A lot of students–most students–will run out of time on the ACT Reading Section.
Unless you are naturally an exceptionally fast reader, you’re going to need to practice! And even if you are an exceptionally fast reader, a few extra tricks under your belt definitely won’t hurt your chances of finishing the ACT Reading Section with time to spare.
So what are the secrets to good pacing on the ACT Reading Section?
To answer this question, we’ve compiled all our best speed-reading strategies into our newest resource: the “ACT Reading Strategies for Slow Readers” video.
Watch the embedded video below, or scroll down for a full video transcript. 🙂
What Will I See in the “ACT Reading Strategies for Slow Readers” Video?
In this free 10-minute video, our ACT expert Kat will give you a brief introduction, followed by four proven reading strategies to help you get through the ACT Reading Section before the clock runs out.
In this video you will learn how to:
1. Save time by analyzing the ACT Reading section questions!
2. Efficiently divide your time up between reading passages!
3. Actually skim read!
4. Make reading fun!?!
If you like the video, don’t forget to hit Like, and subscribe to the channel for more study tips. And if you have any questions about ACT Reading, write to us in the video comments section, and we’ll answer with advice! 🙂
“ACT Reading Strategies for Slow Readers” Full Transcript
What are the secrets to pacing on the ACT reading section?
Let’s talk about it.
Hi, I’m Kat and I’m the ACT expert here at Magoosh.
Today’s topic is going to include four tips for slower readers, and how to improve on the ACT reading section.
Because as many of you know, the reading section goes by really quickly.
And a lot of people, most people, run out of time unless they practice some really important skills.
So I have four skills to go over, but the first one actually doesn’t have to do with reading speed at all.
It does have to do with pacing though.
And it’s probably the most important skill in a lot of ways.
And that is analyze, okay?
Especially when you’re first learning and first practicing this material, rather than focusing on timing, I want you to analyze the questions that are being asked of you.
What does that mean?
Well, there are different ways you can analyze the question.
But the most important thing you can do probably the most effective thing is to go and look at the question, try and answer, read the explanation, and do that for every single question, okay?
The easy questions, the simple questions, read all the reasons the questions are wrong, that are wrong.
And it is a little tedious isn’t?
It is something that most students aren’t gonna take the time to do, most students are gonna try right a way to try speed up but you are not, you are going to spend some really quality time analyzing and what that’s gonna do is gonna make you really familiar with the test questions okay.
And so it doesn’t like is gonna speed you up but it will, it doesn’t just improve accuracy, it improves your overall speed.
The second tip for the reading section actually is about pacing.
So once you’ve gotten pretty familiar with questions, and I would like you to go through about four passages worth of questions before you start focusing on the timing, but at that point, you’re ready, okay?
So let’s talk about the timing a little bit on the ACT reading section.
You have 35 minutes.
You have 40 questions.
Obviously that’s less than one minute to answer a question.
You’ve got four passages.
So how do you figure out how to make this happen for you?
Well I think it’s a pretty good guideline.
So for two to give yourself eight minutes for each passage.
That’s going to get you to the 32 minute mark.
So if you go a little over eight minutes you’ll still be in good shape.
You can use those extra few minutes to go back and maybe answer questions you weren’t totally sure on.
So, aim for eight minutes.
I want you to focus on timing more during your practice so that when you get into the actual exam you’re not obsessing about minutes, all right.
So, these tips for timing are most important while you’re practicing.
This is practice, practice helps for you.
Eight minutes per passage.
Now what is this 4 to 4 mean?
Well, what we found, is that a lot of students when they start learning how to do this passages, this reading, comprehension questions.
They spend too much time, initially, reading the passage.
We at Mcgoosh, really, strongly believe, we all concur that it’s good to read the passage before you start answering the questions.
And I know there is some debate on that topic.
But four minutes is the maximum I’d like you to spend actually reading the passage, some of you have probably already seen these passages and you know they’re pretty long.
This is not something you could do if you were trying to read it at regular speed.
This is called speed reading.
This is called skimming.
And I’m gonna talk a little bit more about that in step 3.
But, just so you know, 4 minutes to skim, and then you’ve got 4 minutes to answer the questions that go with that passage.
A lot of your reading time is actually still gonna be going on in those 4 minutes.
So this is your skimming time.
This is when you’re answering the questions, but you’re not gonna get all the facts in those 4 minutes, cuz you’re going too fast.
So even though we’re talking about 4 minutes to read, 4 minutes to answer questions, a lot of the reading is still gonna be happening.
Because you’re gonna be looking at the questions, going back to the passage and actual noticing detail that you missed the first time.
And you should miss it the first time cuz you’re gonna be going really fast.
So I have two more tips for you.
But if you’ve made it this far, good job, I really appreciate your attention.
And as an Easter egg what I’d like you to do is to go ahead and leave us a comment.
