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Overview of the ACT Reading Section

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 Examples

Detail Questions

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

Generalizations Questions

draw generalizations

Vocabulary-in-Context Questions

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:


explain why Franklin never became an American president.


discuss in detail Franklin's work as a publisher.


explain the great change in Franklin's political beliefs.


discuss Franklin's life as an important figure in early America.

Vocabulary-in-Context Question

As it is used in line 37, the word shattered means:









Detail Question

According to the third paragraph, all of the following characteristics are true of Wright EXCEPT


He was organized.


He was determined to reach his goals.


He was eager to make money.


He was not afraid of hard work.

For additional ACT Reading test sample questions, visit the ACT website.

Related Topics

  • For information about the ACT English section, visit our ACT English page.
  • For information about the ACT Science section, visit our ACT Science page.
  • For information about the ACT Writing section, visit our ACT Writing page.

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