Acing Reading Section in ACT: Strategies And Tips

ACT is one of the standardized tests used by college admission committees in the USA to assess the college-readiness of the applicant. High school juniors or seniors who intend to apply for college appear for this exam. ACT tests students on logical and analytical skills and does not test the core subject knowledge. ACT is divided into four sections with one optional section which is essay writing. The four mandatory sections are Math, Reading, English, and Science. In this article, we will help you understand the key points and important aspects of the Reading section of the ACT.

Format of Reading Section

This is the 3rd section of the test and is administered right after a break. By the time you reach this section, you’re already in a complete test mode and had hopefully used the break to refresh yourself and have come back more alert and ready to showcase your skills. The Reading section contains 40 questions to be attempted in 35 minutes which means on an average about 50 seconds per question, but in actual you will certainly have much lesser time as you need a significant amount of time to read and comprehend the passages. This section contains three stand-alone passages and one set of paired passages. Each passage is about 1,000 words and presents almost the same level of difficulty as a college level text and is followed by ten questions with multiple answer choices.

The four major topic areas on each of the passage or pair of passages are literary fiction, humanities, social studies and natural sciences. No previous knowledge is required to answer the questions so everything you need to know to answer can be found directly in the text given in the passage. The questions are designed to test your critical reading skills. Each passage mostly starts with a short introduction, usually. You must not skip these introductions and not be tempted to save time because they contain important data points related to the passage or any other specific vocabulary terms. Also, keep in mind that the passages are not always written in any specific order and you are not required to read them in any specific order.

Skills Tested on Reading Section

This section tests reading comprehension and critical reading skills. Although your content area knowledge is not tested in this section, your capabilities to use the skills you’ve learned during English and literature classes definitely will be tested. Such skills include comprehending the main idea of the passage, understanding details, constructing a sequence of events, cause and effect relationships. You also need to determine the tone of the author, the meaning of words or phrases in context and to understand the general idea of the passage. The non-fiction passages will generally ask questions about recognizing the theme of the essay, to comprehend specific or supporting facts and details and to understand the structure of the passage, while the literary passage usually asks questions related to interpreting the thoughts and motivations of characters. And to answer such questions you are required to derive clues from the text rather than from direct quotes.

Strategies to Score High on Reading Section

  1. Time Management

On almost every section of ACT, there is significantly very less time per question and the reading section is no exception, so managing the time is critical. You should make a time management plan for each section. In the reading section, your time management plan might include few important points like skipping ahead to read the passage you find easier first. Keep in mind, the strategy that you apply should help you maximize the number of questions you get correct. Say, for example, if you generally performed best on the science passage while appearing for the mock exams, you should definitely skip ahead and do that passage first. This way, you can ensure that you’re answering all the questions you know the best. Next, you also need a perfect time management plan for the reading of the passages and this may vary from student to student, so with regular practice, you may create your own strategy based on your performance. Three most common ways to read the passage are – a) to scan the passage first, and then answer the questions; b) read the questions first and then skim the passage; c) few limited set of students who can manage to read each passage quickly in its entirety and still have enough time to answer all the questions. You may give yourself a chance to try all and see which one works best for you. Later stick to that one strategy and practice, again and again, using that same strategy.

  1. Be Subject Matter Expert

It may not be easy to read a series of passages with a variety of topics in such quick succession. You have to keep switching your reading patterns rapidly to adjust to each passage. The ACT has passages about weird topics like an evolution of gerbils, Victorian novels, underwater basket-weaving etc. And, you won’t be naturally thrilled about all the subjects you’ll read. So as you start reading, convince yourself of how interesting it is. This might take some time and mental tricks, but then ultimately it will be worth it and try relating them to your existing knowledge. These practices might sound a bit odd but stay engaged with the passage is only one way to make sure that you absorb as much as possible from it the very first time you read it.

  1. Process of Elimination (POE)

POE is one of the most effective tools for raising reading section scores. It completely changes the way you view the questions. ACT always has one unambiguous answer and this has a huge implication for the strategy you should use to find the right answer. Here’s one way to see it: Out of the 4 options, if 3 of them have something that is totally wrong. Only 1 answer is 100% correct, that means the other 3 are 100% wrong .You need to try different approaches to Reading questions. Try to locate reasons to eliminate 3 answer choices.

We don’t tell you that there’s a magic solution to getting a 36 that works for everyone. That’s because one-size-fits-all, guaranteed strategies do not actually exist. To perform well on ACT, one has to perform well on all the four sections. Practice and perfection are the two key factors to achieve success on ACT. Keep practicing sample tests to get familiar with question pattern. Create a log of your test score and your mistakes. You can easily score high on ACT by putting in necessary efforts.

– Team Leverage

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