SAT vs. ACT reading: 5 key differences

SAT vs. ACT reading: 5 key differences

I was recently invited to do an interview about SAT vs. ACT Reading on the “Tests and the Rest” podcast, which is run by test-prep experts Amy Seeley and Mike Bergin and covers a wide range of issues related to standardized testing and college admissions. (This is actually the second time they’ve had me on; my previous interview, in which I discussed SAT vs. ACT grammar, can be found here. I’m not sure when the new interview will air but will post something when it does.)

I had a great time chatting with Amy and Mike, and as I looked at my notes, the thought popped into my mind that in all my years of running this blog, I had somehow neglected to devote a post to that particular topic. It also occurred to me that perhaps I’d actually done such a post and simply forgotten about, but when I went back and checked, it turned out that I had in fact never devoted an entire post to that particular topic. So I’m putting it up now. (more…)

To raise your ACT Reading score, answer fewer questions

To raise your ACT Reading score, answer fewer questions

Broadly speaking, time-based ACT Reading problems tend to fall into two categories.

The first category involves students who cannot even come close to finishing ACT Reading in time. At 35 minutes, they might still be only halfway through the third passage, and often their scores are stuck somewhere in the low 20s. Even if they’re solid readers, they need to radically change their approach in order to see significant improvement.

The second category typically involves students who are scoring in the mid-high 20s. Their overall comprehension is strong, and they could likely answer nearly all of the questions right given just 10 more minutes, but they can’t quite seem to get there in the allotted time.

If you fall into the second category, this post is for you. (more…)

Inference questions: the answer is closer than you think

Inference questions: the answer is closer than you think

When it comes to Reading questions on the SAT and ACT, nothing induces fear — or at least groans — like inference questions. Some of this reaction is undoubtedly due to the fact that they often seem so fuzzy. Part of the problem, I suspect,  stems from the fact that when people talk about inferences, they’re not always talking about the same thing.

One type of inference is more based on formal logic — that is, it involves the types of conclusions that can be drawn from various premises, and whether those conclusions can be considered valid. (more…)

New: SAT/ACT Reading Resources Page

New: SAT/ACT Reading Resources Page

From time to time, I get emails asking me to provide suggestions for SAT/ACT reading prep materials, and it finally occurred to me that I should create a formal SAT/ACT Reading Resources Page with all of my recommendations grouped in one place.

In the past, when I’ve received these types of requests, I’ve simply pointed people to Arts & Letters Daily; however, that site contains a huge number of links, some of which go to publications well beyond the scope of college-admissions exams. As a result, I’ve identified a smaller group of (online, free) magazines whose articles I find most reflective of SAT/ACT reading, and provided links to those.

I’ve also included a list of suggested authors, both fiction and non-fiction, classic and contemporary, in case you want to do some poking around on your own. And if you’re studying for the SAT, I’ve included links to a number of key historical documents.

New: SAT/ACT reading quizzes!

While going through all of my quizzes to make some edits/updates, I noticed that while there were an awful lot of grammar exercises, I was sorely lacking in the reading quizzes department — and that was really a major oversight (oops!) since for a lot of students, that’s the hardest part of the test. So I’ve decided to remedy the issue. (more…)

Remember 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.