ACT Reading Tips

Learn the best ACT Reading tips to increase your ACT score!

3 Steps to Ace the ACT Reading Test




 
 
In this post, we’re going to talk about the best strategy for the ACT reading test. If you’ve done any research, you’ll know that there are a lot of different strategies out there for the ACT reading test. The problem is that a lot of these strategies aren’t very good and can hurt your performance on the reading test more than help it.

So, to help save you a lot of time, I’m going to simply explain what the best strategy is for the ACT reading test. Just do this three-step strategy, and forget about the other strategies out there.

Step #1: The first thing you should do is read the passage at a speed that allows you to answer the following questions:

 

For the Prose Fiction passage:

Who are the main characters, and how do they relate to one another?

For the other three passages:

What is the main point being made, and what are 2-3 of the major sections/arguments?

The Purpose of Reading the Passage First

The first time you read through the passage, just focus on these questions and don’t try to remember every detail. Spend at most 3 minutes 30 seconds doing this, preferably less if you can. The goal for your first time reading through the passage is to give yourself a basic foundation for approaching the questions that’ll allow you to immediately have a sense of which answer choices are possible or correct and which are obviously wrong.

Why You Shouldn’t Read the Questions First

It’s not a good idea to start with the questions blindly without first reading the passage because of the following reason: Trying to find the answer to each individual question without the basic foundation of knowing what the passage is talking about will probably take longer than approaching all of the questions at once already having a general idea of what’s correct and what’s not. Here’s an analogy: Let’s say you need to travel to three different places for errands. Reading the passage first is like taking some extra time at the beginning to figure out what order you should travel to these places to be most efficient. In contrast, reading the questions first is like starting right away and going to the places at random, which will very likely end up taking longer because of the extra travel you’ll need to do as a result of not having a game plan beforehand. So, read the passage first because this’ll allow you to approach every question with a game plan in mind already, instead of blindly going all over the place trying to find answers.

Don’t Take Notes in the Margins

Also, don’t take notes in the margin, as some of the major ACT prep companies recommend. The big problem with this strategy is that it just takes too much time. I watched this one video where the instructor spent about nine minutes going through and taking notes on one passage. I recommend that you keep things quick and simple by just answering the questions above your first time through the passage.

Step #2: Next, after you’ve read the passage and answered those basic questions, you’ll start progressing through the questions one by one.

Here are the rules/steps you should follow for answering the questions:

  1. If you can answer the question confidently without looking back at the passage, answer it.
  2. If you know you can find the answer to the question pretty quickly because you know where to look in the passage, answer it.
  3. If the question has a specific reference to a line or passage, look up the reference and answer it.
  4. If the question is an “EXCEPT” or “NOT” question, skip it for later.
  5. If you don’t know where to look in the passage for the answer and/or you think the question will take a significant amount of time to answer, skip it for later.
  6. After you’ve done all the questions for 1, 2, and 3 above, then go back and do the questions for 4 and 5 above.

Step #3: Make sure you stick to the time limit for each passage.

Although you can and should skip questions within a passage, make sure you circle answers for every question about the passage in about 8 minutes, or just a little more than 8 minutes. Then, transfer all of your answers to your answer sheet. Make sure you finish doing all of this within 8 minutes 45 seconds.

If you need to guess on any questions to meet this time limit, make your guess, but also circle the questions and come back to them if you have time at the end. It’s extremely important that you give yourself time to work on all four passages because you don’t want to miss any of the easy questions in each passage. Also, most students aren’t able to get to all four passages, so if you learn how to manage your time well during the reading test to get to all four passages, the fact that you have a game plan will give you a huge advantage over other students who aren’t managing their time well.

Finally, if you can finish all four passages with some extra time at the end, then you can go back and check over questions you guessed on or were unsure about.

Final Thoughts

To summarize, the goal for the ACT reading test is to maximize every minute you have because your biggest battle for this test is against time. I firmly believe that the three-step process I just explained in this video will help you maximize your time and get the highest score possible on the reading test.

