ACT Reading Section: Speed Reading Techniques

The ACT Reading section is a time-sensitive part of the exam where you must read and answer questions about several passages in a limited amount of time. Speed reading techniques can be incredibly useful to help you efficiently read through the passages and extract the information you need. Here are some speed reading techniques specifically tailored for the ACT Reading section:

 1. Preview the Passage (1-2 minutes):

Start by quickly previewing the passage before diving into the questions. Spend about 1-2 minutes skimming the passage, paying attention to:

- The title, headings, and subheadings.

- The opening and concluding paragraphs.

- Any bold or italicized text.

- The first sentence of each paragraph.

- Any diagrams, charts, or illustrations.

This preview will give you a sense of the passage's structure and main ideas.

 2. Identify the Passage Type (10 seconds):

Determine the type of passage you're dealing with. ACT Reading passages usually fall into four categories: Prose Fiction, Social Science, Humanities, and Natural Science. Knowing the category can provide context for the passage.

 3. Read Actively (3-4 minutes):

Now, read the passage actively. As you read, focus on the following:

- Main ideas: Identify the main point or argument of the passage.

- Supporting details: Note key facts, examples, and evidence.

- Tone and attitude: Recognize the author's tone and attitude toward the subject.

- Transitions: Pay attention to words like "however," "therefore," and "in contrast," which indicate shifts in the text.

- Relationships: Understand the relationships between different ideas and concepts.

 4. Mark Important Information (optional, 1-2 minutes):

If you have time, underline or make brief annotations in the margins to highlight main ideas, important details, or unfamiliar vocabulary. This can help you locate information quickly when answering questions.

 5. Use Passage Mapping (optional, 1-2 minutes):

Create a simple visual representation of the passage's structure on your scratch paper. This can be a diagram, flowchart, or outline that helps you organize the passage's main ideas and relationships.

 6. Answer Questions (7-8 minutes):

Now, tackle the questions. Try to answer them in the order they appear, but if you find a particular question challenging, don't spend too much time on it. Move on and come back to it later if needed.

 7. Skim When Necessary (10-15 seconds per question):

For questions that require specific information, use a quick skim to locate the relevant part of the passage. Read only the lines or sentences surrounding the information you need.

 8. Practice Regularly:

Speed reading techniques improve with practice. Work on reading comprehension passages regularly, both from ACT practice tests and additional reading materials.

 9. Improve Vocabulary:

A strong vocabulary will help you understand passages more quickly. Make a habit of learning new words and their meanings.

 10. Manage Your Time:

Keep an eye on the clock and allocate a specific amount of time for each passage and set of questions. Don't get stuck on a single passage; move on to maximize your overall score.

 11. Stay Relaxed:

Stay calm and focused during the test. Test anxiety can hinder your performance, so practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing.


In conclusion, mastering speed reading techniques for the ACT Reading section can significantly enhance your performance on this time-sensitive part of the exam. By efficiently navigating passages and quickly extracting essential information, you can maximize the time available for answering questions and improve your overall score.

Start by previewing the passage to get an overview of its structure and main ideas. Identify the passage type to provide context, and then read actively, focusing on main ideas, supporting details, tone, transitions, and relationships between ideas. If time permits, mark important information or create a passage map to aid your comprehension.

When answering questions, prioritize efficient skimming to locate specific information when needed, and practice regular time management to ensure you allocate sufficient time to each passage and set of questions.

Remember that speed reading should not compromise comprehension. It's crucial to strike a balance between reading speed and understanding to accurately respond to questions.

Consistent practice with ACT Reading passages and the application of these speed reading techniques will help you build the skills needed to succeed in this section of the ACT. Keep a calm and focused mindset during the test, and with dedication and preparation, you can perform at your best on exam day. Good luck with your ACT preparations and future academic pursuits!