Acing The Reading Section of the ACT Test

Many of my students ask me if they can skip reading the content in the ACT reading tests. These students have already completed 4-6 reading passages using the Short Summary Exercise strategy I taught them, but they’re still struggling to finish the reading passages within the 35-minute time limit. They’re ready to try anything.

It sounds counterintuitive, right? How can students answer questions about content they haven’t read? But I always focus on helping students find the strategies that work for them, so I had  students try a variation of the questions-first approach, and guess what:

The Questions-First Approach can work!

When  completing the ACT Social Science and Natural Science passages, some students did impprove their time and accuracy using the questions-first approach.

Here’s the step-by-step map for the strategy that worked for some students who were taking the Social Science and Natural Science passages of ACT Sample Reading Tests:

  • Quickly skim the preface (the short introduction that precedes each passage) and introductory paragraph for some quick clues about content.
  • Now scan the questions, looking for the querries that refer to specific paragraphs. Try to answer these questions by reading the referenced paragraph.
  • Next, go to the questions that refer to specific line numbers and attempt to answer these questions.
  • Address any remaining questions in sequence, skimming the unread content as needed to address each.

Try this approach on 2-4 Social Science and Natural Science reading passages (this strategy hasn’t been as effective on the Prose and Humanities passages). Be sure to time yourself for each passage (you have about 8 minutes and 45 seconds for each passage, 35 minutes total) so that you can compare your speed and accuracy with results from passages that you processed before applying this approach.  If your speed and accuracy have improved, then consider using this strategy on the Social Science and Natural Science passaages as you take the official test. Good Luck!

Let me know how this approach works for you, and contact me at if you have any questions.

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