The ACT Reading test consists of 40 questions that must be answered within the 35-minute time limit. The test consists of four sections, each containing one long or two shorter (paired) prose passages. The passages focus on topics in social studies, natural sciences, prose fiction, and the humanities. A set of multiple-choice questions accompanies each section. Those sections that contain two short passages (paired passages) will include some questions that involve both of the passages in the section.
There are two types of ACT Reading questions: referring questions and reasoning questions. Referring questions ask a student about information that is directly stated in the passage(s). Reasoning questions ask a student to draw conclusions from information that is implied in the passage(s). Below you can find more detailed information about each type of question, as well as sample ACT Reading questions.
ACT Reading Test Question Types
Type of Question
find and interpret details
Main Idea Questions
identify the main idea of a passage, paragraph, or paragraphs
Comparative Relationships Questions
interpret comparative relationships (similarities and differences)
Cause-Effect Relationships Questions
interpret cause and effect relationships
identify the meaning of words in context
Sequence of Events Questions
determine when events happened and/or the order of events
Author’s Voice and Method Questions
identify the author’s style, attitude, and point of view; the main purpose of a sentence, a paragraph, or the passage as a whole
Sample ACT Reading Test Questions
To give you a better feel for the format and content of the ACT Reading test, let’s take a look at a few sample ACT Reading questions.
Main Idea Question
The main idea of the passage is to:
As it is used in line 37, the word shattered means:
According to the third paragraph, all of the following characteristics are true of Wright EXCEPT
For additional ACT Reading test sample questions, visit the ACT website.
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