ACT – Reading Test Types

There are four sections of reading on the ACT reading test: Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Humanities, and Prose Fiction.

The Social Sciences section (Reading Test)

Deals with history, psychology, geography, cultural information, and anthropology. These passages tend to be written from the point of view of an author trying to convince you their opinion; or possibly to explain the difference between a generally accepted hypothesis, and something that is new to the field. These compare/contrast kinds of passages are usually pretty straightforward, but tired students often forget or misconstrue details and attribute them to the wrong point of view.

The Natural Sciences

Here the passages are similar to what you’ll find in the Science section of the ACT, but tend to be more easily readable, and will be completely devoid of charts, tables, and diagrams. This section is usually comprised of biology, physics, chemistry, and earth sciences passages; but they will never be too detailed or in-depth.


Includes subjects like art, music, writing, and other things humans create, but is very similar in a lot of ways to the social sciences passage since it usually touches heavily on historical background of the subject matter. In addition, this could very well be a passage about the life of an author or musician, or an argument about a specific book or piece of music being considered among the all-time classics. While there is a huge amount of variety possible, these tend to be easier passages to read because they are more interesting to students than the others, but they are also written in a way that makes it generally easy to pick out the author’s point of view, which is the primary concern of the questions asked in the response section.

Prose fiction

While it doesn’t always seem like it, is the hardest of the four passages for most readers. This is likely to be a small excerpt from a longer story; and you can generally expect that there will be a lot of dialogue (sometimes full of colloquialisms). Occasionally some sarcastic remarks that can throw off the answer to some of the vocabulary questions you’ll find, making it absolutely essential to go back and re-read the piece of text associated with the word you’re looking up. This is the only section that you should consider doing out of order on the reading section. This way, you can spend the bulk of your time scoring easier points on easier passages.


As with all sections of the ACT, every section, every passage is different. Some reading passages will be easier or harder for you individually; and some will vary based on the subject matter being given. Remember that you can take the ACT test as often as you’d like. Though you’ll have to invest some spare cash into the program if you’re going to do that more than once.