine central ideas and themes. Summarize information and ideas accurately. Read closely to understand relationships and draw logical inferences and conclusions including understanding sequential, comparative, and cause-effect relationships.

Craft and Structure (25–30%)

Determine word and phrase meanings, analyze an author’s word choice rhetorically, analyze text structure, understand authorial purpose and perspective, and analyze characters’ points of view. Students will interpret authorial decisions rhetorically and differentiate between various perspectives and sources of information.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (13–18%)

Understand authors’ claims, differentiate between facts and opinions, and use evidence to make connections between different texts that are related by topic. Some questions will require students to analyze how authors construct arguments, evaluating reasoning and evidence from various sources.

See sample questions and test tips.