ACT Reading Tips – Reading Section

by Speed Reading Expert, Richard L. Feldman, Ph.D. (Columbia University)

I. Reading the Passage (each of the four passages in the reading section of the ACT is 700-800 words long)
  • Allow about 3 ½ minutes to read the entire passage first (a reading speed of about 200 words per minute).
  • Timer – practice completing each reading passage using a timer. Use a watch timer on the actual test.
  • Use your pencil as a pacer while reading the passage to improve reading speed and concentration
  • Don’t do these: highlighting, circling words, writing notes, or any other time wasters.
  • Don’t try to skim the passage first; it doesn’t work well on the ACT exam reading section.

II. Answering the Questions for Each of the Four Reading Passages
  • Allow about 5 minutes to answer each set of ten questions that follow a reading passage.
  • Use your pencil as a pacer while reading the questions and answer choices to improve reading speed and concentration.
  • Answer all questions that are not line reference questions first without referring back to the passage. You can usually answer these the fastest.
  • Line reference questions: Answer these last
  • Codes: Cross out incorrect answer choices to save time later. Write a ? in front of each question that you skip but plan to return to shortly.
  • Practice answering the questions in the booklet and then filling in the answers using the bubble sheet − all within the five minutes you should allot per set of ten questions.

III. General Strategies for the ACT Reading Section
  • Spend 8 ¾ minutes per reading passage which includes reading the passage and answering the ten questions. Do not allow additional time.
  • Running out of time: If you run out of time while you are still answering questions, fill in the remaining answers by guessing..
  • Answer all questions. Each passage has ten questions. Make sure you fill in all ten answers, even if you must guess, because there is no guessing penalty on the ACT.
  • Don’t try to be perfect: You can get a very high scaled score in reading (a scaled score of 30) even with 7 incorrect answers out of the 40 questions in the reading section.

I’ve been teaching speed reading courses in New York City for twenty-five years. I can increase your reading speed and comprehension for the ACT.

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