Now available on Amazon: The Complete Guide to ACT Reading


Intended to debunk the myth that ACT Reading Comprehension cannot be approached strategically, The Complete Guide to ACT Reading is the first independently-published book devoted entirely to the Reading Comprehension section of the ACT. Combining fundamentals of comprehension with test-taking strategy, the book includes:

  • extensive strategies for managing time throughout the Reading Comprehension section as a whole as well on each passage/question set.
  • an in-depth explanation of skimming techniques — learn to focus on the most important parts of a passage without getting lost in the details, and to locate key information more rapidly as you work through the questions.
  • an overview of common passage topics and themes designed to teach you to “read the test” and identify correct and incorrect answers more accurately and efficiently.
  • a complete chapter devoted to each major question type: literal comprehension, vocabulary-in-context, function/purpose, tone, inference, and point of view.
  • examples from The Real Guide Guide to ACT, 3rd Ed. demonstrating how to apply the techniques discussed to actual ACT questions.

The Complete Guide to ACT Reading offers an approach that can be used by a students at a wide range of score levels and goals. With passages drawn from the same contemporary sources and authors as actual ACT material, it provides accurate, rigorous preparation designed to teach you exactly what to expect when you sit down to take the real exam.


To anyone who purchased a copy of The Complete Guide to ACT English before 8/25/14:

P. 35 incorrectly states that the word however should only be used after a semicolon, not a period, at the beginning of a clause. In reality, the ACT considers both constructions correct.

Correct: Many people believe the tomato is a vegetable; however, it is actually a fruit.

Correct: Many people believe the tomato is a vegetable. However, it is actually a fruit.

On grammar questions, “semicolon + however” will be used, while on rhetoric questions, “period + However” will be used. To the best of my knowledge (based on about 25 tests), you will never be asked to choose between the two constructions.

Affected pages:

p. 35

p. 40

p. 46

p. 179

p. 243


I recently spoke with Celest Horton, who runs the “How to Pay For College” podcast series, about how to prepare for the English and Reading Comprehension sections of the ACT.

You can listen to the interview here or download it in iTunes here.


The first truly comprehensive guide to ACT English is now available.

270 pages of ACT grammar and rhetoric fun, dispelling the myth that the ACT is immune to shortcuts and providing answers to such eternal question as:

  • What’s the second use of a colon?
  • How do I really know whether the following true sentence should be inserted?
  • What the heck is a dash, and how am I supposed to use it?

Features a “cheat sheet” for the most commonly tested concepts as well as passages about all-time favorite ACT topics including Native American gardening techniques, Asian-American architects, and what happens to your recycling after it gets hauled away.

There are also two appendices listing all of the English questions in the Real Guide to the ACTone by concept, one by test.

You can find it on Amazon.

And for a preview, click here.


If you’re looking to have some fun (or not) working on vocabulary over the holidays, here’s your chance! My SAT Sentence Completion Workbook is now available on Amazon.

SAT Sentence Completion Workbook

The book features 350+ questions, grouped by both difficulty level (easy, medium, hard) and in SAT-style sets of 5-8 questions in ascending level of difficulty. All questions include vocabulary tested on recently administered SATs, with an emphasis on high-frequency words and, in the hardest questions, alternate meanings of common words.

In short, if you’ve already finished memorizing a few hundred words and want to work on practice questions without using up all your College Board material, this is the book for you.

Now, a couple of very important things:

1) The strategy explanations and vocabulary lists are excerpted from The Critical Reader. It does, however, include 350 entirely new practice questions. 

I’m going out of my way to mention this so that no one will buy the book expecting new material and then write me a nasty review complaining that the material is repeated! I needed to discuss strategies and work through sample questions, and since I already had an entire chapter’s worth of material, it didn’t make sense to start from scratch.

2) As indicated by the title, this is a sentence completion workbook, not a vocabulary book!

Although I do include lists of top words, I do not provide definitions for all of them (general definitions are only given for the words grouped by category, and detailed definitions are only given for words with multiple meanings). This was in part a deliberate strategy: if you have to look up and write down a word yourself, you’re a lot more like to remember it!

If you’re looking for a vocabulary book, I suggest you purchase the Direct Hits series or Larry’s Krieger’s Essential 500 Words. The Sentence Completion Workbook is designed to supplement an actual vocabulary book, not replace it. The point of this book is to give you lots and lots and lots of practice applying what you’ve learned.


I got interviewed by L.A. Tutors! You can click here to read it.

Apparently the other people they’ve interviewed haven’t gone nearly so in-depth… What can I say? Soundbites have never really been my thing.