No way around it: to conquer the ACT Reading section, you have to be able to read well, and read quickly. If you have weak reading comprehension skills, this test will be a challenge.

Most students, however, are strong enough readers to make it through the Reading section unscathed. Where they falter is often lack of attention to detail, which comes from lack of focus. 

So the real question becomes: How do I stay focused while reading four different (and boring!) passages?

Thankfully, the solution is relatively simple: annotation.

Annotation can be your secret weapon for success on the Reading section in three different ways:

  1. Focus: It’s pretty darn hard not to pay attention when you are moving a pen across a page!
  2. Comprehension: Annotating forces you to stay on top of whether you understand what you’re reading. As you take notes, you’ll realize quickly if something doesn’t make sense, so you can re-read until it does.
  3. Efficiency: Notes in the margins serve as signposts to help you quickly return to the specific section of text you need to find supporting details and answer questions.

Annotating well requires practice. When students first begin annotating, they often make the mistake of writing too much—and lose precious time as a result. Your goal should be to write as little as is necessary to remain focused, check for understanding, and efficiently return to the text. To do so, we suggest the following:

  1. Start with the questions: Before you read the section, quickly scan the questions for line numbers onlyand place dashes next to those lines in the text. This will make you hyper-aware of these line when reading them.
  2. Bracket, don’t underline: Underlining is time-consuming. Instead, quickly bracket text that seems important.
  3. Be selective: Bracket key details and key details only. If you cover your page in pencil marks, you’ll be slower to find the details that are relevant to answering questions.
  4. Summarize: At the end of each paragraph, write a 1- to 3-word summary. Short and sweet is key! This will simultaneously help you check for understanding and indicate where key details are located when returning to the text.

For many students, annotating this way can lead to a dramatic increase in their Reading score. However, if reading comprehension is your challenge, or if you are looking to improve an already-high score (30 or above), annotation may not be sufficient. You may need one-on-one sessions to identify your specific area of need and the best tools to address it. This personalized approach is where Signet excels. We’re excited to help you reach your best score!

If you’d like help learning this technique, Signet tutors are always here to lend a hand.