By |March 15th, 2014|ACT Reading Tips|0 Comments

ACT Reading Strategies: Tips for the ACT Reading Test



Here we will discuss ACT Reading strategies and tips that will help you maximize your score and performance on the ACT Reading test. Remember, because the ACT is a timed test, strategy is just as important as your knowledge of the content!

It is possible to increase your ACT score by several points simply by taking the ACT in a different way.

Our Three-Step Strategy for the ACT Reading Test

Step #1: Read the passage first with two primary goals

Reading the passage first


There are a small number of students who have the ability to read the questions first and do well because of how quickly they can process information, but we would argue that this is simply not the best way to do the ACT reading test. You will end up saving more time on the questions if you approach them having a general idea of what the main idea of the passage is, as well as how the passage is organized.

Without reading the passage first, you will end up spending more time trying to figure out the context you need to answer the questions. Although you might get lucky and be able to “figure out” the passage using the questions with specific references to the passage, there is a large chance that you will simply get confused and frustrated without the general context of the passage to help you answer the questions.

So, no matter who you are, we highly recommend that you read the passage first, with these two specific goals.

The two goals for your first time through the passage

As you read through the passage, your two goals should be to answer these two questions:

  1. What is the main idea/plot of this passage? Just try to figure out what the author is trying to say, and try to answer this question with one simple sentence.
  2. What/Where are 2-3 of the major supporting points/details the author uses to support the main idea/plot? Try to figure out the major sections of the passage and how they support the main idea/plot.

Here are two more tips for reading through the passage the first time and answering the questions above:

  1. Use your finger to read. Using your finger will help you read faster, stay on track with progressing through the passage, and stay focused.
  2. Aim for about 70% comprehension Comprehend just enough to answer the two questions above. Don’t try to remember details during your first time through the passage

ACT reading strategies and tips

Step #2: Answering the Questions

Here are the rules you should follow for answering the questions:

First, every question will have a clear answer

Try to reach a point where you feel very confident about the answer.

Second, do the questions in this order


  1. If you can answer the question confidently without looking back at the passage, answer it.
  2. If you know you can find the answer to the question pretty quickly because you know where to look in the passage, answer it.
  3. If the question has a specific reference to a line or passage, look up the reference and answer it.
  4. If the question is an “EXCEPT” or “NOT” question, skip it for later
  5. If you don’t know where to look in the passage for the answer and/or you think the question will take longer to answer, skip it for later
  6. After you’ve done all the questions that are 1, 2, and 3 above, then go back and do the questions that are 4 and 5 above.

Third, stick to the time limit for each passage

Although you can and should skip questions within a passage, make sure you circle answers for every question about the passage in about 8 minutes, or just a little more than 8 minutes.Then, transfer all of your answers to your answer sheet. Make sure you finish doing all of this within 8 minutes 45 seconds.

If you need to guess on any questions to meet this time limit, circle the questions and come back to them if you have time at the end.

Step #3: Managing time throughout the reading test

Follow this time schedule for the reading test:

Finish Passage #1 by the time your watch hits 8 minutes 30 seconds.

Finish Passage #2 by the time your watch hits 17 minutes.

Finish Passage #3 by the time your watch hits 25 minutes 30 seconds.

Finish Passage #4 by the time your watch hits 34 minutes. When you hear the 5 minute warning, start bubbling your answers one by one.

If you finish early, check over the questions you circled because you were unsure about them.

Make sure you do every passage!

The ACT Reading test is a very rushed test, so make sure you keep track of time and get to all of the passages and questions. Most students do not finish all four passages, so if you manage your time well to get to all four passages, you will have a tremendous advantage over other students.

In What Order Should I Do the Passages?

Determine if you want to skip a particular passage. Many students find the Prose Fiction passage to be the most difficult passage of the four, so it might be a good idea to do this passage last, both to make sure you have enough time for the other passages and to potentially give yourself more time for this passage if you finish the other ones early.

Why should I bubble after each passage?

Bubble after each of the passages (10 questions at a time). This will allow you to maintain focus during each passage and not disrupt your flow. This will also help you avoid bubbling mistakes.

However, when you hear the five minute warning, begin bubbling questions one at a time to make sure you are able to bubble every question.

