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ACT Reading

Everything you need to know to get a perfect ACT Reading score.

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ACT Science

Everything you need to know to get a perfect ACT Science score.

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ACT Math

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ACT Reading

Everything you need to know to get a perfect ACT Reading score.

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ACT Engish

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ACT Science

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ACT Math

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ACT Reading

Everything you need to know to get a perfect ACT Reading score.

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ACT English

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ACT Writing

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ACT Reading

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ACT Science

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ACT Math

Everything you need to know to get a perfect ACT Math score.

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ACT Reading

Everything you need to know to get a perfect ACT Reading score.

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Plagiarism

The single most important strategy to get the ACT Reading questions correct is to plagirize the answers from the passages itself

Let’s say you just read a passage on the formation of oil under ancient oceans. The first question is: What is the main purpose of this passage?

They aren’t going to give you “sub-ocean oil formation” as one answer and “porcupines eating electric cables” as the other three answers.  Instead, the answers will probably look something like this

  • To describe a specific process and its effects on human beings
  • To explain the development of natural substances
  • To explain why ancient oceans were perfect sites for future oil development
  • To show the reader how and why a certain substance is formed

Do you see what’s happening here? Every answer choice seems like it could be legitimate. Sure, you’ll get some silly answers periodically, but for the most part, they all look like legitimately right answers.

The SAT test makers make their living by creating answer choices that seem correct and therefore, can trick the test-taker. That’s why they’re getting paid. Even worse, they’re really good at making legitimate answers seem wrong!

Generally speaking, in the Reading Test, if you are picking an answer choice because it seems correct and not because you have found a concrete piece of evidence in the passage, it is the sucker choice. If you find the cleverly hidden piece of information and/or relationship in the passage, you are generally sure that you are getting it correct (and you will recognize the tempting sucker choice).

Therefore, the most important rule on the SAT Reading Test: Predict an answer before looking at the answer choices provided. The first thing to understand is that if you do not predict an answer, you will be often be sucked into picking the trap answer.  

The reason that the reading answers seem so correct is similar to the reason why discounts on e-commerce websites seem so attractive. Have you been online and seen a sign on a pair of shoes posting that reads “Now at INR 3,000! Original price INR 6,000.”

I bet you have. And here’s the funny thing - even though you’ve seen this sort of trickery countless times, you can’t keep your brain from thinking, “Wow! What an amazing deal. I need to buy it before it reverts to its original price!”

The pair of shoes is worth less than INR 3,000, which is why they’re selling it for INR 3,000, but you see INR 6,000 and immediately anchor onto it. You assume that INR 6,000 is the correct price of the shoe. You make your buying decisions based on false information that your brain is justifying rather than disproving.

You will do the exact same thing with tricky answer choices unless you protect yourself.  When you see a trap answer you think, “Hmmm, yeah, they did mention that. Actually, they talked about it quite a bit. I mean, it’s right there in the passage! It seems like a correct answer!” You just justified an incorrect answer. No one is immune to this; everyone does it. It is part of our mental makeup.

The only way to protect yourself from this tendency is to predict an answer before you look at the answer choices. Once you master the art of predicting the right answer to every question, you will be surprised how silly some of the trap wrong answers look.

Remember, the SAT Reading Test requires zero previous knowledge. To get a perfect score, you don’t need to know any science, history, or names of civil rights leaders. However, if you use prior knowledge, you are in trouble. Use only the information presented in the passage in front of you.

In essence, you want to plagiarize from the passage as much as you possibly can. The more you steal from the reading, the better. In fact, the answer you come up with can also be a carbon copy of the text from the passage.

What if you cannot just come up with an answer or your prediction is just not there in the answer choice? Should you spend more time looking for it? Absolutely. Re-read the portion of the passage, re-read the question, take a moment to think – do whatever you need to gain a solid idea of what the right answer will look like. If you still cannot make a prediction, use the technique of elimination to come to the correct answer.

