8 ACT Reading Strategies: The Must-Knows for the ACT Reading Section

Tick tock, tick tock ….the ACT Reading Section is extremely time-sensitive.  Literally a race against the clock.   The problem is rooted in the fact that the questions are
presented in a random order and students have trouble locating the very specific information asked within the question.  If students stay within their comfort zone and do not actively engage in the passage by using various ACT reading techniques, students will have trouble finishing a passage and finding the correct answer.  Therefore, strategize!  Below are effective and time-saving reading strategies.  Warning, though…not every strategy works for every passage.   Students must practice these strategies, and know what strategies work for them.  Not all strategies should be used for every passage.   Students need to be flexible and decide what works for each reading presented.

Know which passage to read first. Time each reading and start with the passage you are consistently faster at completing and/or scoring the best on.  You don’t have to read the passages in the order they are presented in.   Start with your strongest!

Create a Road Map.   Focus on first sentences.   In the margins, write a one or two word main point for each paragraph.  This strategy is perfect for a reading composing of many short paragraphs and this strategy does not apply to the prose passage.

Circle names, dates, places, terms, and thought-reversers (but, instead, rather, though, however, despite, although, yet,  – think BIRTHDAY). The ACT is all about these picky little details.  Circling names and dates will help you quickly locate the location of an answer.  Circling thought-reversers will help lead you to the main point of the passage.

Look at questions, circle line reference questions. Once you have skimmed the passage, answer the line reference questions first.  Or, answer the line reference questions as you read.

Skip EXCEPT and ordering/Roman numeral questions and answer last. These questions take the longest and require scanning through the entire passage.   Answering other questions will lead you to the answer for these types of questions.

Preview the questions: Skim questions first and see if anything “pops” out that you can remember while reading.  Circle the “pop.”

Focus on tone. Always keep in mind the tonality of a passage.  Positive?  Negative?  Sarcastic?  Rely on tone when deciding between answers.

Read the conclusion first: Some students like to read the intro and conclusion and then skim the body paragraphs.   Reading the conclusion first enables you to understand the main point the essay is making and help you skim quickly (can’t do this for the prose passage).

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