How to Get a 36 on the ACT Reading Section

tl;dr: In this guide, we'll give you a few tips and tricks to help you ace the ACTย Reading Section. Find a strategy that works for you, keep track of time, identify your weaknesses, and practice with official ACT reading tests. Good luck!


If you're planning on taking the ACT, you might be wondering how to get that elusive 36 on the reading section. It's tough, but if you find a strategy, pace yourself, and practice with official ACT reading tests, you'll rock it on test day!

Find a Strategy ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ’ป

When it comes to the reading section, there's no one-size-fits-all strategy. When you practice, experiment with a few different methods ๐Ÿงช Here are 4 different strategies you can try out:

ACT Reading Strategies

Read the questions firstโ“
• You get a sense of what you're looking for before going into the reading.

• If a question mentions line numbers, you can mark those sections in the text and pay close attention when you read.
 • It's difficult to remember 10 questions at once. • Searching for answers to questions about specifics can distract from the main idea of the text.
Skim the passage first ๐Ÿ‘€
 • You save time while getting a surface-level understanding of the text.

• You have more time to answer questions.
• You'll definitely have to reread certain parts.
Read the passage first ๐Ÿ“š 
 • You have a deeper understanding of the text before going into the questions.
• You'll probably still have to reread certain parts. This can be time-consuming.
Read and annotate ๐Ÿ“
• You'll spend less time rereading.

• Annotations will help you remember important parts of the text.
• You won't have as much time to think about the questions.

You can also mix and match to find the strategy that works best for you. Test out each one on a practice test and see which you feel the most comfortable with!

Keep Track of Time โฐ

On the ACT reading section, you have 35 minutes to answer 40 questions. Considering that you also have to read the passage before you start answering questions, this section can be tough to finish in time! It's important to look at the clock and make sure you're answering questions at a good pace ๐Ÿƒ

There are 4 passages with 10 questions each, and the passages are around 750 words long. As a general rule, you should strive for 2-3 minutes reading the passage and 5-6 minutes answering questions. If you're struggling with a passage, move on and come back to it at the end. Try to spend no more than 9 minutes per passage.

Depending on what strategy you're using, these numbers could vary. If you're annotating, you might spend longer reading, but you'll have more time to answer the questions. If you're skimming, you'll spend less time reading, but you'll have to spend more time hunting for answers. Find a reading/answering combo that works for you and stick to it!

Identify Your Weaknesses ๐Ÿ’ช

As you practice, reflect on why you get a question wrong. Even if you think the correct answer is obvious in hindsight, make sure you know how to explain it to yourself in order to avoid that mistake in the future. ๐Ÿ”ฎ

There are two things you should think about when identifying your weaknesses: the type of passage and type of question.

There are four types of passages on the test: prose fiction, social science, humanities, and natural science. When you practice, you might notice that you struggle with one section more than others. If so, spend more time practicing that specific type of passage.

Types of questions don't fit into the same rigid categories, but you might find trends in the questions you're missing. Are you struggling with understanding the main idea? Making inferences? Whatever it is, try to practice these skills over the skills you're familiar with. ๐Ÿ“š

Practice ๐Ÿ“

As always, the best way to get a good score on a test is to practice! If you're taking a full-length practice test, try to mimic the test setting as much as possible. Do it in the morning, sit at an empty table, and minimize distractions.

Here's a list of free places to practice:

Closing Thoughts ๐Ÿ’ญ

These are just some general tips and tricks, but there's still a lot more to cover. For more specific info on the ACT reading section, make sure to check out our study guides. And before you go, remember one last thing: don't stress too muchโ€”you'll do great ๐ŸŽ‰

If you need more practice for the ACT Reading section, check out our Ultimate Guide to the ACT Reading Section and ACT Reading Practice: Craft and Structure. If you're looking for a wider variety of ACT practice resources, check out these awesome websites compiled by Fiveable that provide the best ACT practice and strategies for your next ACT exam!


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