Doing well on the ACT Reading section requires a fair amount of practice, especially if you're not used to the format and timing of the test. In order to get the most out of your study time, you need to be using the highest quality practice materials available to you.
In this article, I'll go through some of the best resources for ACT Reading practice tests and tell you why you should use them!
High Quality Practice Tests Are Important for ACT Reading!
Many students don't realize the importance of making sure the practice materials they're using are super high quality. If you practice with shoddy materials, you're going to get shoddy results—that's just life. This holds as true for ACT Reading as it does for anything else.
Some test prep companies put out books with their own practice questions that are not from the official ACT. Don't rely on these questions alone! Some of them are okay, but if you want to get the most out of your practice sessions, you should start with official questions. If you're not practicing for ACT Reading with real ACT materials, you're not going to be learning the exact skills you need to beat the test.
Since the ACT is a standardized test, the more questions you practice that follow the real ACT test model, the better prepared you'll be for the actual ACT exam. When it comes to the reading portion of the ACT, it's important not only that you're practicing with real ACT questions but also that you're reading real passages that were included on the ACT at one time or another. These passages will be calibrated for difficulty level, length, and reading time in ways that only ACT, Inc. fully understands (and in ways can't necessarily be faithfully replicated by test prep companies).
So how can you tell if you're using high-quality practice materials from companies other than ACT, Inc.? The quick answer is question formatting.
There are two components to each question on the reading section: the question itself and the passage it references. If either one of these components on a practice test is different from what you will actually see on the ACT, you could have a problem with discrepancies between your expected results and your actual results when confronted with the real test.
So while we definitely recommend using additional, unofficial practice tests as part of your study plan, you need to be cautious about which ones you use. Checking the question format against the official practice tests can help ensure you're using high-quality resources.
Now, let's take a closer look at different practice test resources in different media that you should use for reliable ACT Reading prep.
Free Official ACT Reading Printable Tests
ACT Practice Test 2019-2020 (Form 1874FPRE)
ACT Practice Test 2018-2019 (Form 74FPRE)
ACT Practice Test 2015-2016 (Form 72CPRE)
ACT Practice Test 2014-15 (Form 67C)
ACT Practice Test 2011-12 (Form 64E)
ACT Practice Test 2008-09 (Form 61C)
ACT Practice Test 2005-06 (Form 59F)
These free PDFs of past ACTs are your best bet to get the most accurate score predictions and most true-to-life practice test experiences.
It's absolutely critical for ACT practice that you use real questions put out by ACT, Inc. first and foremost, and try to avoid questions devised by test prep companies. The only way you'll be prepared for the reading questions on the test is if you are used to answering questions with the same phrasing and structure. You want to get used to the types of passages you'll see on the real ACT reading section, as well as familiarize yourself with the types of questions you'll be asked about them.
You should also remember to time yourself accurately whenever you take a practice test! That means giving yourself exactly 35 minutes for the reading section. Otherwise, you're not going to get an accurate picture of your scores in a real test environment.
For PDF tests like the ones we've linked to above, you should print them out and make a separate answer sheet for yourself to write down the answer to each question so that you can replicate testing conditions as closely as possible. You'll be using pencil and paper on test day, so getting used to it now can help you feel even more prepared for your test.
If you really want to replicate testing conditions accurately, you should take it in a school classroom. But only if you have permission. Then again, if you break into your school to take an ACT practice test you might become famous as the world's nerdiest criminal, so there are pluses and minuses.
Online ACT Reading Resources
Luckily, there are additional resources you can use to study for the ACT Reading section beyond the official ones we listed earlier. Keep reading to learn more about our favorite supplemental ACT Reading resources!
Act, Inc. now offers students an additional ACT reading practice exam that you take online. There are five reading passages and 40 questions that you have to answer in 35 minutes. Since this is an official practice test, the practice test questions are the same quality and format as the questions on the actual ACT Reading section.
The nice part about the online exam is that it times you, so you don't have to worry about checking the clock every few minutes to see if you're running out of time. It also scores the exam for you automatically, so you'll know how you're doing as soon as you submit the practice test.
Unfortunately, there's only one free ACT reading practice test available. But it's still another great resource to add to the printed exam booklets we've linked above.
This official online costs $40 and will give you access to extra ACT practice tests (though the website doesn't specify how many practice tests are included in this package). Don't use it for the actual practice lessons because they're not very helpful; it's just a way for you to get access to some extra official practice questions.
This is our test prep program which tailors questions to your studying needs. It includes up to 5 official ACTs as a part of your customized study plan. If you click on the link above you can sign up for a 5-day free trial to see how it works!
