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My Top 3 Reading ACT Test Tips

After teaching ACT Prep for the last 14 years in public schools and for private companies, these are my top 3 Reading ACT test tips. Many students don’t finish this section and potentially causing a steep drop in their score. Here are 3 tips that can help you when taking the ACT Reading test.

Pinterest Pin for the 3 Top Tips for the ACT Reading Test

Tip 1: Take the Official ACT Practice Tests

My first tip for taking the ACT Reading Test is to take the official ACT practice tests in the Official ACT Prep Guide. I know, I know – there are so many other test prep books out there. And I know they are usually cheaper. But they weren’t made by the same company that makes the ACT. I promise the money will be worth it. I buy mine from Amazon in order to save money.

A great example of why you should go to the official ACT prep book is that in 2017 the ACT changed the Reading test to include a Humanities passage that now has 2 texts: one is literary in nature, the other is non-fiction and connected to the literary text. These changes did not appear in the other test prep books until the next year. Anyone who bought and used an “off-brand” ACT prep book was surprised by these changes. Click here to download a free full test from ACT.

ACT also provides online practice for students and teachers to use.

  • ACT Academy – Free online Learning tool and games.
  • Free Webinars
  • Online Tests – 5 free Reading passages (click on the menu to access English, Math, Science, and Writing online tests)

Tip 2: Annotate the ACT Test Text as You Read

Actively reading the passages and annotating them will help you find the correct answers. Yes, you can write in your test book – and you should!

Start by reading the passage – not the questions. Because you can find most answers to the questions in the passage, it is important that you can go back to the test and quickly find the paragraph or sentences that contain your answer. I promise this will also help save you time in the end because you won’t be hunting for which paragraph the answers are in.

While you can use any annotation system that works for you, this is my system that I teach my students. (I can’t show you a picture of this because it is against copyright – sorry!)

  1. In the margin write down the main idea/topic for the passage. This should only a single word or maybe 2-3 words. You need to be able to quickly know what the paragraph is about and write it quickly.
  2. Circle the key details for each paragraph. Choose 1-3 details to circle. You don’t need to circle the entire sentence, but a word or phrase.

Practice this in everything you read in the month leading up to the test. Do it in novels, in magazines, for news articles. Practice will make it perfect.

As an extra tip, read the citation at the top of the passage. This can help you understand the purpose and may help answer a question or two – especially in the Humanities passage.

Tip 3: Start with the Text You are Most Comfortable With

Take the practice tests, but do it in sections passage by passage.

There are 4 passages: literary fiction, natural science, social studies, and Humanities. Time yourself while taking them. You will find that you will be stronger in one passage than another.

Then when you take the test, do your best section first. For example, if natural science is my best section, then I am going to go to question 11 on my answer sheet and start with question 11 in the test book. Be very careful that you are filling in the correct answer bubble!

This ensures that you have the most time with the passage that you do the best in. Wouldn’t it be terrible if your best passage was Humanities and you ran out of time and then missed questions you could have easily gotten right?

Want to know all 10 of my Tips for the ACT Reading Test? Grab the Freebie over at my TPT Store!

ACT Reading Test Tips Square Cover


You may be asking, “What about the English Test?” Head on over to my blog post about the top 3 grammar rules you need to get ready for the ACT English test. Or maybe you would like to check out my ACT English Prep Guide you can buy from Teachers Pay Teachers.

*This post contains affiliate links.

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Hi, I'm Lesli!

I help Secondary English Teachers with engaging curriculum so that they can go home at contract time.

I’ve worked in education for 15 years, taught everything from Basic English and Mythology to AP Lang.  You’ll find me with my puppy Athena on the weekend quilting.

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