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Rethinking Reading on the ACT

Are you one of the many students who struggles to finish the Reading section of the ACT? It’s a common problem, but, luckily, one that can be solved. Most students struggle to find a balance in allotting the right amount of time to reading the passages and answering the questions. Some students swear by reading the questions before reading the passage, while others dive straight into the passage, saving the questions for later. So which method is right? Well, it depends on you, how quickly you can read (and still comprehend what you’re reading), and your current score and score goal. We’ll explain.


Let’s discuss Kate and Emma. Kate has a 27 on the Reading section of the ACT, and Emma has a 19. The strategy that will work best for Kate is likely not the best strategy for Emma. This is, in part, because the ACT scoring scale becomes progressively less forgiving as you move upward in score. In order to move from a 19 to a 20 in a subject, you likely need to answer 2-3 questions correctly, but moving from a 28-29 is likely dependent on answering just 1 more question correctly. So, if you have a 28 and miss a question, you’re at a 27, but, if you have a 19 and miss a question, you’ll probably still stay at a 19. Back to our differing strategies.


If Emma wants to raise her Reading score by 2 points, she’ll need to answer approximately 4-6 additional questions correctly. More than likely, she can find the answers to these questions by skimming the questions and passages a little more closely than normal. Kate, on the other hand, has likely answered every question she can answer just by skimming, so she is going to have to read the passage to find the answers to more difficult questions, such as those dealing with tone, mood, and author’s opinion. It is easy to find an answer regarding a date or time by skimming, but it is very difficult to gauge the author’s tone simply by skimming.


So, how does Emma move from her current Reading score to a score like Kate’s? She is going to have to devote some time to preparing for the ACT, and, most importantly, she needs to read daily for the purpose of improving her reading speed. Your eyes are like any other muscle, so they must be trained by regular use. If you read daily, just for 30 minutes, you will find that you read more quickly and retain information much better than you previously did. On a timed test like the ACT, reading quickly and retaining what you read are key to raising your score.