Of course, there are a few cases where you can’t come up with your own answer, such as:

  1. What does the author NOT mention in this passage? (This could be an number of things.)
  2. Which of the following AREN’T cited as reasons for oil formation? (Again, this could be an infinite number of things.)

Notice that all of these problems have to do with ABSENCE. Since they’re asking what doesn’t happen, it’s nearly impossible to come up with a reasonable answer. However, in ALL other cases, you need to do your best to come up with something.  For instance, if you just read a passage about Shakespeare and his refusal to follow the standard writing conventions of his day, and you see a question like this:

What’s a likely name for the book which contains this passage?

You could come up with something such as “The Unorthodox Writing Style of Shakespeare.”  It probably won’t be the exact answer, but it’ll be close.

Finding Support

We have already stated the importance of predicting an answer. However, the answer you predict should be supported directly from the passage. Therefore, you need to go back and make sure you know where in the passage your prediction is supported—actually find the text!

Read the following passage and mark each statement with supported, unsupported (meaning it’s not addressed), or contradicted by the passage.
In the late nineteenth century, the need for women physicians in missionary hospitals in Canton, China, led to expanded opportunities for both Western and Chinese women. The presence of Western women as medical missionaries in China was made possible by certain changes within the Western missionary movement. Beginning in the 1870s, increasingly large numbers of women were forming women’s foreign mission societies dedicated to the support of women’s foreign mission work. Beyond giving the women who organized the societies a formal activity outside their home circles, these organizations enabled an increasing number of single women missionaries (as opposed to women who were part of the more typical husband-wife missionary teams) to work abroad. Before the formation of these women’s organizations, mission funds had been collected by ministers and other church leaders, most of who emphasized local parish work. What money was spent on foreign missions was under the control of exclusively male foreign mission boards whose members were uniformly uneasy about the new idea of sending single women out into the mission field. But as women’s groups began raising impressive amounts of money donated specifically in support of single women missionaries, the home churches bowed both to women’s changing roles at home and to increasing numbers of single professional missionary women abroad. Although the idea of employing a woman physician was a daring one for most Western missionaries in China, Canton mission hospital administrators could not ignore the advantages of a well-trained Western woman physician. A woman physician could attend women patients without offending any of the accepted conventions of female modesty. Eventually, some of these women were able to found and head separate women’s medical institutions, thereby gaining access to professional responsibilities far beyond those available to them at home. These developments also led to the attainment of valuable training and status by a significant number of Chinese women. The presence of women physicians in Canton mission hospitals led many Chinese women to avail themselves of Western medicine who might otherwise have failed to do so because of their culture’s emphasis on physical modesty. In order to provide enough women physicians for these patients, growing numbers of young Chinese women were given instruction in medicine. This enabled them to earn an independent income, something that was then largely unavailable to women within traditional Chinese society. Many women graduates were eventually able to go out on their own into private practice, freeing themselves of dependence upon the mission community. The most important result of these opportunities was the establishment of clear evidence of women’s abilities and strengths, clear reasons for affording women expanded opportunities, and clear role models for how these abilities and responsibilities might be exercised.

For the following sentences, state if the sentence is Supported (S), Unsupported (U), or Contradicted (C) in the passage. If it is either Supported (S) or Contradicted (C) by the passage, then state the line numbers.

