The Reading Test always have the same four types of reading passages, and they will always be in the same order:
- Prose Fiction–a short story or an excerpt from a longer fiction story. Something you would typically find in your English class.
- Social Science–something that a teacher from Social Studies would instruct, including history, economics, psychology and more. This is basically, any non-fiction area that is not a “hard” science like physics, chemistry, etc.
- Humanities – This is about art, music, films, and other creations. You’ll find first-person and third-person accounts of human creative tasks.
- Natural Science – Could be anything from the sciences, such as astronomy, geology, or physics. You won’t have to have any specialized scientific knowledge – it will be material you can understand simply based on the passage.
Each passage is approximately 700-800 words, and has 10 questions that follow. You will have two subscores: The Social Studies/Sciences subscore is based the Social Science and Natural Science passages, and the Arts/Literature subscore is based on your performance on the Prose Fiction and Humanities passages.
This is the one section of the ACT where no background knowledge is required, other than having the skill of knowing how to read.
This test is extremely quick; if you want to finish the whole thing you must be a fast reader. You can improve your overall reading speed and comprehension by reading high quality books and magazines.
Hope you found this article helpful! If you did, please share it with your friends. Thanks, Brian Stewart
For anyone taking the ACT in 2015, it is important to be aware of a couple of major changes to the test format that have taken place.
1. The ACT Reading is consistently having one “comparative” reading section, in which there are two smaller passages (Passage 1 and Passage 2) instead of one larger one. The two passages are about a similar topic, yet have different perspectives. Students typically have to answer 7 questions about the individual passages, and then answer 3 questions comparing the two passages. Fortunately, the ACT has placed all the comparative questions at the end of the series of questions (e.g. questions 21-27 about the individual passages and questions 28-30 are comparative.)
The Reading passage with the comparative passages has consistently been the Humanities section. The only publicly released example of an ACT comparative passage can be found here:
I have an example of a comparative passage in my ACT Book with Barron’s Educational Series.
2. The ACT Science Section has had 6 passages instead of 7 passages on both the February and the April ACT in 2015. If you would like to see a sample of what this looks like, you should order the Test Information Release for the April ACT, as there are currently no publicly available examples of this different format. This shouldn’t affect your approach to the science too much, other than as far as pacing, you should spend about 6 minutes a passage instead of 5.
If you need help preparing for the new ACT in 2015, please contact us to set up tutoring. You can learn more about our ACT Tutoring services here.