ACT Reading: Identify or Interpret a Detail

The ACT Reading section will ask you to identify or interpret a detail in a passage. Being able to put that detail in context will be important. It won’t be an easy thing to do quickly, though. That’s why you need to get plenty of test prep. The first step to mastering this question type will be utilizing these tips on identify or interpret a detail questions:

  • Read the passage first

    Understanding the passage’s purpose, or main idea, could be integral to identifying or interpreting a detail in that passage. In addition to this, reading the questions and their answer choices could mislead you when reading the passage.

  • Look for context

    When asked any interpret or identify a detail question, remember that you’ll need to read more than the sentence(s) or line(s) mentioned in the question. Read a few sentences before and after the detail you’re being asked about.

  • Don’t fall for irrelevant answers

    The test-makers know you’ll be tempted to guess an answer that seems out-of-place. It’s human nature to think we missed a detail, or that something not mentioned should be the correct answer. Don’t fall into this trap.

  • Use process of elimination

    Identifying and interpreting questions can be very difficult. Make sure you narrow down your answer choices, eliminating incorrect options. This tactic will increase the likelihood of you getting the correct answer.

  • Skip difficult questions

    If the question is too difficult, skip it and come back to it if you have time. Your score will be based off how many questions you answer correctly. Spending too much time on a difficult interpret and identify a detail question might lower your score.

Detail Practice Question

My artistic style comes from my connection to the land. Even in the city, where rows of new buildings replace the rows of a newly plowed field, I am a farmer. Paints are the seeds I plant, and completed canvasses are my harvest.
I’ve often had to endure the surprise that city folk feel when they first see my paintings. Many of them haven’t imagined that my people could take such joy in a simple meal, sitting in a low-lit room and eating potatoes and soup and bread. At first, I thought that they pitied the people I painted, but when I talked to them, they would tell me how much they wanted to sit with their families and know what it was like to be united by a common goal. I painted scenes of fathers and mothers digging together, babies slung on backs and children trailing behind. It was my job to show the city folk that this was another way to live.
As stated in the passage, many of the city folk who viewed the author’s paintings reacted by:

  1. telling the author that they were surprised and confused by his work.
  2. saying that they also wondered what it would be like to be united by a common goal.
  3. looking at them carefully but walking away as if they did not understand.
  4. telling him they thought that the subject matter was lonely and filthy.


Which answer’s correct? If you chose B you chose correctly. The author states that when the city folk talked to him, they would tell him “how much they wanted to sit with their families and know what it was like to be united by a common goal.” The answer was right in the passage. Still, we should examine why the other answer choices were incorrect. A isn’t the correct choice since the audience was surprised by his paintings at first, although they later identified with the subject matter. In other words, it didn’t confuse them. C isn’t correct either, since the paintings didn’t confuse its audience. And nowhere in the passage is it mentioned that the audience thought the subjects in the paintings were “lonely and filthy,” making D an incorrect choice as well.