Tag Archives: reading

Those of you who remember the old RIF commercials will probably chuckle at the reference, but the statement is as true today as it was back then: reading is fundamental. Strong reading and writing skills lie at the heart of the best grades, most impressive SAT & ACT scores, and most enduring professional success. Just because someone knows how to read doesn’t mean she reads well. Reading is a skill-based activity that improves with focused practice. That means that students should know how to read properly and then internalize the right strategies by reading challenging level-appropriate texts on a regular basis (HINT: National Geographic may be level-appropriate, but People magazine never is!) The benefits of exceptional reading skills are almost limitless, but include many obvious and highly desirable advantages: increased reading speed (which mean less time doing homework) improved comprehension (which means more knowledge as well as better grades and…

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Students often come to us with expressed fear of the math and English sections, and we usually start with one of those sections first because there is so much content we can cover that will quickly lead to higher scores. The Reading section of the tests, however, remains elusive, and is often the hardest section to make progress in. The best thing a student can do to improve their reading comprehension for the tests is read more–read widely, read often, read actively–and seek to understand what the text is saying, ideally by looking up vocabulary that is unfamiliar. Sustained reading increases the skills tested in the Reading section over time, but many students are scrambling to prepare for the SAT and ACT only a month or two before the exam date. So, when faced with a time crunch, what can we do to increase a student’s score in Reading? One…

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Though all students know it, not too many love it: the dreaded persuasive essay. What student hasn’t been compelled to learn the techniques of argumentation, incorporating claim, evidence, and reasoning, to craft a written or spoken persuasion piece? Happily, students can use these mandatory learning experiences in persuasive writing to their advantage in understanding SAT historical passages. The College Board explains how the U.S. Founding Documents and the Great Global Conversation, added in the last major test revision, evaluates understanding of classic rhetoric in action: “Authors, speakers, and thinkers from the United States and around the world… have broadened and deepened the conversation around such vital matters as freedom, justice, and human dignity.” Students will encounter passages from great leaders who, over time, have addressed vital issues in the areas of human rights, equality, government, citizenship, and the improvement of society. These leaders wrote not merely to inform but to…

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After over 25 years of trying to explain what complex standardized instruments like the SAT or ACT are meant to test, I still find the general explanation of “math, verbal, and test taking skills” woefully inadequate. Just as frustrating is the disconnect between the way these skills are tests in school as opposed to the exams themselves. Why is SAT math, for example, so different from school math, even though the discrete subject matter overlaps entirely? A recent comment from deep thinker Shane Parrish of Farnam Street helped me wrap my head around why the conventional view of what is tested fails to describe how multifarious and sophisticated those skills are: We tend to think of meta skills as the skill. For example, we default to thinking that reading is a skill. But there is really no skill called reading. Reading is the meta-skill that results when you alloy other…

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While most people focus on the big numbers on the ACT score report–section scores and Composite–there’s more to learn by digging deeper. ACT included three reporting categories each for English, reading, and science, as well as eight reporting categories for mathematics. These subscores provide more granular insight into test performance by sorting test questions into smaller categories that can be used to evaluate relative strength in specific subject areas. Why don’t we spend much time on ACT Reporting Categories? Basically, these subscores are worthless from an admissions perspective; colleges don’t care about them. However, Reporting Categories have value in terms of identifying key skills test takers should master for ACT success. In this, ACT Reading Reporting Categories can be particularly helpful. The ACT Reporting Category Interpretation Guide provides valuable insight into all of the subscores on the test. The Reading Reporting Categories fall into three large proficiencies: KEY IDEAS AND…

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The prevailing wisdom still holds that reading is fundamental. Why then are even our most academically ambitious teens spending so little leisure time with books? Yes, we live in a multimedia world awash in audiovisual delights. Any argument that people don’t consume enough information or immerse themselves sufficiently in art and stories falls flat in the Internet age. Tweets, emails, and videos may constitute the bulk of our information diets, but too much valuable knowledge is locked up in longform text. The only way to mine those rich veins of meaning is to read. The funny thing about reading is that just about all of us know how to do it, but not everyone does it well. Even worse, we don’t generally understand that reading is something that can be done better. Practice, in this area as in so many others, makes perfect because reading is a skill. The primary…

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