Skimming 101


We have been hard-wired, for years, to “read the directions fully and completely” or to “read the following passage fully and completely,” but on the ACT, we’re to do the opposite to maximize time. The art of skimming is a necessary tool in life, and the ACT is the perfect time to hone your skills before they’re necessary for college. In the English portion of the ACT, this is especially the case.

Sample Problem


For this practice problem we ignore the directions completely. This is a waste of valuable time. You know that you’re working on an English section, hence the giant passage with questions to follow, and you know the directions are going to say something along the lines of “read the passage and answer the questions below.” We begin instead with the first question and ignore the passage for now.

Q1 says:
B. Hawaii,
C. Hawaii, being
C. Hawaii, it is

Do not panic because this “question” has no actual question. When we look to the passage, we notice that there are a bunch of random underlined words and phrases with corresponding numbers attached to them. It should register that each number in the passage corresponds to the “question” with that number. In this case, we have to find a replacement (or no replacement) for ‘Hawaii’ in this sentence. We read ONLY the sentence that includes the word in question and determine that the Answer is B. Hawaii, because “a picturesque setting for a challenging race,” modifies Hawaii, requiring a comma, and is non-essential information to the core of the sentence; the race is in Hawaii.

Take a look at #2. In this case, it wants to know about sentence 4, so we find the bracketed 4 that looks like this [4], which is how every sentence is numbered on the ACT, and read the sentence.

“Very few individual are up to the task.”

The question wants to know the purpose of this sentence, and to determine that, we must read at least one sentence before 4. If you are still unclear as to the purpose of this particular sentence after reading one sentence before it, you may go on to read the sentence before that. I do not recommend reading the entire paragraph because it will sacrifice too much time. In this case, sentence 3 is sufficient enough to tell us that this race is grueling, and we can confidently select A, though I always recommend reading all of the answer choices.

Let’s skip down to a tricky one, #12. On this particular question, we need to pay close attention to ALL the underlined words, we are not just replacing “became” but also “had.” Therefore, we’re looking for a replacement for “had became,” which is incorrect because “became” is past and not past perfect, like had become. The answer for this question is instead H. became.

The rest of the questions for this test deal with basic English Language and Grammar knowledge, which is something you must learn before tackling the ACT and its occasional tricky ways.

About The Author

English Expert, ACT Tutor, Essay Help, Reading Com
I am an experienced tutor in English, Reading Comprehension and Essay Writing. I have a Bachelor's Degree in English with a minor in Philosophy. I am currently working towards obtaining a Law Degree (J.D.). I have worked with a variety of students in the past, including ESL students, students with d...
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