Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Power Up: Reading ACT Prep, Week 3

Laura Halstied, Michell Eike | Published: November 13th, 2023 by K20 Center


In this reading ACT prep activity, students first infer what they know about an ACT-style reading passage before reading it. Students then respond to three different claims about the passage by creating evidence and reasoning to each claim. Students practice responding to five ACT-style questions and review the correct answers as a class. This is the third activity in a 10-week "Power Up" series for ACT prep.

Essential Question

  • How can I increase my ACT score?

Learning Objectives

  • Locate important details in a passage.

  • Identify the main idea in a passage. 

Materials List

  • Activity Slides (attached) 

  • Passage handout (attached; one per student)

  • CER handout (attached; one per student)

  • Questions handout (attached; one per student)

  • Questions (Teacher Guide) document (attached; for teacher use)

  • Pen/pencil


5 Minute(s)

Introduce the activity using the attached Activity Slides. Share the essential question on slide 3 and the learning objectives from slide 4

Move to slide 5 and tell students to imagine that this information was provided on the ACT before reading a passage. Ask students to think about what they could infer about the passage based on the information. Have students talk to a partner and then ask for a few volunteers to share their thoughts.


20 Minute(s)

Display slide 6. Tell students that on the ACT reading section, they will be given 35 minutes to answer 40 questions about 4 passages. This means that they should spend approximately nine minutes on reading the passage and answering the corresponding questions. If students spend four minutes reading each passage, they have about five minutes to answer the ten questions related to each passage.

Pass out the attached Passage handout to each student. Display slide 7 and have students read the passage silently. Use the embedded 4-minute timer on the slide to give students four minutes to read the passage. If students need more than four minutes, provide that extra time as students are just starting to practice reading stamina.

After students have read the passage, pass out the attached CER Grapes of Wrath handout to each student. Move to slide 8 and introduce the Claim, Evidence, Reasoning strategy to students. Provide time for students to find evidence and write an example of reasoning evidence to each claim in the Passage handout. Each evidence and reasoning example should be one to two sentences only. Display slide 9 and have students share their responses with another student. Have students discuss the question on the slide: What is the main idea of the passage? If time allows, ask for several volunteers to share what they think the main idea of the passage is.


10 Minute(s)

Move to slide 10 and pass out the attached Questions handout to each student. Since students traditionally have 4 minutes to answer 10 questions on the ACT, give them 2 minutes to answer the 5 given questions. Tell students there are five ACT-style questions, and they should try to answer the questions in two minutes to prepare for the pacing that the ACT reading test requires. Use the embedded 2-minute timer on the slide to time students but give more time to answer all five questions, if necessary. 

Display slide 11 and review the correct answers as a class. If students have questions about answers, use the attached Questions (Teacher Guide) document, which provides explanations for the correct answers to these ACT-style questions. Facilitate a brief conversation about not knowing all the vocabulary in a passage and still being able to answer the questions. Reinforce with students that they can still be successful on the reading test without knowing what every word means.

Move to slide 12 and congratulate students on working to increase their preparation for the ACT. Suggest that students spend twenty minutes reading a text for pleasure weekly to further prepare for the ACT reading section.

Next Step

Complete next week’s activity, “Power Up: Reading ACT Prep, Week 4,” which covers the paired passage part of the ACT reading test.

Research Rationale

Standardized testing in high schools has long stood as a metric for assessing college readiness and school accountability (McMann, 1994). While there has been debate surrounding the accuracy of such metrics, as well as concerns regarding equity, many institutions of higher education continue to make these scores part of the admissions process (Allensworth & Clark, 2020; Black et al., 2016; Buckley et al., 2020). Aside from admissions, it is also important to keep in mind that standardized test scores can also provide students with scholarship opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have (Klasik, 2013). Though the topic of standardized testing continues to be debated, effective test prep can ensure that our students are set up for success.

With several benefits to doing well on college admissions tests, it is important to consider how best to prepare students for this type of high stakes test. Those students from groups that may historically struggle to find success, such as those in poverty or first generation college students, especially stand to benefit from effective test preparation (Moore & San Pedro, 2021). The American College Test (ACT) is one option students have for college admissions testing that is provided both at national centers and school sites. Taking time to understand this test including the timing, question types, rigor, and strategies for approaching specific questions can help to prepare students to do their best work on test day and ensure their score is a more accurate representation of what they know (Bishop & Davis-Becker, 2016).