How to Approach ACT Reading Questions

By Lisa Zimmer Hatch, Scott A. Hatch

For many students, the best way to approach reading questions on the ACT is to work backwards. They are able to save time and focus on what’s important by jumping straight into the questions without even looking at the passage first.

This strategy feels very uncomfortable at first, but with practice it can be a real timesaver. Here are the steps to follow to make the most of this approach:

  1. Read the short bolded blurb at the beginning of the passage.

    This short intro may give you a general idea of the passage’s topic.

  2. Skim the questions to find the one that appears easiest to answer first.

    Choose direct statement questions with line or paragraph references or those that contain elements such as dates, capitalized words, or proper names that are easy to skim for.

  3. As you read the passage parts to answer one question, initial, underline, or circle important info that may help you with subsequent questions.

  4. When you’ve exhausted the questions with easy references, tackle the big­picture question if there is one.

    You may need to answer several questions before you have enough information to find the passage’s main idea. Check the last paragraph for clues.

  5. Work on questions whose answer choices contain elements that are easy to look for.

  6. Save the questions with except in them for the end.

    To master this approach, be willing to leave a question if you spend more than 30 seconds searching for the answer. Eliminate obviously incorrect answers and take on another question in the set. Often when you go back to the question, you can answer it based on work you’ve done on other questions.