ACT Reading Question Types

Kristin Fracchia
Lesson by Kristin Fracchia
Magoosh Expert
Learn More About Magoosh ACT
This reading lesson is about the question types you are going to encounter on the ACT reading test. Now why is it important to know the question types? Well, I will tell you. That is because this is the pool of categories that the ACT is pulling from when they are writing questions for the test, so when you go to read the ACT reading test as a test taker you are going to know what to be looking out for as you start to read.

So for example we're gonna talk about comparison questions. If you know that the ACT likes to test comparisons, then when you see a comparison as you read you are going to say aha, there is probably going to be a question on that, and you are probably right. So let's talk about what the basic question types are. First of all, we have detail questions.

These are questions that just focus on picking up an answer straight from the passage, and we're gonna go ahead and have separate slides for each of these question types. We'll just go through briefly listing them here. We have main idea questions, comparative relationships questions. Cause-effect relationships and sequence of events questions.

So those are the questions having to do with what comes before something else, or what causes something else. Inference and generalization questions. These are questions that ask us to boil down Information from the passage into something more concise so to draw a conclusion. We had meanings of words questions, these are also known as word in context questions where we have to define a word used in the passage.

We have author's voice questions, these are the questions about tone or attitude, and finally author's method questions, these are often the ones that ask about purpose, so let's start with detail questions. These are the ones that just ask us to identify and interpret details in the text. Sometimes they're going to be not and except questions.

So basically what we're doing here, we're just finding an answer in the text, but because that would be way too easy if they told us what line the answer was in, you'll often find that there's no line numbers or paragraph references given, you just have to go back to the text and find that detail. And if it happens to be a not or an except question, well, in that case, you've got to find three details in the text to identify which one is not there.

So, this is an example of a detailed question. The passage states that, in comparison to 2005, the number of students who applied to more than five colleges in 2015 is higher, lower, the same, or underestimated. So we're just going to go back to the passage in this case, find where it talks about the students that applied to more than five, colleges in 2015 and figure out if it's higher, lower, the same, or underestimated compared to 2005.

That answer is going to be directly stated in the text. Piece of cake. Main idea questions are our next category type. Main idea questions ask you to determine the primary message of a paragraph, a section, or the entire passage, you're going to find that these are on every single passage on the ACT.

So you wanna be looking out for it as you read. Looking out for what the main idea is. You also want to be watching out for any answer choices that are only supporting details. Meaning they're only covered in one paragraph or even one sentence. Not covering the entire passage.

You also want to watch out for answer choices that misstate what the passage says. So maybe the answer choice includes the content that the passage is talking about, but there's one word in there or a slight twisting of the message that makes it wrong. So particularly watch out for those.

Here's some examples of what main idea question stems look like. One of the main arguments the author is trying to make in the passage is that, or if we're just looking at one paragraph, the main purpose of the third paragraph is to point out that there are several hypothesis about. So we're just gonna go back to that paragraph, summarize it, find the best answer in our answer choices.

Another category of questions are comparative relationship questions. So these are questions that you're looking for how two or more people, or viewpoints, or events, or theories, etc., compare, so how do two people feel about each other? How do two theories differ from one another. So, for example, according to the author the significant difference between blank and blank is maybe these are two theories.

Maybe it's John and Sue, if we're dealing with the fiction passage. Whatever those two things are, we're looking for how they compare. Or according to the passage, the critics of blank differ from its supporters in that, insert your answer here. So we're looking for a difference here between the critics of some particular theory or event and the event's supporters.

Next category is cause-effect relationships and sequence of events, the ACT separates these out, I'm lumping them together because they're pretty similar. So we're looking for what caused something else in the passage, or what's the effect of something in the passage, or what came before something else. Sometimes you're gonna have to logically infer what came before something else.

So, for example, the narrator implies that her graduate school program directly resulted in her, so we'll need to find the part in the passage where she talks about her graduate school program, and find out what happened after that. And what did the graduate program cause. The next category is inferences and generalizations. So what these questions do is require you to take a lot of information and boil it down to a more concise form.

Notice, I'm not saying that they are requiring you to make grand leaps and inferences beyond the information in the passage, they never do. Even the questions that say it can be inferred needs to be based on the text, so, for example, it would be reasonable to infer based on the information in paragraph two that, that's what a question like this looks like, but we're only ever going ever so slightly beyond the text.

We have a whole other lesson on inferences and generalizations you can check out for specific strategy in dealing with these question types, or another example,. The passage indicates that the boy was not surprised by the arrival of his mother because this whole indicates thing, lets us know that we're going maybe a little bit beyond the details, not gonna be directly stated in the passage, but it's not going to be much beyond what's stated in the passage either.

Meanings of words questions. These are the questions that ask us to determine the meaning of a word in context, or sometimes a phrase. So, for example, as is used in line 47, combed most nearly means brushed, smoothed, searched, rolled over. Go ahead and check out our lesson video on meanings of words questions for the strategy to answer this very specific question type, which you will see over and over again.

And then we have author's voice and method questions. So these are the questions that ask you to draw conclusions about the author's point of view in their method. Basically, how is a passage developed? What's the author's purpose? Sometimes it's going to ask you, or these types of questions are gonna ask you, about hypothetical situations.

So for example, according to the last paragraph, which of the following statements would the author most likely make with regard to Margaret Thatcher's ideals? So, we need to know which of the following statements the author would most likely make. But in order to make that judgment, we need to know what their point of view is, what their method is, so we know which statement they would make or agree with that would be a hypothetical.

So we have detail questions, main idea, comparative relationships, cause-effect relationships and sequence of events, Inference, generalizations. Meanings of words. And author's voice and author's method, purpose. And we have video lessons on the question types here that have specific strategies. So make sure to check those out.

Show Transcript

Next Lesson

Introduction to the Reading Test