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The Complete Guide to ACT Reading, Second Edition Review by Sheila Chairvolotti

Erica L. Meltzer
The Critical Reader

Test taking. Do you love it? Do you hate it? Do you see it as a game or as torture? There are many different thoughts about standardized testing, but frankly, if you wish to attend college, you will probably end up taking a standardized test such as the ACT or SAT; and as colleges use these scores in their acceptance and scholarship awarding processes, the higher the score you receive, the better! Whether you are a “natural” at scoring high on tests or one who needs a bit more strategy, The Complete Guide to ACT Reading, Second Edition, is a great resource which can help you attain high scores in the reading section.

This ACT reading guide introduces students to the different reading portions of the ACT (prose fiction, social science, humanities, and natural science) as well as the different passage types which are frequently found on the test (including the paired passage format.) After the introduction, the bulk of the book is spent in discussing different strategies for test completion, question reading, and passage understanding.

There is a huge variety of advice given in this book, things that relate to students with different strengths and weaknesses. One section dissects the test using time (minutes per question) and explains different approaches for “using time effectively on each passage/question set.” Another section advises about speeds of reading: when to use a skimming process and when to pay attention to detail (as well as HOW to skim effectively.) Further sections connect and contrast skimming a paragraph to skimming an entire passage, along with how to pick out the main point and the tone of the passage. There is advice on viewing the vocabulary by context as well as inferring (reasonably) from a passage—with the caveat that there is only ONE correct answer to each question.

My daughter took the ACT once already (without test prep) and needs to up her score by one point to qualify for a higher scholarship at her school of choice. This book gives her the tools to improve. A student can identify which aspects of the reading test are difficult or time-consuming for him or her and then focus on that section of the book—or they can take the time and work chapter by chapter through the entire book. My daughter is using the skimming hints to learn to move quickly through a passage, honing in on the requested information. Each learner is a bit different, and this book speaks to each one.

This book is a thin-looking book, and when one realizes that the last 32 pages consist of two practice tests, it may seem lightweight, but it is most certainly not! The book is filled with information that a test-taker will find helpful and important!

I highly recommend this book. I will say, shallowly, that it is not very attractive, so to a high schooler perusing the racks of test-prep books it might not seem as enticing as some—the print is small, the pages are very full with tiny margins, and there are no illustrations or color. If this causes some to bypass it, that is a loss to them. Students seriously wishing to improve their ACT scores will probably not need the “bells and whistles,” but rather dive right into improving their tactics to allow themselves to attain a high score on this portion of the ACT.

-Product review by Sheila Chairvolotti, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2017