The 4 Types of ACT Reading Passages On The Test

If you took last weekend's SAT test on October 5th, congratulations on completing the exam! Moving forward, you will most likely be also preparing for the upcoming ACT test date on October 26th (which is only a few weeks away)!

To ease you into the groove of studying and prepping for the ACT college entrance exam, 7EDU will bring you insight on what sort of passage styles are on the ACT reading in today's blog post. With your newfound knowledge and comprehension, you will be able to develop the right skills and techniques to increase your test score.

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To be successful on the ACT, you will have to understand that the exam differs from the standard tests that you take in high school and as such, you will need to approach the exam differently.

There are four reading passages that high school students should anticipate to see, of about eight hundred words each. They are always listed in the following order:

  1. Prose fiction

  2. Social science

  3. Humanities

  4. Natural science

After each of the reading passages provided on the ACT test, you will need to answer ten follow-up questions that will test you on what directly mentioned in addition to what the significance or meanings were suggested behind the text.

Prose Fiction

For starters, you will need to know the basic definition of what each passage form is. Prose fiction is excerpts that come from either novels or short stories.

These passages are usually modern, highlights diversity, and focuses on family relationships.

With prose fiction, students should be more concentrated on understanding the atmosphere and connections between the characters of the novel rather than the facts.

A key tip would be for students to be more focused on figuring out the implied meaning behind the text versus what is actually stated in the passage.

Social Science

Passages under social science can cover a wide range of topics such as:

  • Anthropology

  • Archaeology

  • Biography

  • Business

  • Economics

  • Education

  • Geography

  • History

  • Political science

  • Psychology

  • Sociology

Since there is a broad spectrum for areas of discussion, students should expect the passage to be clearly organized with concise topic sentences with clear transitions that develop a main statement or idea.

The writer of the passage may have a specific perspective on the subject area or will provide the information in an unbiased manner.


When students reach the humanities passage, they should anticipate seeing a nonfiction passage. These nonfiction passages are normally memoirs or personal essays.

While these are more personal and appear like an autobiography, there is still a large scope of matters that can be covered in the humanities passage:

  • Architecture

  • Art

  • Dance

  • Ethics

  • Film

  • Language

  • Literary criticism

  • Music

  • Philosophy

  • Radio

  • Television

  • Theater

Keeping in mind that these passages are narratives written in a personal manner, students may see less of linear development and more of natural and organic development.

It is useful to also know that these humanities passages may be more sentimental since the writing is particular to an individual's point of view and life.

Natural Science

The last reading passage high school students will be seeing on the ACT is natural science. Similar to social science, there is a comprehensive extent of the topics that may be covered.

Students may see a natural science passage relating to:

  • Anatomy

  • Astronomy

  • Biology

  • Botany

  • Chemistry

  • Ecology

  • Geology

  • Medicine

  • Meteorology

  • Microbiology

  • Natural history

  • Physiology

  • Physics

  • Technology

  • Zoology

Natural science passages are more fact-oriented and thus will contain quite a lot of details with professional terminology and descriptions.

Much like social science, these passages will often follow an organized structure with clear topic sentences and transitions that establishes a main statement or idea. The author may or may not have a perspective on the topic of discussion.

A good tip for students on the natural science portion is to carefully read and trace the passage since the questions afterward typically require you to make presumptions about what was said.

Wrapping It Up

You now have the necessary and foundational understanding of what the four reading passages will be like on the ACT. Take the time to prepare and study related material that will enhance your ability to answer the questions associated with the passage style.

When is the best time to take your ACT test and maximize your test results? 👀 Read our previous blog article to find out.

Tune in tomorrow if you want further in-depth tips and strategies on how to improve your ACT reading test score!

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