Monday, November 21, 2011

CUNY ACT Reading Protocol

The CUNY ACT Reading/CATR Exam is administered on a computer and it is not time-limited. The questions are all multiple choice questions. I have created a protocol in taking the ACT Reading Exam which many students have found useful. They have found that following this protocol improved their performance in reading comprehension and resulted in having more of the answers correct. Also, you may adjust or revise this protocol according to your individual needs. You should definitely use this protocol for ACT Reading practice exams provided by your professor or instructor.

ACT Reading Protocol
1. Ask for scrap paper.
2. Read passage CAREFULLY at least twice. Sum up each paragraph in one phrase/sentence on scrap paper (and label it with the paragraph number.)
3. Write in one sentence the overall message, or main idea, of the author.
4. Write in one sentence also the attitude or tone of the author (toward an issue, a character, or toward whatever the passage is addressing).  For example, does he have an objective tone or an opinionated tone? Is he strongly for or against an issue covered by his writing? Write down the tone or attitude (or at least do it in your head) before you move on to answer the questions for the passage.
5. Begin answering the questions. For each question, re-read from the beginning of the passage up to the point where you believe the answer is located. (If you do this and you have the author’s main idea/overall message in mind and have his attitude or tone in mind, you will do well.)
6. BE SURE YOU ANSWER ALL THE QUESTIONS IN EACH PASSAGE CAREFULLY AND CHECK THEM OVER BEFORE YOU MOVE ON TO THE NEXT PASSAGE.  Once you move on to the next passage, you won't be able to go back to the previous passage and the questions to that passage.

•By the time you are done, you should’ve read the entire passage AT LEAST THREE TIMES, but probably more times.

• Keep in mind that the creator of the questions in most cases is not the author of the passage. Think in the perspective of the creator of the questions who is probably an English instructor or professor. You have to try to get into the minds of two people, the author of the passage and creator of the questions.

• Use POE (the process of elimination) when answering the questions.  First, eliminate the answer choices that are certainly wrong.  Do this in your head or on scrap paper (such as writing the question #, and the certainly wrong letter choices crossed out.)

• Be careful not to just focus on one detail or one small area of the passage while ignoring the rest.  (This is a common mistake from students who have trouble passing the ACT Reading Exam.)  Use the entire passage to get to the main idea (or the main message) as well as the attitude and tone of the author (as mentioned in steps 2 and 3.)

An Unconventional Tip
Before reading, get your mind into the alpha state which will help you increase reading comprehension. You can put yourself into the alpha state within 20 seconds by doing a breathing exercise, a mind-calming technique, or saying a prayer. This is backed up by scientific studies. The alpha state is also known as the “relaxation response” or the relaxed alert state. The more practice you have in reaching the relaxed-alert state, the more success you will have in improving reading comprehension.

What NOT to Do
• Do NOT be late to the test.  (They will close the door promptly and won’t let you in, if you are late.  Get there at least 30 minutes early.)
• Do NOT schedule important appointments, meetings, or dates for the day of the exam.  (You don’t want to be rushing from an important meeting to the test.  Also, you don’t know how long the test will take, and you don’t want to subconsciously rush through the exam to get to a later appointment on time.  Don’t make any important appointments for that day.)
• During the exam, do NOT be hasty and do NOT rush.  (Be meticulous.)

Additional Note
This lesson applies to the CUNY ACT Reading. The ACT Reading exams outside of CUNY may be somewhat different. 

Copyright: © 2006, 2010, 2011. This document is the sole property of Amadeo Constanzo. You may use this article for your web site, blog, or e-zine if and only if you include this copyright notice with the following statement and web links. More teachings from Amadeo Constanzo can be found at:

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