Just to let you know, our questions are technically not official, though our test experts have worked very hard to get them as close as possible to the format of the real test. PrepScholar also costs money after the free trial, but you'll get your money back if your scores don't improve. Basically, it's a win-win situation.
This official prep book (about $21) is definitely the best resource for realistic ACT practice questions. The 2019-20 edition includes five full-length ACT practice tests (some of these tests are the same as the free PDFs we linked to above). One of these tests is new to the 2019-20 edition and one of them also appears in the 2018-19 edition, but the other three are the same tests as those in the 2018 and 2016-17 editions. Therefore, you might want to consider buying a copy of the third edition (which has five unique practice tests) in addition to the 2019-20 edition for extra practice.
If you want to upgrade from the The Official ACT Prep Guide, you may want to consider purchasing The Official ACT Prep Pack (costs about $43). It contains everything the first book has, plus additional study materials. This book has the same five practice tests as The Official ACT Prep Guide, but it also includes two additional online practice tests (for a total of seven practice tests), as well as over 2,000 additional practice questions and access to a mobile app you can use for some on-the-go studying.
While this book is great for practice materials, it's not as helpful in terms of test taking strategies, which is why we recommend using it with a book like the Black Book, which we discuss more further on in this section.
This newly-released ACT prep book (about $23) is geared specifically toward newcomers to the ACT (and PreACT). In addition to introducing the ACT, this book includes one online PreACT practice test which is shorter than the actual Pre-ACT.
It also includes one full-length ACT practice test (not found in any other book) available both in the book and online. That's significantly fewer practice tests than the Official ACT Prep Book, since this book focuses more on explaining the format, rules, and scoring of the exams rather than giving sample questions. It's recommended for test-takers who know little about the ACT and want an easy introduction to it, rather than those looking primarily for more practice resources.
This book is a little less expensive than the official ACT guide at $30. It doesn't have practice questions of its own, but you can use it alongside the Official ACT Prep Pack because it refers to questions in the Official ACT Prep Pack as examples. You can't use the Black Book in isolation.
The Black Book is helpful because it provides a no-nonsense approach to the test that works across subject areas. It's dedicated to teaching you how the test works and how you can beat it. It also gives you in-depth descriptions of the reasons behind answer choices, which are lacking in the Official Prep Pack.
The Black Book can be wordy and does require a high level of engagement from the reader, so make sure you're prepared to read closely and pay attention. You're going to get out of it what you put in!
The Complete Guide to ACT Reading (2nd Edition) by Erica Meltzer
This book costs $30, so it's in the same neighborhood as the Black Book we just mentioned. This guide provides realistic passages and questions for you to study from so that you'll be prepared for anything the test throws at you. It also identifies the skills you'll need to do well on the ACT exam, even though these skills are more difficult to nail down in reading than in, say, math.
This book is a great resource for ACT test takers, which is why we've written a complete review of the book here.
While this book is the cheapest on our list (at $25), it's also comes with the most caveats. First, we only recommend this book for the three practice tests, and only after you've already exhausted the practice tests available through ACT, Inc. and the workbooks we've mentioned above.
That's because this book has the weakest pedigree, meaning it's not written by the official testing agency or long-time experts in the ACT testing field. So while the practice tests match the format of the real ACT reading questions, it's best to work through better vetted resources first.
In your studying for the ACT Reading section, always remember to use the highest quality practice materials available to you. This means official questions from ACT, Inc., not questions manufactured by test prep companies that might be easier than real ACT questions or an inaccurate reflection of what's covered on the test.
You can use one of the free PDFs of past ACTs, reliable online resources, or high quality review books to get the best practice materials. If you can avoid it, don't settle for anything less than the real thing!
Now that you know which materials you should be using to practice for the ACT Reading section, you should also check out my article on our best tips to raise your reading scores.
Before you dive into practice materials, you might also want to read this article on the fundamental strategy that you should keep in mind for all ACT Reading questions.
For a guide to go along with your practice materials, take a look at our article on the best way to practice ACT Reading so you can make sure you're getting the most out of your time!
These recommendations are based solely on our knowledge and experience. If you purchase an item through one of our links, PrepScholar may receive a commission.
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Samantha is a blog content writer for PrepScholar. Her goal is to help students adopt a less stressful view of standardized testing and other academic challenges through her articles. Samantha is also passionate about art and graduated with honors from Dartmouth College as a Studio Art major in 2014. In high school, she earned a 2400 on the SAT, 5's on all seven of her AP tests, and was named a National Merit Scholar.