  1. There were very few women involved in foreign missionary work before the 1870s.
    Supported (S), Unsupported (U), or Contradicted (C):
    Line Numbers:
  2. In nineteenth-century China, the number of Western female doctors was not sufficient to provide care for all the women who wished to be seen by a female doctor.
    Supported (S), Unsupported (U), or Contradicted (C):
    Line Numbers:
  3. In the late nineteenth century, opportunities for women physicians were greater in Western countries than in China.
    Supported (S), Unsupported (U), or Contradicted (C):
    Line Numbers:
  4. The majority of professional women missionaries working abroad before the 1870s were located in Canton, China
    Supported (S), Unsupported (U), or Contradicted (C):
    Line Numbers:
  5. In late-nineteenth-century Canton, China, it was not customary for female patients to be treated by male physicians
    Supported (S), Unsupported (U), or Contradicted (C):
    Line Numbers:
  6. Most women missionaries working abroad before the 1870s were married to men who were also missionaries.
    Supported (S), Unsupported (U), or Contradicted (C):
    Line Numbers:
  7. The presence of Western women as medical missionaries in China was made possible primarily through fundraising initiated by church leaders.
    Supported (S), Unsupported (U), or Contradicted (C):
    Line Numbers:
  8. In late-nineteenth-century Canton, China, medical care was more often administered in the home than in hospitals.
    Supported (S), Unsupported (U), or Contradicted (C):
    Line Numbers:

Solutions:

  1. Unsupported. Lines 8-12 say that there was an increase in the number of women’s missionary societies in the 1870s, but we don’t know how many such societies there were before. In any case, the question is about the number of women missionaries, not the number of societies. Lines 16–18 tell us that husband-wife teams were typical, so there were at least some women missionaries, but we’re unsure of the numbers.
  2. Supported. Lines 56-60 indicate that many young Chinese women were trained in medicine in order to meet the demand from women seeking care from a female doctor.
  3. Contradicted. Lines 46-48 describe female physicians in China who gained “access to professional responsibilities far beyond those available to them at home.”
  4. Unsupported. Although the opening lines mention that demand in Canton created opportunities for women, this is far from saying that “the majority of professional women missionaries” were located there. Notice that this doesn’t just say the majority of those in China, but the majority of those “working abroad” in general. We don’t even know about the distribution of missionaries in China, let alone the rest of the world!
  5. Supported. Lines 42-60 tell us that before the arrival of female doctors, a culture of physical modesty prevented many female patients from seeking Western medical treatment
  6. Supported. Lines 16-18 tell us that women typically went on missions as part of a husband-wife team
  7. Contradicted. Church leaders emphasized local work (lines 22-24). Women groups led fundraising efforts, which led to an increase in women working abroad (lines 30-37).
  8. Unsupported. We simply know nothing about this. Though the passage states that not all women received Western-style medical treatment, this doesn’t tell us that they (or anyone else) were receiving medical care.

SIMPLE SIMPLE ANSWER

One last tip before we move onto a solved example is every time you predict an answer, strive to come up with THE MOST BASIC, SIMPLE, STUPID ANSWER IMAGINABLE.  

Often, this is all you really need. You’ll find that you can eliminate three wrong answers with something stupid like “he is proving a point” or “it is a family.” For instance:

Before: He thinks that Suzy is being mean to Marc even though she likes him.
After: Suzy is mean to Marc.

Before: The author is proving that relative time is a figment of our collective imagination.
After: The author is proving something.

Before: Dolphins aren’t actually the only creatures in the ocean capable of swimming with such great speeds.
After: Disproves something about dolphins’ speed.

Do you see how, even without context, the “after” answers are all clearer, simpler, and less likely to be tripped up with nonsense?

The Devil is in the details, so they say. And this is especially true for the SAT Reading Test and the tricky answer choices it contains. Details are what derail you, tempt you, and throw you off track. If you can build up the fortitude to ignore details and to stick with hyper-basic answers whenever possible, you’ll be much less likely to fall for the SAT’s tricks (and you’ll be a lot faster, too).

For example, if a passage is about the Health Benefits of Peanut Butter, and a question asks:

“What’s the main idea of this passage?”

     A. The author is arguing against an opponent

     B. The nutritional values of all foods are underrated

     C. The nutritional value of peanut butter is underrated

     D. Peanut butter is dangerous

Don’t get caught up in the details. Just say something like: “He’s making a point about peanut butter.” Most of the time, that’s all you’ll need.

