12 June 2015

Remember to go back to the introduction on ACT Reading

I recently noticed that a couple of my students were kept missing ACT reading comp questions that should have been very straightforward. Their reading was strong enough that they shouldn’t have been getting those questions wrong, and at first I wasn’t sure why they were having trouble. Upon closer inspection, however, I realized that the questions giving them trouble consistently had answers located in the introduction.

What I suspect was happening was this: they saw a question without a line reference, and if they didn’t remember the answer, their immediate reaction was to panic and (subconsciously) assume  that the answer was going to be buried somewhere in the middle of the passage — somewhere very difficult to find. Basically, they were so used to assuming that things would be hard that it never occurred to them that they might actually be easy!

Had they simply scanned for the key word/phrase starting in the introduction and skimmed chronologically, they would have found the answer almost immediately. Inevitably, when I had them re-work through the questions that way, they had no problem answering them correctly.

So if you find yourself confronted with a straightforward, factual reading comprehension without a line reference and have absolutely no recollection of where the answer is located, don’t just jump to somewhere in the middle of the passage and start looking around.

Instead, figure out what word or phrase you’re looking for, and start scanning quickly for it from the very first sentence, pulling your finger down the page as you scan to focus your eye and prevent you from overlooking key information. You might come across the answer a lot faster than you’re expecting.

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