Test Prep

Referral and Reasoning Questions on ACT Reading

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The reading section on the ACT might seem straightforward — after all, you’ve been reading since your first years in school. But the structure of the test may actually clash with the reading skills you’ve developed, making it more challenging to prepare for. One of our time-saving, score-maximizing steps involves splitting questions into three groups: Those you’ll do now, do later, or guess. And while this may sound simple enough, that’s only the case if you’re already familiar with what you’ll face on the test. Here’s how to best prepare for the two types of ACT Reading questions.

Referral Questions


Referral questions are often easier to answer because they ask what was directly stated in the passage. Three ways to spot Referral questions are:

- Questions that begin with According to the passage

- Questions that ask what the passage or author states

- Questions with short answers

Once you know you’ve got a Referral question and you know what the question is asking, you can search for it within the passage. The correct answers to Referral questions will match the text very closely and are barely paraphrased. And if a Referral question comes with a line reference or a great lead word — a specific word or phrase used within the passage and the question — that makes them even faster to answer. Put these at the top of your list of questions you’ll answer now.

Reasoning Questions

Reasoning questions appear to require you to read between the lines. Instead of being directly stated, the correct answer is implied or suggested by the passage. In other words, look for the larger point that the author is making.

Some ways you can spot Reasoning questions include:

- Questions that use infer, means, suggests or implies

- Questions that ask about the purpose or the function of part or all of the passage

- Questions that ask what the author or a person written about in the passage would agree or disagree with

- Questions that ask you to characterize or describe all or parts of the passage

- Questions with long answers

Since the answer to a Reasoning question might take some more thinking, these questions aren’t as easy to answer as Referrals. But they’re not that much harder either since these too can come with a line reference, a paragraph reference or a great lead word. Furthermore, even though there may be some interpretation required to answer these questions, the correct answer must still be directly supported by the text. Depending on those factors, you can determine where each Referral question lands within your Personal Order of Difficulty.

For more on this approach to the Reading section, or for more tips and tricks on the rest of the test, check out our book Cracking the ACT. And keep in mind that familiarity with the test is the best way to feel comfortable when the big day rolls around, so sign up for a free practice test to see these types of questions firsthand.