ACT Reading Strategies – Foundations to Work on before Taking the ACT Reading Test: Reading Speed and Comprehension

Reading Speed and Comprehension

ACT Reading strategies and tips
The best way to prepare for the ACT Reading test is to read a lot, especially college level non-fiction texts, since three of the four passages on the ACT Reading test are non-fiction passages. Because time is so limited on the ACT Reading test, it is vitally important that you are able to read quickly and with comprehension.

Your reading ability must be at a certain level for you to do well on the ACT Reading test! Make sure you develop your reading speed and comprehension skills to the point where you can complete the ACT Reading test in the time provided. This may mean reading way more than you are used to reading.

By |December 14th, 2013|ACT Reading Tips|0 Comments

ACT Reading Test: Format and Content Overview


Introduction to the ACT Reading Test

The ACT Reading test is the third section of the ACT, and it comes right after the 10 minute break after the ACT Math test. It is much more fast-paced than either the English or the Math test. Although you do not need to study any content beforehand for the ACT Reading test, you do need to come prepared with a plan to answer all of the questions in the limited time provided.

Most students run out of time on the ACT Reading test, so if you utilize good ACT test taking strategies and finish the test, you will have an enormous advantage over other students. Do not be deceived by the fact that all of the answers for the ACT Reading test are already within the passages—this test requires just as much preparation as any other test, perhaps even more.

The ACT Reading Test Format: Structure and Timing


Below is a chart that explains what to expect for the ACT Reading test. It includes how long the Reading test is, how many questions are on it, how it is organized, and how long you have for each question:

Overview of the Reading test format

Total Time Number of Questions Organization Time per Question
35 minutes 40 questions 4 passages –
1) Prose Fiction
2) Social Studies
3) Humanities
4) Natural Sciences
8 minutes 45 seconds per passage
52.5 seconds per question

The four passages of the ACT Reading test show up in the exact same order year after year. However, there is an enormous range of content that can show up for each of these types of passages, so there is no use trying to study the topics that might show up. The passages may differ slightly in difficulty level, depending on the year.

ACT Reading

The reason why most students run out of time on the ACT Reading test is because students only have 8 minutes 45 seconds to read an entire passage and answer ten questions. Students who do not have good reading speed and comprehension find that they struggle to comprehend the passage enough in the time given.


The ACT Reading Test Content: The Different Passages and Types of Questions

The Four Passages of the ACT Reading Test

Here is the information that the ACT provides concerning the four types of passages that will show up on the ACT Reading test. Again, do not worry about studying these topics because the ACT’s goal is to make the test fair by choosing passages that will be relatively unfamiliar to all students. The key is practicing your reading speed and comprehension, not preparing for any specific content.

1. Prose Fiction (10 questions) 2. Social Studies (10 questions) 3. Humanities (10 questions) 4. Natural Sciences (10 questions)
Fiction – intact short stories or excerpts from short stories or novels Nonfiction – anthropology, archaeology, biography, business, economics, education, geography, history, political science, psychology, or sociology Nonfiction – passages from memoirs and personal essays, architecture, art, dance, ethics, film, language, literary criticism, music, philosophy, radio, television, or theater Nonfiction – anatomy, astronomy, biology, botany, chemistry, ecology, geology, medicine, meteorology, microbiology, natural history, physiology, physics, technology, or zoology

The Types of Questions on the ACT Reading test

There are three primary types of questions that will show up on the Reading test:

  1. Specific Detail – Specific Detail questions are directly answered by the text. Oftentimes, they will have specific line or paragraph references, so you know where to look in the passage to find the answer.
  2. Evaluation – Evaluation questions require you to make a judgment concerning what the passage is communicating. Although these questions are not answered directly by the passage, the answer will be clear from the passage.
  3. Main Idea – Main Idea questions require you to identify the main idea being presented by the passage as a whole or by a particular section or paragraph.

Next Step

Now that you know the format and content of the ACT Reading test, you might be wondering, “How can I prepare for this test?” To learn more about preparing for the ACT Reading test, visit the ACT Reading Strategies: Tips for the ACT Reading Test page.

By |November 26th, 2013|ACT Reading Tips|0 Comments