April ACT Quick Cram: Reading


Next Saturday, April 9, is the next ACT exam. It has been a couple months since the most recent one, so I thought I’d check in and give you a last minute cram on one of the tougher subjects: Reading.

ACT’s Reading section is deceptively challenging. The passages themselves are pretty straightforward, as are the questions, but problems arise once students start attempting to solve the questions within the highly restrictive 35-minute time limit. When you think about it, 35 minutes hardly seems like enough time to closely read the passages and answer 40 questions. After all, you have less than 1 minute per question. So what should you do?

For one, don’t fret. While it is a bit tricky to master the time limit; it is not entirely impossible to get a perfect or near-perfect score. You just have to pool your reading knowledge and make a meaningful strategy. Here are some ways to help quicken your reading pace while still getting correct answers:

1) Do the passages that you are better at and more confident with first. Then return to the other passages.

I say this countless times to students. Since you know the format of the ACT Reading (because it never changes), you can plan to tackle easier passages first and harder ones later. Why do this? You save time, for starters. Also, you build confidence when answering questions correctly. The only hard part about this strategy is making sure your bubble sheet matches the questions you flip to, but that isn’t exactly rocket science. It just takes a little bit of focus.

2) Practice reading passages within 3-4 minutes and then answering as many questions as possible without looking back at the passage.

The ACT Reading section does not reward students who skim the passages and have a vague memory of the details. Instead, you need to be pretty dialed in to the content. For some, this in-depth reading may eat up 5-7 minutes, which is too much time.

The recommendation is that you limit yourself to reading a passage as quickly and as carefully as possible within 3-4 minutes. In order to get a pretty good idea of what the passage is about while still reading quickly, you will need to actively mark the text, circling or underlining key words, topic sentences, and anything that may seem relevant to the questions.

Then, when you do go to the questions, practice answering them without using the passage. The key here is for you to build confidence and trust your initial instincts. Why go back and waste time when you know the answer? You’ll have to practice this process, however, if you expect it to really help you.

3) Do not stop reading.

There’s not enough time to master a text, and if you find yourself halfway through a passage, thinking “I have no idea what I just read,” then just keep reading. Sometimes passages start in weird places, making it hard to get the main idea until you’ve finished. Other times, you just blank out. Either way, stopping and going to the beginning is a waste of time. Just head to the questions and use your best judgment on where to find the information.

4) Be smart about answering the questions.

Since the questions are not listed in order of information in the passage, you will have to spend more time hunting for evidence to justify your answers. However, do know that the questions have keywords to make your hunt easier. Use the key phrases in questions when you scan the passage, and try to isolate parts of the text that make the most since, either based on your memory of the passage or based on the logical flow of information. Usually looking in the middle of the passage first helps narrow down the potential locations. After all, the middle part is where most readers start to loose interest.

Final thoughts

There’s no perfect strategy for mastering the ACT Reading section, but there are methods to help improve your confidence and score. You should definitely practice timing this week if you haven’t done so already. Completing one practice set a day would be most ideal, but settle for at least doing one. And, if you need last minute tutoring, B2A has tutors available to help you with reading or any of the other subjects. Let us assist you with getting the best ACT score possible!!

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