You know, based on your ludicrously simple, boiled down answer that A and B are trash. Now you can go in and look for details that’ll let you eliminate C or D ((the only two solutions that have to do with peanut butter). What you don’t want to do is try “researching” A and B to see how they could be valid. This is arguing on behalf of the answer choices, which is EXACTLY what this test wants you to do!

Your job is to make the “tricky” answer choices so dumb and un-tempting that you couldn’t possibly consider them, and you do this most effectively by coming up with answers stripped of all imaginable details.

Got it? Good!

From now on, keep this concept in mind whenever you’re working on Reading questions. Strive for the simplest answer with the fewest words and the fewest details possible.

Only if your hyper-simplistic answer has more than one answer choice remaining should you go back and look for additional background or detail. You might be surprised to see how little information you actually need to get your way through the critical reading questions flawlessly.

As a bonus, you will also significantly reduce your silly mistakes. It’s a beautiful thing!
Like all good things in life, though, it’s one thing to recognize the value of something, and it’s another thing entirely to be good at doing it. Plagiarizing takes practice. You need to practice it diligently every time you do a reading exercise or attempt a mock test. Practice makes perfect: an old adage that could not be truer here.

Let’s see how this works in real life. Let’s run through an entire SAT passage from the Diagnostic Test. Once you get a feel for how to do this, you’ll feel much more comfortable doing it yourself.

We’re using this passage because:

  • If you used this test as your first diagnostic, you’re familiar with it already
  • It’s a great example of a passage full of “land-mine answers” - wrong answers that seem legitimate, until you’ll realize they are automatically wrong if you come up with your own answer first
  • It’s a history passage based on 1869 Woman Suffrage Convention, and everyone hates these kinds of archaic passages
Read the below passage and try to come up with your own answers. We’ve hidden the answer choices so you can practice plagiarizing and predicting answers.
Three kinds of study have been performed on Byron. There is the biographical study - the very valuable examination of Byron’s psychology and the events in his life; Escarpit’s 1958 work is an example of this kind of study, and biographers to this day continue to speculate about Byron’s life. Equally valuable is the study of Byron as a figure important in the history of ideas; Russell and Praz have written studies of this kind. Finally, there are studies that primarily consider Byron’s poetry. Such literary studies are valuable, however, only when they avoid concentrating solely on analyzing the verbal shadings of Byron’s poetry to the exclusion of any discussion of biographical considerations. A study with such a concentration would be of questionable value because Byron’s poetry, for the most part, is simply not poetry of subtle verbal meanings. Rather, on the whole, Byron’s poems record the emotional pressure of certain moments in his life. I believe we cannot often read a poem of Byron’s, as we often can one of Shakespeare’s, without wondering what events or circumstances in his life prompted him to write it. No doubt the fact that most of Byron’s poems cannot be convincingly read as subtle verbal creations indicates that Byron is not a “great” poet. It must be admitted too that Byron’s literary craftsmanship is irregular and often his temperament disrupts even his lax literary method (although the result, an absence of method, has a significant purpose: it functions as a rebuke to a cosmos that Byron feels he cannot understand). If Byron is not a “great” poet, his poetry is nonetheless of extraordinary interest to us because of the pleasure it gives us. Our main pleasure in reading Byron’s poetry is the contact with a singular personality. Reading his work gives us illumination—self-understanding—after we have seen our weaknesses and aspirations mirrored in the personality we usually find in the poems. Anyone who thinks that this kind of illumination is not a genuine reason for reading a poet should think carefully about why we read Donne’s sonnets. It is Byron and Byron’s idea of himself that hold his work together (and that enthralled early 19th century Europe). Different characters speak in his poems, but finally it is usually he himself who is speaking: a far cry from the impersonal poet Keats. Byron’s poetry alludes to Greek and Roman myth in the context of contemporary affairs, but his work remains generally of a piece because of his close presence in the poetry. In sum, the poetry is a shrewd personal performance, and to shut out Byron the man is to fabricate a work of pseudo criticism.

