If you’re planning on taking the ACT, it’s normal to be stressed about the Reading Test…especially if you’re not comfortable reading quickly under pressure.
Here’s the good news: you don’t have to re-learn how to read everything at twice your normal speed.
You just need to know the basic strategies that are essential to scoring well on the ACT Reading Test — with these tips and tricks under your belt, you’ll be able to finish with plenty of time!
To get you started down the path to crushing your ACT Reading Test, we’re proud to present our brand new ACT resource: the “ACT Reading: 6 ESSENTIAL Tips and Strategies” video.
Watch the embedded video below, or scroll down for a full video transcript. 🙂
What Will I See in the “ACT Reading: 6 ESSENTIAL Tips and Strategies” Video?
In this free video, our ACT expert Kat will give you a brief introduction, followed by six must-have strategies for killing it on the ACT Reading section:
1. When studying, read all the answer explanations.
2. Read the most interesting passage first.
3. Don’t “sound out” long names in your head.
4. Go heavy on the underlining, light on the annotation.
5. Ignore trivial detail.
6. Beware superlatives.
Plus, check out our free Magoosh ACT Reading lesson for step by step guidance on how to apply these tips to an actual ACT reading passage! 🙂
“ACT Reading: 6 ESSENTIAL Tips and Strategies” Full Transcript
Hi, I’m Kat at Magoosh, and I’m the ACT expert.
And today, we’re going to be talking about reading techniques, okay?
So I’ve put together some of the most important techniques.
And they’re based on many years working with students, many years actually observing students take practice tests, okay?
So these are really important, high yield, I’m excited to share them.
When you are actually studying for the reading section, you are going to be taking the test, answering the questions.
You go back, read the explanations, but read all the answer explanations.
Very few students read the explanations to the answers they answered correctly, okay?
I didn’t either when I was a student, this is very common.
But you’re going to learn so much if you go back and you read the explanations there, too.
Because it could be that you just happened to get the right answer by chance or by luck.
And you actually didn’t even know the general concept that the test makers were trying to test you on.
So definitely read all the answer explanations.
When you’re actually taking the test, or this can be true when you’re studying for the test as well.
You want to start with the most interesting passage first, on the ACT, you’re going to see four reading passages, all right?
And a lot of times, people might have given you the advice, or I hear people give this advice anyway.
Other people who tutor and teach this, that you should start with the easiest passage.
That can work, I think it’s even more effective to start with the most interesting.
Which is most interesting to you, which also often is what’s easiest to you.
[SOUND] But the reason you want to focus on what’s interesting and worry less about what’s easy.
Is because when you’re interested, you get into the right state of mind.
It’s going to just grease you up and make you ready to answer all of the other passages.
With a little bit more confidence, a little bit more accuracy, it’s going to keep you motivated, keep you interested, so try that out.
Next tip, don’t sound out long names in your head, all right?
And I figured out that students were doing this, making this mistake when I first started tutoring students.
And saw them taking practice questions on the reading section.
So there’d be a long name, long name of a town, a river, somebody’s last name in some country, and people would start slowing down.
I could almost see their pencil movings, trying to pronounce and sound out all the syllables, don’t do it, just give it an initial, okay?
So maybe you come across an article on pollution and carcinophobia, which is a fear, a phobia of cancer.
Just call it the C term, so you just give it an initial, don’t sound it out, okay?
Move on, it might sound like a trivial thing, but I see so many students slowed down by that.
Next tip is, go heavy with the underlining, but go light with the annotations.
So your English teacher or teachers from the past might have told you to annotate heavily.
They might have given you homework credit for doing that, that’s great advice that you’re learning when you’re doing that.
On the actual exam, though, researchers have found that while underlining actually keeps people really focused.
And it makes you better at answering the questions, annotation can have the opposite effect.
Light annotation, like putting one word in the margins just to keep the topic straight, good idea.
But writing down little phrases and clauses, not such a good idea, it takes time, and it takes your attention away from the passage, okay?
