Reading is a critical skill for succeeding on the ACT, however I have noticed that many high school students claim that don't have time to read outside of their other activities. I find that this is sad because when I was a kid, you would always find me with a book to read. I think the main problem with reading today is the fact that we feel we are too busy to sit down and read.
Instead we have to make time to read because the most successful people in business today read every single day. They read upwards to 50 or more books a year.
Succeeding on ACT Reading Test
Three of the four main subjects on the ACT contain reading passages that a student must read and answer the questions. If you don't read the information quickly and accurately, you will get the questions wrong and fail the ACT.
What if there was a way to study for the ACT by using your own materials? There is, you just have to know where to look. I am going to do just that.
The ACT reading test has four main passage types that never changes and neither does the order. This means you can pick and choose what passage to start with based on what you like or are interested in the most and go from there building confidence in the test as you go.
If you study using the tips that I give you, you can and will succeed on the ACT reading test. I am going to cover each passage and what to read, how to create your own test questions using key words from study guides out there, and how to use note cards to study on the go.
Find what Interests you
The ACT contains four main passages that are in the same order. But you don't have to read what other people pick out for you. Instead find reading that is good quality and interests you. This can work for your English classes too when you have free reading time or required reading in your classes. Start with your most comfortable type of passage to gain confidence and move on to the next comfortable type of passage and so on.
This passage deals with stories that are not true so your basic novel or short story works here. A narrator is telling a story about a main character with some problem that needs solving. If you have trouble with sequencing a book with flashbacks works here. This is the first passage on the ACT Reading Test.
Social Science or History
This passage deals with some point in history but don't panic about dates, names, places, or facts to memorize. THERE IS NO MEMORIZING FACTS HERE!!! Instead find your favorite part of history and read about it. This helps students gain confidence in reading by reading about something they are interested in. This is the second passage on the ACT Reading Test.
This passage deals with the arts such as art, drama, literature, and music. Pick your favorite famous person in these areas and focus on them. You can even read a People Magazine article as a warm up. This is the third passage on the ACT.
Most high school students are required to take at least three years of science in order to graduate, so instead of studying extra types of science, read your science textbook. Pay attention in class to how experiments are run and basic science terms. These terms are common sense when dealing with science so again you don't have to memorize anything. This is the last passage on the ACT.
Osmosis doesn't work with reading
Osmosis is the process of absorbing material through moisture to another substance such as plants. However drooling on your book as you read it will not help you understand the material. So as you read, ask yourself questions about what is happening in story.
Types of questions to ask
Great readers and successful people like Steve Jobs interact with their reading to find out ways to use the information given. As you read you should be asking yourself questions to help you understand the material. The questions I am giving you is really the only thing you need to memorize for the ACT Reading Test.
These questions deal with information directly stated in the story. These are the easiest to find and understand if you know what to look for. Ask yourself the five W and H questions Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. Detail questions are found most often on the ACT reading test. But only focus on details when the questions ask you to.
Main Idea Questions
These questions deal with the story or paragraph as a whole, so figure out what the story is mostly about. If you are right, your detail questions will support the main idea. Think of it as a movie trailer, giving the reader or potential reader a taste of what the whole book is going to be about.
As you read a passage on the ACT, write down what each paragraph is mainly about. This will help you find where to look for an answer to a question.
Sequencing deals with the order of events in the story. If your story has flashbacks meaning that the character is thinking about an event that happened in the past while in the present, this can help you put the events in order.
As you read, you will come to words that you don't know and that is a good thing. Keeping your mind sharp by learning new words is a great way to move to the next level in reading. As you come to words that you don't know, highlight them in some way, such as sticky notes, underlining or highlighting (if you own the book) and look up the words in a dictionary. But don't rely on dictionary definition to help you understand what you read. Instead put the definitions in words that work for your understanding. Then make a point to use these words more often. You will gain more understanding the more you use these words.
There is usually only 1-2 vocabulary questions per passage on the ACT but as you study, you can pick out as many words as you like.
Drawing Conclusion Questions
As you think about what you are reading what conclusions are you coming up with? An author cannot tell you everything in their writing. You have to come up with a conclusion about some things on your own. For example, does the author like the main character, why or why not? You can tell if the author does like the character by how he or she treats them. Maybe the main character abuses another character. Maybe the character is a hero in some way.
Drawing conclusion questions along with inference questions deal with higher level thinking. Sometimes your answers will be correct and sometimes not. When looking for drawing conclusion answers on the ACT look no more than a paragraph above or below the cited information.
An inference is a guess based on what you already know and the information in the story. Say a friend invites you to go camping. You can make an inference that you will sleep outside in a tent or a camper.
Since an author can't write down every detail, you have to make a picture in your mind about what you think is happening as you read. If your picture doesn't make sense, maybe the book is too hard for you to read and you should pick an easier book or do some outside research to help you understand it better.
Author's purpose Questions
When you are reading a book, ask yourself why are you reading it? This can be the author's purpose for writing the book. The author's purpose deals with why the author wrote the book or a part of the book. For example when picking a title, an author has a specific reason for picking that title and it is hidden in the writing of the story. It is the reader's job to find out why.
Using Note Cards to Help Anywhere
I recommend that you write these question types and passage types down so that when you are at the library and need a new book to read you can pick a good book that fits each passage. Then as you read you can be asking yourself these questions. I would even write down the new words that you want to utilize in your conversations to help you remember.
As you get more comfortable with reading every day, you are relieving test anxiety because you know what to look for and have been practicing the strategies so much it becomes a natural part of you.
How do you study for the ACT Reading Test? I would be curious to know.
My name is Stena Schmitt.
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