Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.
ACT Reading Structure
The ACT Reading test tests your critical reading skills with a total of 40 multiple-choice questions: four passages with 10 questions each. The format of the test is pretty straightforward. But that doesn't make it easy, even if you're a real bookworm!
ACT Reading isn't really like reading you typically do for school or for fun, so it's good to know what you'll see on the test and how it all translates into the most important part: your score. In this lesson, you'll get an overview of the passages and questions, how your answers are graded and what it all means to you.
On the test, you'll see four passages, one in each of the following subject areas:
Literary narrative or prose fiction:
Prose fiction means a short story or an excerpt from a longer work. Literary narrative includes everything under prose fiction, but it could also be a passage from a memoir or a personal essay. On the test, you'll get one or the other but not both.
This will cover a subject area like biology, ecology, geology or something similar. Think of a passage from National Geographic, and you'll come pretty close.
This will be political or social science - think history, politics, economics or psychology. The passage will read like something you'd find in a magazine like The Economist or Time.
This will be on a topic like art history, music or TV criticism or philosophy. Think of the New York Review of Books, an in-depth movie review or the arts section of a major newspaper.
Each passage will be labeled with the subject area, so you'll know straight away what you're dealing with. No one passage type is designed to be any harder than any other type. But some students do find that for them personally, certain passage types are predictably harder or easier. That's fine, and it's really helpful to identify which passages are your particular bugbears. On the real test, just skip past those and save them for last, so you get all the easy points first. This maximizes your score by raising the number of questions you have time to answer. If you have time, you can work on the really tough passage after you've already knocked out all the others.
Now for the questions you'll see about these passages. Each passage will be followed by 10 multiple-choice questions with four answers each. The questions will ask you about what's stated or implied in the passage. You won't need to have any outside knowledge of the topic to score well. In fact, you shouldn't bring in any outside information. Sometimes the questions are designed to trap you into wrong answers if you try to use anything but the information in the passage. Don't try to outsmart the test; just use the information they give you.
You'll get 35 minutes to do all those questions. That's just under one minute per question! The questions aren't arranged in difficulty order; they follow the order of the passage. It's perfectly fine to skip around from question to question - in fact, it's a very good strategy. If you get to one that you just can't figure out, circle it and move on to greener pastures. You can come back later if you have time.
And now for the million-dollar question: how are you being graded on this?
For each question you answer correctly, you score one point. For each incorrect answer and for each question left blank, you get zero points. That means it's in your interest to guess for every question. There's no guessing penalty, and you might as well take your one-in-four shot at scoring a point. At the very end of the section, just quickly look through all the bubbles you left blank and bubble in a random letter for all of them.
To determine your final score, the graders tally up all your correct answers and convert that number into a scale score between one and 36, the higher the better. A score in the low 20s is around average. Anything above a 30 is extremely good.
In this lesson, you got a preview of the ACT Reading test. It's a multiple-choice test of your ability to read and understand passages. You'll see four passages: one natural sciences, one social studies, one humanities and one that's either literary narrative or prose fiction. Each passage will have 10 questions that you can answer with only the information in the passage. You'll never need to remember anything from classes or outside learning.
You'll earn points on the Reading test for correct answers, but you aren't penalized for incorrect answers, so bubble in at least a guess for every question. Ultimately, you'll end up with a scale score between 1-36. Hopefully that number makes you happy, but if it doesn't, there's a simple solution: more practice! And you can start with the quiz questions at the end of the lesson to make sure you've got the format down before you start worrying about the questions.
After watching this lesson, you should be able to understand how the ACT Reading test is structured, so you can conquer the test with confidence.
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