Skipping to the Questions on the ACT Reading Test

Skipping to the Questions on the ACT Reading Test

By /

You may have heard an ACT Reading test tactic where instead of reading the passage first, you read the questions. Three words: DON’T DO IT. To illustrate my point, look at any ACT Reading test (click here to download one now) and take note of how many questions make sense without the context of the passage they refer to.  In almost all of the questions, you’ll have no idea what the question is asking about unless you read the passage.

If you use this tactic, you have to read the question, which has no meaning to you, then you have to refer back to the passage and try to make it make sense. You still end up having to read the passage, only this time you get the added step of reading a confusing question first.

There is no way around reading the passage. Actually, the reason why the test prep guides recommend first skipping the passage is that some students waste time with the passages. In other words, these students don’t read the passage actively. They don’t read it in a way that will help them with answering the questions on the test. If they don’t do that, they may as well skip it!

What I recommend is that you read through the passage as fast as you possibly can while still understanding it. Mentally make a note of where to find things. Oh, this is where he mentions where he is from. This is where she goes on vacation. Oh, this is where the narrator talks about the company meeting. Remember the locations of the segments of the passage and try to get a general understanding of the excerpt.

Keep in mind that you’ll be referring back to the passage as you address each individual question, so you don’t have to memorize every line!

Attacking the ACT Reading test in this manner will save you wasted time and prevent you from feeling frantic.

Again, if you just skim through the passage and don’t actively read it to understand it and note where the different content is, and if instead when you get to the bottom of the passage it’s just a big blank for you, well, yes, you may as well skip it.

Actively read and make it worth your while to read the passage first.

The only time I recommend that you skip the passage is if you are having so much trouble with focusing on the text that you just can’t concentrate no matter what you do, then go ahead and skip to the questions. At least this will help you concentrate on the information that you need. But this is only after you’ve tried to read it.

Hopefully, you’ve done what I’ve recommended (and what we do in the ACT Mastery online ACT test prep program) and you have improved your vocabulary and been reading a lot to increase your reading level so that you don’t run into these sorts of issues on the ACT Reading test. If your reading level is up to snuff you shouldn’t have any problem with reading through the passage and then tackling the questions head-on.