So, heavy on the underlining, light on the annotation.
Another time saving tip is to ignore the trivial detail, so what’s trivial detail?
Well, part of this you’ll just learn through doing practices, but I’ll give you some tips to kind of get started.
Trivial detail usually is something that describes a situation, a setting.
So if you are reading a piece on Pablo Picasso and what region of Spain he grew up in.
And they are describing his grandparents and maybe something about the home that he grew up in.
Just a few sentences to that effect, just kind of skip it over.
What you are going to want to look for, you want to look for the actions that are occurring.
You want to pay attention to what is the author trying to communicate, and what actions are occurring in the actual passage.
If you have to know that detail, you will be directed to it.
So you might get a question that asks you something about the house, but it will be in the question.
So ignore al trivial detail, unless you get a question that actually asks you something about the setting.
Or the situation, or the house that Pablo Picasso grew up in.
Okay, a very important tip, beware superlatives.
So I take lots of different reading tests, practice tests.
Because I help with a bunch of different standardized tests, and almost all of them have a reading portion.
I tend to do really well in reading.
And it wasn’t until I thought about it a while before I realized that this is one of the main reasons I do so well in reading.
I beware superlatives, [LAUGH].
And so a superlative is an extreme state of a quality, it’s the most extreme state of an adjective.
So some examples of superlatives would be best, worst, highest, lowest, poorest, richest.
It’s the most extreme state you can be on a quality, it could be, yeah, first, last, those are all superlatives.
And when you see a superlative in your answer choices on a question.
It’s probably not the right answer, because it’s too extreme of a position.
And let me give you an example to make it a little bit clearer.
So if you have just been given a passage on the dangers of mobile technology.
And maybe the author’s making an argument that they can potentially limit our freedom, our civil liberties.
And then a question is posed, which of the following statements is the author most likely to agree with?
And one of those statements says, mobile technology is the most threatening menace to society today.
Well, that’s a superlative.
The most threatening, that’s a very extreme position.
We don’t know, from reading one piece of what an author has written, what that author thinks about other items.
It could be that the author is even more concerned about other things related to technology, like genetically modified food, maybe.
So whenever you see something that says best, worst, most, least, any kind of superlative.
Unless it says directly in the passage that, that is the case.
That this author has said that it is the worst, or it is the best, assume it’s not the right answer.
So those are my tips for today, and I hope you found them helpful, if you did, you can like this video.
You can leave us a comment, tell us what you thought, share your tips.
And I wanted to kind of give you a sense of some of the other tips we have here at Magoosh.
And there’s one lesson in particular that I think you would really benefit from, it’s also about the reading section.
And in that particular lesson, Kristin, one of our other teachers, actually walks you through a passage.
And shows you things like what is the trivial detail in this passage.
And so I decided just to make that free for any of you watching.
So usually it’s only available to premium students, but if you click in the link in the description below.
You’ll be able to take a look at that video, incorporate the techniques, draw from what you learned in this video.
And that one, put them together, and I know you’re going to do really great on the ACT.
Want More ACT Reading Tips?
Ready for more? Take a look at some of our other free ACT Reading tips and resources:
- How to Get a Perfect 36 on the ACT Reading Test: The Tropical Guide
- ACT Reading Quiz
- 5 Most Frequently Tested ACT Reading Topics
Happy studying! 🙂
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About Molly Kiefer
Molly is one of Magoosh’s Content Creators. She designs Magoosh’s graphic assets, manages our YouTube channels and podcasts, and contributes to the Magoosh High School Blog.
Since 2014, Molly has tutored high school and college students preparing for the SAT, GRE, and LSAT. She began her tutoring journey while in undergrad, helping her fellow students master math, computer programming, Spanish, English, and Philosophy.
Molly graduated from Lewis & Clark College with a B.A. in Philosophy, and she continues to study ethics to this day. An artist at heart, Molly loves blogging, making art, taking long walks and serving as personal agent to her cat, who is more popular on Instagram than she is.
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