Write in your prediction about the best answer for each of the following questions:

  1. Which one of the following titles best expresses the main idea of the passage?
  2. The author’s mention of Russell and Praz serves primarily to
  3. Which one of the following does the author most likely considers to be a valuable study of Byron?
  4. Which one of the following statements best describes the organization of the first paragraph of the passage?
  5. The author mentions that “Byron’s literary craftsmanship is irregular” (lines 32-33) most probably in order to
  6. According to the author, Shakespeare’s poems differ from Byron’s in that Shakespeare’s poems
  7. The author indicates which one of the following about biographers’ speculation concerning Byron’s life?
  8. The passage supplies specific information that provides a definitive answer to which one of the following questions?

Solutions

  1. This question asks us to express the main idea in terms of a title for the passage. While it would be hard to predict the exact style of the title, it’s going to have to be something that stresses the importance of Byron as a person, not just as a poet.
    Prediction: To study Byron’s poetry correctly, one must also study Byron himself
  2. Hmm, all we know about Russell and Praz is that they wrote a study of Byron’s place in the history of ideas, and the author seems to find this valuable. So, we could say their studies are examples of useful kinds of study.
    Prediction: Provide an example of a useful kind of study.
  3. The author believes the first two kinds of study (biography and history of ideas) are valuable, but the main focus is Byron’s poetic influences. So, the answer seems most likely to focus on that.
    Prediction: Something that looks at Byron’s poetry by examining his life.
  4. The author describes some useful ways to study Byron and one not-so-useful way, then explains why it’s important to consider Byron’s life when you study his poetry.
    Prediction: A few ways to study Byron, then a focus on studies of his poetry and why it’s important to consider his life.
  5. The author acknowledges some of Byron’s faults here, but the overall point is not that he is a bad poet, just that his tactics differ from other poets, and he still creates pleasure for the reader. So, maybe the purpose is to concede a point to critics of Byron, but this part also sets us up for the author to tell us what is good about Byron in the second half of the paragraph.
    Prediction: To challenge ideas about what makes a “great” poet.
  6. The author thinks we can read Shakespeare’s poems without wondering what led him to write them, but we can’t do the same with Byron’s. Why? In line 23 , we see that Byron’s work is not about subtle verbal meanings but about his life. Maybe Shakespeare’s poems are verbally subtle and not overly biographical, but the author doesn’t say that for sure. It seems like a stretch.
    Prediction: We can read Shakespeare’s poems without thinking about his life.
  7. We don’t have a whole lot to go on here. The second sentence tells us that this speculation is valuable and that biographers continue to engage in it.
    Prediction: It’s valuable and it continues.
  8. This doesn’t give us much to go on, does it? Well then
    Prediction: Straight to the answer choices!

Now let’s try answering the questions directly, based on our predictions:

