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How to Skim

On the ACT Reading Test, I recommend reading the passage before going to the questions to determine two main points that you’ll need to understand the passage as whole and more effectively answer the questions:

  1. The main idea, thesis, or argument of the passage if it is non-fiction (Passages II, III, and IV); a quick summary of the plot and point-of-view of the fiction passage (Passage I)
  2. The structure of the passage, i.e. a general idea of “what happens when.”

Armed with these two readings of the passage, you’ll be better equipped to a) know where to look to find the answers to specific questions without line references (even if the questions don’t contain keywords), and b) answer general questions, such as the main idea, purpose structure, point-of-view, etc. of the passage as a whole.

However, this reading process shouldn’t take longer than three minutes – and preferably should take only about 2 minutes – because your time is so precious on the ACT Reading test. So how can you read carefully yet quickly, with understanding yet not dwelling on insignificant details?

First, read the passage at this link on your own.

Then watch this video to learn how to skim effectively!

About the Author:

I’m Rob Schombs, the founder of Reason Prep, creator of these videos, and your test prep tutor. I earned a BA in Chemistry (2006) and an MA in Science and Technology Studies (2009) from Cornell University. In 2010 I started tutoring SAT, ACT, math, chemistry, and writing full-time, and Reason Prep followed shortly after!

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4 comments on “How to Skim”

  1. nour

    Hi, I’m not an English native speaker and I want to get a high score on the SAT exam. Can you make videos for non-English speakers, for example, how to memorize vocabulary? What are the most important books etc?

  2. Mirna

    I’m really scared about taking the Act specially the reading part. English is not my first language, and I don’t know how to skim the passage.
    I feel that I need to read the entire passage for me in order to understand the concept.
    Any other advice?
    How many questions right I need to get in order to pass the reading section. I don’t need a perfect score, but I want to be able to pass the reading Act.