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Test PrepACTReadingTime Management

ACT Reading Skill Review: Time Management

The need for solid time management skills is a constant throughout the ACT. The Reading test itself is only 35 minutes long. With 40 questions, you’ll have less than a minute per question. Since the questions are based on one or two passages, it’s easy to get mired in a passage and lose track of time. This can be a costly mistake.

What the Typical Test-Taker Does

The typical test-taker starts at the beginning of the Reading test and works diligently through each passage as it comes and the questions that follow it. More often than not, he or she doesn’t make it all the way through the test.

Don’t Be Typical

Here’s a better strategy for you and remember, every multiple-choice question is worth the same amount. Speed doesn’t count for anything if careless mistakes are the result:
  1. Do the passages in the order that makes the most sense FOR YOU. You’ll be given four sections, each with one or two passages and associated questions. These sections are natural sciences, social studies, prose fiction and humanities. If you excel at prose fiction and humanities, by all means do them first! If social studies are your thing, tackle them first. Take charge.
  2. Don’t get lost in a passage. Don’t spend more than a few minutes actively reading the passage before getting to the questions.
  3. Don’t get hung up on any one question. Eliminate as many answer choices as you can, make your best guess and move on. If there’s time at the end, you can circle back.
  4. Once you commit to a passage, commit to it. While you can order the passages in any order you want, don’t jump back and forth from passage to passage. Tackle all the questions on a passage before moving to the next passage. If one question trips you up, make your best guess and move on.
Remember: You are in control of your testing experience. If you get stuck or lost or freaked-out, take ten seconds, close your eyes, and take a deep breath. Those ten seconds will be well-spent.

Don’t Panic if You Don’t Finish

Unless you are aiming for a score above 30*, you really don’t need to tackle all the questions. But that doesn’t mean you’ll leave some blank. Since there is no guessing penalty, be sure to bubble in some answer (any answer) for each question you are faced with. To leave them blank is like leaving money on the table. Chances are you’ll get at least one or two right.

*Note, if you are aiming for a score above 30, you really don’t want to leave things up to chance. This means you’ll want to (truly) attempt and answer each question.


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Don Munce