1. Which one of the following titles best expresses the main idea of the passage?

    A. An Absence of Method: Why Byron Is Not a “Great” Poet

     B. Byron: The Recurring Presence in Byron’s Poetry

     C. Personality and Poetry: The Biographical Dimension of 19th Century Poetry

     D. Byron’s Poetry: Its Influence on the Imagination of Early 19th Century Europe

2. The author’s mention of Russell and Praz serves primarily to

     A. differentiate them from one another

     B. contrast their conclusions about Byron with those of Escarpit

     C. point out the writers whose studies suggest a new direction for Byron scholarship

     D. provide examples of writers who have written one kind of study of Byron


3. Which one of the following would the author most likely consider to be a valuable study of Byron?

     A. A study that compared Byron’s poetic style with Keats’ poetic style

     B. A study that argued that Byron’s thought ought not to be analyzed at all

     C. A study that sought to identify the emotions felt by Byron at a particular time in his life

     D. A study in which a literary critic drew on experiences from his or her own life


4. Which one of the following statements describes the organization of the first paragraph of the passage?

     A. A generalization is made and then gradually refuted

     B. A number of theories are discussed and then the author chooses the most convincing one

     C. Several categories are mentioned and then one category is discussed in some detail

     D. A classification is made and then a rival classification is substituted in its place


5. The author mentions “Byron’s literary craftsmanship is irregular” (lines 32-33) most probably to

     A. contrast Byron’s poetic skill with that of Shakespeare’s

     B. dismiss craftsmanship as a standard by which to judge poets

    C. offer another reason why Byron is not a “great” poet

    D. point out a negative consequence of Byron’s belief that the cosmos is incomprehensible


6. According to the author, Shakespeare’s poems differ from Byron’s in that Shakespeare’s poems

     A. have elicited a wider variety of responses from both literary critics and biographers

     B. are on the whole less susceptible to being read as subtle verbal creations

     C. do not grow out of, or are not motivated by, actual events or circumstances in the poet’s life

     D. can often be read without the reader’s being curious about what biographical factors motivated the poet to write them


7. The author indicates which of the following about biographers’ speculation concerning Byron’s life?

     A. Such speculation began in earnest with Escarpit’s study

     B. Such speculation continues today

     C. Such speculation is less important than consideration of Byron’s poetry

     D. Such speculation has not given us a satisfactory sense of Byron’s life


8. The passage supplies specific information that provides a definitive answer to which one of the following questions?

     A. What does the author consider to be the primary enjoyment derived from reading Byron?

     B. Who among literary critics has primarily studied Byron’s poems?

     C. Which moments in Byron’s life exerted the greatest pressure on his poetry?

     D. Has Byron ever been considered a “great” poet?


Solutions

  1. Answer choice A is far too negative. Choice C is too broad. Choice D is odd (influence on imagination?) and misses the point. The correct answer is B.
  2. Answer choice A incorrectly suggests that the author is pitting Russell and Praz against each other! Choice B incorrectly introduces the idea that the author contrasts the different examples. Choice C is out because of “new.” The correct answer is D.
  3. Choice C includes a focus on Byron’s life. The correct answer is C.
  4. Answers A and D don’t match at all. Answer choice B is tempting, but the author is not discussing theories or picking the best idea. Answer choice C is a relatively vague restatement of our prediction. The categories are the different kinds of study of Byron, and the “one category” is studies of Byron’s poetry. The correct answer is C.
  5. Answer A is incorrect because this portion of the passage doesn’t connect to the part about Shakespeare. Answer choice B is out because the author doesn’t say that craftsmanship is unimportant. We’re just told that there are other reasons to enjoy Byron. Answer choice D might seem close, but just because Byron’s lack of method seems to rebuke the cosmos, this doesn’t mean that his beliefs caused his irregular craftsmanship. The correct answer is C.
  6. We don’t know much about choices A or B.  Answer C resembles what we want, but we don’t know that Shakespeare’s poems weren’t connected to his life; the author just focuses on whether we end up “wondering” about that life. Choice D matches our prediction very closely and is the correct answer.
  7. The correct answer is B, as it directly states our prediction.
  8. The correct answer A. It is supported by the passage, while none of the other answers are supported. The passage does say that Byron “enthralled early-nineteenth-century Europe,” but that doesn’t mean he exerted an influence on late-nineteenth-century Europe.

Since we have completed these exercises, let’s revisit the laws of the land:Always predict your answer

  • If you can, come up with your own answer by plagiarizing directly from the passage
  • If you can’t steal, use context and your understanding of the passage to come up with an answer anyway. Coming up with ANY answer first is always better than going “answer-less”
  • Eliminate wrong answers rather than picking right ones
Read the below passage written by Stanton on the sixth ammendment, and try to come up with your own answers. The more blatantly you can plagiarize answers using exact words from the text, the better.


   I urge a sixteenth amendment, because “manhood suffrage,” or a man’s government, is civil, religious, and social disorganization. The male element is a destructive force, stern, selfish, aggrandizing, loving war, violence, conquest, acquisition, breeding in the material and moral world alike discord, disorder, diseas

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