Sunday, December 4, 2011

CUNY ACT Reading Approach

Most students have the ability to pass the CUNY ACT Reading Exam, but some students with the ability to pass may fail because of bad habits. If they apply a few pointers in their approach to this test, they can pass. I’ve been mentioning these pointers to my students throughout this semester, as I have in previous semesters.

First of all, what does not work is the habit of reading the passages hastily (quickly and carelessly) and reading only once.  Also, not taking the time to check your answers does not work. This mentality (common in students who fail the ACT Reading Exam) of quickly getting it over with does not work. This is evidently true to me and other teachers who’ve seen students fail with this ineffective approach.

If you have this ineffective tendency or habit, you must change it. If you rush to finish quickly, you will fail quickly, leading to prolonged misery (in being held stagnant in your college career not allowed to take many of your core classes until you pass the ACT reading exam. You would be spending unnecessary extra time and money.) For those who still refuse to change, it has been said that it is absurd to do something same way again and again, and expect a different result. Clinging to the same habit that led to your failure will put you back in the same place.

Here’s the approach of students who pass the CUNY ACT Reading exam. This approach involves working in a fashion that may be tedious, but it is better to “suffer” in the short-term than to fail the CUNY ACT Reading again, and suffer in the long term. The effective approach in passing the ACT Reading can be summed up in one sentence:

Have the discipline and endurance to read to obtain an in-depth understanding of the passage (not neglecting any details.) Be meticulous, not hasty.

Here’s how. The following is a specific list of what you should do to increase ACT Reading comprehension (which would result in a higher reading score), in addition to the common sense advice of getting to the test early:

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 in 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 CAREFULLY AND CHECK THEM OVER BEFORE YOU MOVE ON TO THE NEXT SCREEN. You may not be able to go back to previous screens. (Leaving a question blank is the dumbest way to get a question wrong!)

Different Types of CUNY ACT Reading Exam Questions
The following are various types of questions commonly found in CUNY ACT Reading Exams:
  • Vocabulary questions. When you come across a vocabulary question, go back to the passage and re-read the passage from the beginning up to the place where the word is found in the passage. Do this even if you know the definition of the word (since the word in the context of the passage may be different from the definition of which you know.)
  • Main idea questions. When you come across a question that requires you to know the main message (or main idea) of the passage, re-read the entire passage.
  • Questions about the author’s attitude or tone. Re-read the entire passage before you answer.
  • Questions about the attitude of a character in the story, or passage. When you come across a question about the attitude of a character in the passage, re-read the entire passage.
  • Questions about a specific point in the passage.  Often, you may still get this type of question wrong even if you find the location of that point in the passage if you do not keep in mind the overall main idea of the entire passage.
  • Whenever you are in doubt about a question, re-read the entire passage.
From my experience, students who started to apply these pointers drastically improved in answering the vocabulary questions correctly. Students who refused to do so continued to get these common types of questions wrong, and they continued to fail the ACT Reading.

By the time you are done with the entire exam, you should have read the passages at least three times (but probably more.) If so, you’ve greatly increased your chances of passing this exam.

If I am to simplify this lesson into one word, that word would be – RE-READ. Speed counts for nothing (in the CUNY ACT Reading), as this exam is not timed. Having the discipline to endure in the short-term to get in depth understanding will lead to passing the ACT Reading Exam.

When you do practice tests, apply everything I’ve mentioned here (so that they become habit.) If you are my student, all of these should just be a review.

Also, I highly recommend reading the CUNY ACT Reading Protocol and preparation recommendations on the day and days before a standardized test (such as the ACT Reading Exam) at  if you haven't done so yet.  (Feel free to print them out.)

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Copyright: © 2009, 2011. This document is the sole property of Amadeo Constanzo. You may use this article for free on your web site, blog, or other publication if and only if you include this entire copyright notice including the following links and statement. Other free teachings from Amadeo Constanzo can be found at and

CUNY ACT READING EXAM  Kingsborough  English  KCC  English r Eng r  English 04  Eng 04

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