What Does the ACT Reading Test Measure?

the ACT logoThe ACT Reading test is designed to measure the ability to read closely, reason logically about texts using evidence, and integrate information from multiple sources. This test section involves four passages drawn from a wide selection of source material, mostly non-fiction:

  • One passage from an excerpt or intact piece of fiction.
  • One passage drawn from social studies.
  • One passage drawn from humanities.
  • One passage drawn from natural science.

While ACT Reading passages cover lots of different subjects, prior topic-specific knowledge is never tested. Understanding is evaluated through multiple-choice questions accompanying each passage. ACT Reading Reporting Categories detail what students are tested on in this section:

Key Ideas and Details questions measure the ability to read texts closely to determine central ideas and themes, understand relationships, and draw logical inferences and conclusions.

Craft and Structure questions measure understanding of word and phrase meanings, the implications of word choice, and the finer points of text structure and perspective.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas questions measure understanding of persuasive writing and argumentation. Students need to understand authors’ claims, differentiate between facts and opinions, and grasp how authors use evidence and reasoning.

The ACT Reading Test score report also ranks Understanding Complex Texts as either Below, Proficient, or Above. The timed nature of this section also rewards reading speed and comprehension along with critical test taking skills like focus, endurance, and answer awareness.


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