Ask us a question.
About what part of the reading test you find the most difficult?
What issues come up for you?
What hurdles do you have?
And you can be as specific as you want.
And we’ll get back to you.
We’ll respond to your comments.
At this point you might be wondering, okay, but how do I read that fast?
This is what the video’s about.
How do I pick up the speed of reading?
How do I do a whole passage in four minutes?
Okay, so I’m gonna show you the tip that I’ve been using all the way through school.
I still use it, I probably use this skimming tip almost every day.
Cuz I love to read non-fiction, I don’t wanna spend a lot of time on it and this is a scale that will last you lifetime, all right.
So this is my strategy, this is how I skim, the material that I’m trying to comprehend, but maybe not at a super deep level.
And some of you might have learned this, because I know that sometimes this is taught by teachers.
I know other techniques are taught as well.
But this is the one that’s worked for me over and over again.
So let’s say this is your reading passage.
Now the actual reading passage on the ACT is gonna be significantly longer than this.
This is more about the length of an English passage.
So imagine twice this length.
Okay, it’s quite a number of paragraphs.
What you want to do is start up here with the number 1.
Read the first paragraph at normal speed.
You might even read just a tiny bit slower than you normally would.
The first paragraph is really important.
There’s a lot of important information there.
From there, I want you to go all the way down to the conclusion and read the bottom paragraph.
And again, I want you to read this pretty slowly.
Maybe as slowly as you read the very first paragraph.
Okay, so these are the two that you’re gonna try and comprehend early on in quite a bit of detail.
After that you’re gonna look at the body paragraphs.
So you’re done with that actual reading.
No more reading.
Now you’re skimming.
You start up here, first sentence of the first body paragraph.
Read the first sentence pretty quickly, barely glance at the middle.
Maybe just kinda pick up some key words.
Read the last sentence of that body paragraph and then you move on to the next body paragraph, okay.
First sentence, last sentence, first sentence, last sentence.
And at first this is gonna feel weird.
You’re gonna feel like you’re not getting all the information but you’re actually getting a lot more information than you realize and so much information is found in the first and the last paragraphs.
It doesn’t mean that’s where your answers are gonna be found.
When you actually go and answer the questions, okay?
So I’m not saying that all the information is there.
I’m saying that you’re gonna get the good general big picture.
And understanding of the exam by focusing on the beginnings and endings of each piece.
Another common problem people run into, and this is actually a problem that people who are both really fast readers and slower readers, everybody at one point or another faces this problem.
And this is boredom.
This is trying to figure out wait, what did I just read?
It’s going over the same sentence or same paragraph three times.
You know, it’s that feeling of, it’s boredom, really, is what it is.
It’s frustration. It’s boredom.
Okay, so my fourth tip is to try to make this fun.
And to do that you’re going to have to use your imagination, okay?
You’re gonna have to figure out, what game am I going to play, within my you know, mental.
Head space that’s going to make this seem like a high investment, low risk game.
And the way I kind of think about it, and sorry if this example doesn’t work for you.
But I think it’s how I think about, how do you make something into a game?
How do you use your imagination and make something that’s not so fun seem like a lot of fun?
Is just thinking about little kids out maybe six years old out digging for treasure in their backyard right?
At some point you know, by the time you’re six or seven you know you’re not gonna be finding gold, there’s no pirate’s chest down there or anything like that, but if you get you’re imagination worked up enough you can actually get caught up in the moment.
So do whatever you can.
Pretend it’s a game, pretend there’s a cash prize associated with getting the questions right.
But what’s really important about this tip is that I don’t want you to think about this in relation to competing against other people.
Because it’s gonna make you more nervous if you already feeling a little bit anxious about the exam.
Make this a game about getting as many questions correctly as you can and beating whatever you did yesterday, whatever you did the week before and really keep the focus on that level.
So fun, imagination, I know it doesn’t always sound like it’s fun to do a reading passage.
It’s not for a lot of students, but I challenge you.
How can you make this a game for you?
What would make this seem like something worth paying attention to, worth investing in?
What’s gonna grab you?
So I hope you found those tips helpful.
If you did, hit the like button, you can subscribe to our channel, get more tips from us at Magoosh and that’s it.
I hope you have a fantastic test day and good luck with your studies.
Looking for more ACT Reading strategies?
Why not check out some of our other free ACT Reading Section resources for more tips and tricks to help prepare you for test day?
- 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! 🙂
More from Magoosh
About Molly Kiefer
Molly completed her undergraduate degree in Philosophy at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. She has been tutoring the SAT, GRE, and LSAT since 2014, and loves supporting her students as they work towards their academic goals. When she’s not tutoring or blogging, Molly takes long walks, makes art, and studies ethics. Molly currently lives in Northern California with her cat, who is more popular on Instagram than she is.
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