Time Management is one major challenge I see students facing on the ACT Reading section. With the number of questions and time allotted, it’s foreseeable that many students will have difficulty finishing all of the questions. There is a significant amount of reading to do on this section as well as Science which makes it difficult for some students to complete all passages. There are several strategies for getting through the passages and questions in a timely manner. Take a look at three key strategies. Pacing is KEY!
STRATEGY 1 It is beneficial to find parts of the passage that you do not have to read. Secondly, which is a given- read the passages quickly. The most effective way to increase your pacing is to stop reading a paragraph as soon as you’ve recognized the main point of the passage.
Not so many years ago, if you walked through a high school study center or a college dorm, you would hear the distinctive click of typewriter keys as students got their work done. Typewriters were also used in offices everywhere. Walking through these places today, however, it is likely that not one of the students you see busily typing are using a typewriter.
With a computer’s word processing program, there is no penalty for making a mistake or for changing your mind. Text can be written, revised, copied or deleted. Deleted text is never lost; it can be returned at the click of the mouse controlling the computer’s cursor.
In this paragraph, it’s really not necessary to read more than the first two sentences. The remaining portion is a long list of details that support the main idea of the paragraph, which is “you would hear the distinctive click of typewriter keys as students got their work done”. It’s enough information for you to move on to the next paragraph. If there is a question that asks about one of these details, you’ll know where to look, but it’s generally not effective to read, long, detailed evidence in a paragraph when you aren’t even certain that there will be any relevant questions.
STRATEGY 2 Is to work through the questions quickly. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to recognize the common faults in incorrect answer choices. Incorrect answer choices tend to fall into 4–5 categories that define why those choices are wrong. Of these, answer choices are some of the easiest to spot. The ACT likes to take information that was contained in the passage and re-package it in an answer choice. Just adding one word can take an acceptable answer choice and make it too extreme. Some examples of extreme words are “never”, “always”, “everyone”, “no” and “must”. Let's examine the following two answer choices: “there is no penalty for making a mistake or for changing your mind” versus “there are some penalties for making a mistake or for changing your mind”. The second answer choice is a more extreme version of the first answer choice and would rarely, if ever, be correct. By finding these extreme words, you can quickly eliminate incorrect answer choices. One of the most effective ways of working through questions quickly is to recognize the common errors in incorrect answer choices.
STRATEGY 3 Do not re-read the passage after you read a question. While re-reading the passage can ensure 100% accuracy, if you think you can remember the answer without looking back to the passage, try to do so and choose the answer choice that looks best-even if you aren’t 100% sure. One component of removing pacing issues on the ACT Reading section is being comfortable with a little bit of uncertainty. In the long run, it’s better to answer 100% of questions at 90% accuracy than it is to answer 75% of questions at 95% accuracy.
Applying these strategies take practice-multiple times. Before your test date, make a goal to take several practice test implementing these strategies and charting your growth on each. This will provide you an average of where you will score on the actual test. If you commit to trying these three strategies consistently, you will see an improvement in the number of Reading questions you are able to complete.
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