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Improve your SAT/ACT Reading score by getting interested in what you are reading

What if your son or daughter LOVED SAT/ACT prep? Do you think that might make a difference in how much they improved?

Open up any SAT/ACT test prep book and you’ll find loads of strategies and tactics to improve your reading score. Things like:

-Underline key ideas

-Read the first sentence of each paragraph carefully

-Read the questions first

-Write the purpose of the passage

-Write questions in the margin

-Circle words you don’t know

-After reading the first paragraph, predict what the rest of the passage will be about

Some of these strategies are more effective than others (and some work better for some students than for others) but they all point toward a key idea. Understanding this key idea, and unlocking the power of that idea, will allow allow you to

-get through passages more quickly, with less re-reading

-remember more about the passages

-understand more of the passages

-enjoy the passages more

The key idea is engagement.

All of the ideas above, beyond helping you focus on important parts of the passage, force you to actively participate in the reading process.

-Underlining key ideas: requires you to identify key ideas, which means that ideas must be analyzed in order to decide how important they are.

-Read the first sentence of each paragraph: helps you understand the main idea of the paragraph, which makes it easier to compare what you are reading to the main idea

-Read the questions first: give you something to look for as you read.

-Write the purpose of the passage: forces you think think about how the ideas throughout the passage relate to each other.

-Write questions in the margin: forces you to go from “I don’t get this” to formulating a clear idea of what you don’t understand. That is the first step to understanding!

-Circle words you don’t know: help you clearly identify what you don’t know (first step in identifying what you do know!)

-Predicting what the passage will be about based on the first paragraph: give you something to look for as you read the rest of the passage (confirmation that your purpose is correct or contractions to your purpose).

Think about times you’ve read something that you didn’t particularly care to read (or, better, something you actively disliked or resented having to read). It can feel like words are moving past you without leaving any impression. It’s like being near a conversation that you aren’t paying attention to. You hear the words, but you don’t create any meaning out of it. In normal circumstances, this can make reading a frustrating, time-consuming process. On a timed test, it’s a killer.

But when you are reading something you ARE interested in? Many of the things I mentioned above happen automatically

In fiction:

-you speculate as to why a character acted in a surprising way.

-you make predictions about what is going to happen next

-you feel joy and sadness along with the characters of the story

In non-fiction:

-you think about ways to apply what you are reading about to your life

-you make connections about what you are learning to other things that you already know

-you ask questions about and investigate new information that you don’t understand.

You don’t have to “give yourself tasks” to stay engaged if it is something you are naturally engaged by. You will naturally be active.

Many “reading strategies” work because they help the student “fake” engagement. But what if students could choose to be engaged? What if they could bring the power of all of these strategies, and more, to bear every time they read, almost effortlessly? What if their engagement when they read an SAT passage, or a biology chapter, or a novel for their English class, was just as high as it is when they are reading a comic book, watching a movie, or playing a video game?

It can be.

Whether to be engaged in something or not is a choice. By default, it is a subconscious choice. But it CAN be a conscious choice. And as soon as a student realizes that engagement can be consciously turned on, it’s like turning on a reading superpower. But the right attitude is key. No one can be forced to engage or to think. But for a student who wants a different result, and is willing to do things differently, there are ways to turn that on that we’ll discuss in next week’s article.

Call 858.551.2650 or email help@wellsacademics.com to schedule a free diagnostic exam and test prep consultation with Vince.

Also, check out our “AP English Summer Book Club” workshop to give your students lots of opportunities to learn to love what they are reading!

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