Very often, test-takers miss “NOT” and “EXCEPT” questions (e.g. “Which of the following is NOT mentioned in by the author as a technique used by Da Vinci when he painted the “Mona Lisa”?) simply because they don’t read them carefully enough. Instead of finding the information missing from the passage, they do exactly the opposite and thereby answer the question incorrectly. Even though these all-important words are capitalized, they’re astonishingly easy to overlook.

So always circle them, underline them, star them, or do something to draw attention to them so that you won’t forget what you’re looking for. It’s worth spending an extra second or two to make sure you don’t unnecessarily lose the points.

A couple of years ago, I had an ACT student — let’s call him J. — who literally got every single one of this type of question wrong on the first few practice tests he did. After I told J. perhaps 50 or 60 times that his score would probably shoot up a good 5 points if he just started circling those words, it finally occurred to him to listen to me. Sure enough, he scored above a 30 the first time he tried that strategy. He was incredulous. “Gee,” I said. “Who ever would have guessed that would happen?”