The reading comprehension can be one of the toughest section for both the ACT and SAT. Some students find it easy, while others find it almost impossible to improve. The difference here lies in the level of reading ability that you approach the ACT reading or SAT reading with. Some students are stronger readers than others naturally, but the key to successful reading skills lies in practice, for everyone.
There are a number of strategies that you can use to improve your ACT reading score, and since the tests are so similar, this advice also applies to the SAT, and in fact many standardized tests that have reading comprehension sections. These strategies, in my opinion, fall into 3 groups:
- Question based strategies (aka tricks) that you can use to answer questions more effectively. For example, it may be faster to complete questions that direct you to look at a specific part of the passage. This is a strategy that can be applied effectively the first time you use it, but doesn’t really improve your reading overall.
- Shorter reading strategies that help you read more effectively during the test, but probably don’t usually help to improve your overall reading skills. For example, reading only the first and last lines of paragraphs if you are running out of time will help you understand the passage in the given time, but it isn’t really targeting your reading skills.
- Practical reading strategies that help you become a better reader. For example, summarizing in your head or out loud as you read. This takes some practice before it becomes effective, and certainly takes practice before it becomes automatic, but it will really help you to improve in the long term.
All students should be aware of all these ACT reading strategies, and consider using different ones depending on need. It’s important to recognize whether you’re struggling with the reading section because of a specific test based issue, or whether it’s your wider reading skills that need work. In these articles, I tend to address one of these 3 levels of strategy, so it’s helpful to know what you need to improve about your ACT reading before you begin.