Tag Archives: reading

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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As someone who speaks often to groups of parents of college-bound high schoolers eager to help their teens advance and prosper, I hear all kinds of questions. I’ve answered most inquiries about the SAT and ACT, why they matter, and what should be done about them so often that my responses tend to spawn detailed articles. One common question, however, appears easy on its face but has proven difficult to fully answer over the years: “What can or should my 9th or 10th grader be doing now to prepare for the SAT or ACT?” Simple, right? The early grades may be too soon for formal prep but they are exactly when teens should be building their academic foundations for future test success. Since the SAT and ACT test fundamental reading, writing, and math skills, freshman and sophomores should focus on excelling in those core areas in two basic ways: 1.…

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Reading, at least as far as Jim Rohn is concerned, is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary. Yet far too many teens who aspire to the latter cannot be bothered with the former. Too bad, as a regular reading habit not only leads to literacy but also throws off tons of ancillary benefits from happiness to serenity to community engagement. Despite the massive benefits from reading regularly, more than half of students average fewer than 15 minutes a day of reading. The true shame in this deficiency can be found in the implications of how much reading per day makes sense: 15 minutes seems to be the “magic number” at which students start seeing substantial positive gains in reading achievement; students who read just over a half-hour to an hour per day see the greatest gains of all. Reading ability–like so many skills–stems from regularity. Study…

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The SAT and ACT have never been more alike than they are today, in that both exams challenge reading, writing, and problem solving skills in the same sort of standardized, mostly multiple-choice fashion. However, the two exams differ in both subtle and blatant ways, the most obvious of which is the ACT Science section. Like so many facets of these tests, ACT Science delivers very different challenges than expected. Sure, this section features passages drawn from topics in biology, chemistry, physics, and Earth and space science. However, the questions hardly test content knowledge at all. In fact, test takers don’t face any real disadvantage for not having taken these subjects. So if ACT Science doesn’t test science per se, what skills and strategies does this section really demand? READING SKILLS On our (awesome) Tests and the Rest podcast, Amy Seeley and I enjoyed a very insightful conversation with Michael Cerro…

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