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Rita Neumann

ACT Reading: Why You Might Need to Skip a Passage to Get a Higher Score!

In an ideal world, we can do all 40 questions on the ACT Reading Test in 35 minutes, but many students find that they’re either rushing through them with low accuracy, or only able to do 2 or 3 passages.

One of the things I hear a lot from frustrated students is that there isn’t enough time on the test to take notes of follow the recommended ACT Reading strategies. Let’s look at two students and their scores and see how slowing down and taking notes, even at the expense of leaving an entire passage blank, can actually increase your score on the ACT Reading Test!

Student 1: Marion

Let’s say Marion does not take any notes. She skims the passage and reads the questions quickly, then scans back to the passage hoping to locate the correct answer. Her goal is try to complete all 40 questions, which she is able to do by spending approximately 8-9 minutes on each passage. But because she rushed without really understanding any of the passage, she only gets 5/10 questions correct on each Reading passage, or 20 correct answers total. Because there’s no wrong answer penalty on the ACT, only her correct answers count towards her score.

Final Scaled Score: 20

Student 2: Steven

Now let’s look at another student. Steven reads each passage, carefully taking notes and breaking the passage down. He practices active reading and asks himself questions about the author’s main idea and point of view as he reads. This means that he only has time to do 3 out of 4 passages. For the last passage, he quickly guesses on the 10 questions since he knows there is no wrong answer penalty on the ACT. He spent about 11-12 minutes on each of the three passages.

Because he really understood the passages, he gets 8/10 questions right on the first three passages he completed. His accuracy is much higher because of the time he spent thinking critically and analyzing the passage. For the last passage, he gets 2 questions correct out of the 10 guessed questions. This makes his total correct a 26.

Final Scaled Score: 25

The Outcome

It’s pretty amazing how Steven took three more minutes on each passage, got only three more questions correct on each of the first three passages, did not even read the 4th passage, and yet received a scaled score that was a full 5 points higher than Marion’s!

The Lesson: If you’re struggling with pacing and accuracy on the ACT Reading Test, try the “3 out of 4” method that Steven used!


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About Rita Neumann

Rita creates fun, inspiring, and educational resources that introduce students to Magoosh and help them prep for their exams. She earned both her BA and Master of Pacific International Affairs from UC San Diego, where she also studied Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Rita loves education and marketing, just as much as she loves vinyasa yoga and baking chocolate chip cookies.

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