Basic Strategies

Kristin Fracchia
Lesson by Kristin Fracchia
Magoosh Expert
Learn More About Magoosh ACT
Okay. This might very well just be the most crucial ACT reading lesson we have. We're gonna talk about basic strategies. And these are strategies that you should be applying to just about every question on the test. And we're gonna go through a couple examples applying these strategies to make sure you have them.

So let's go ahead and go through the strategies first. So our first strategy for the ACT Reading section is to read the question. Now that may seem pretty self-explanatory, but this part's important. Simplify when necessary. Sometimes the questions can be quite long. You want to go ahead and simplify in your head what exactly are you looking for.

Maybe you even need to paraphrase the question a little bit. Get rid of the fluff. Get rid of the according to the passage part of it. Because, I mean, you know it's according to the passage. Focus in on what's important. Then we are going to go to the relevant part of the passage.

Now this is, if necessary, sometimes you're gonna be able to do some of these questions by memory. In which case, you might want to go ahead and skip on to step three. But most of the time you're probably going to be going back to the passage to at least check your memory if not find the answer. So that's step two, go to the relevant part of the passage.

Step three is absolutely crucial. Come up with your own answer first. And if you're really tempted, cover up the answer choices with your hand if you have to. Don't let yourself take a look at them because the second you look at those answer choices your brain starts rationalizing how they could possibly be correct.

But only one of them is so don't go down that route. The ACT is really good at writing really tempting wrong answer choices. And so you want to avoid that by making sure you have an answer in your head first to the question. So we'll go ahead and work through some examples on that. Step four here, it's not really so much a strategy as just a thing to remember.

And that is to be very literal. Don't overthink these questions. Even on the inference questions, the one that says it's probably true or it could reasonably be inferred. You're only ever going a teeny tiny baby step beyond what is literally directly stated in the passage.

So, don't let yourself stray and rationalize how something could be true. Be very literal and make sure you can back it up with proof from the passage. Step five is to match your answer choice. So once you come up with your own answer, see which answer in the answer choices best match up with that. And you might be a little bit off.

I mean, that's okay. Maybe you had a different interpretation of what the question was asking than what's in the answer choices. In which case, after you take a look at the answer choices briefly, re-think it. Go back and re-answer that question for yourself. You can still do that.

It's totally fine. That definitely happens. And/or if you are really, totally confused, you don't know what the question's asking for or just because you want to go ahead and check because you always want to go through the answer choices and make sure you weren't totally off on your answer, work by process of elimination.

And we'll have another video on wrong answer choices and you can look at all the reasons why answer choices are often wrong on the test to make some eliminations. Okay. So let's go ahead and take a look at a sample question and work through this process. All right. So first we're gonna read the question.

According to the passage, which of the following statements is true about the film's costumes during the, party years, of Marie Antoinette, as compared to her previous dresses? Okay. So I already mentioned this according to the passage thing. So this is kind of fluff.

It's filler in the question. They have to put it in there so nobody can argue against it because the text has to be supporting the answer to this question. So that's why they say according to the passage, not according to my sister, or according to life. But it's really fluff.

You know it's according to the passage, and we know we're looking at statements. So we're looking for what's true. Let's focus in on what's true. Films, costumes, party year, we know this whole passage is about Marie Antoinette. We read it in the example passage or take a look at it below this video. So we know it's about Marie Antoinette's so it's kind of fluff here.

Party years and previous dresses. So what's true? Films, costumes, party years, compared to her previous dresses. Okay. So we have some answer choices here. We're not gonna look at them. We are going to go to the passage where it's talking about the costumes during her party years.

So this is in the middle, getting towards the middle of the paragraph. The middle of the film depicting her party years, her gowns become more dessert-like in their choice of color and even in cut, with bright yellow, pink and blue combinations creating a macaroon effect with the ornamentation of petticoats and skirts. And this is really important.

Keep reading until they stop talking about it. I have a lot of students that stop here, and they get kind of a different answer, an incomplete answer. We haven't finished talking about the party years' costumes. So, her dresses are modified in configuration as well and become bolder with more daring garnish.

And now let's check, in the final sequences of Marie Antoinette's life at Versailles. Okay. So here, we've moved onto the next stage in her life. So we're looking between here and here. So the next step is to come up with our own answer choice.

And we're looking for how her costumes here compare to the costumes that she wore previously. So, we have more information to be looking at. What happened previously? So previously, in the early stage of Marie Antoinette's time at Versailles, the colors worn and applied are light and icy, more sorbet-like.

Okay.. So, party years, they are. Let's write in our own answer. They are more dessert like. They are brighter. They are, you might choose some different words here. It's fine. We're just getting the gist.

Bright colors here. Macaroon effect. Let me write macaroon. And they are bolder, more daring. There's more daring garnish to them. Okay. So now let's go back to our question.

Now we know we read here that they are, her earlier dresses are light. So answer choice A would be wrong, they are not lighter in color. Answer choice B, they are more mature. Well, there was nothing in my answer choice as I came up with that. Answer choice C, they are more daring. That is a word that I wrote down in my answer.

And D, they are autumn-like in shade. Well, didn't say they were autumn-like in shade. They were bright yellow, blue, green. So, that means our answer would be C. Okay. So, let's say we did what I said a lot of students do and stopped reading here because that answer of daring is in the second part here.

So, if you just read this first sentence, we would see that they were more dessert-like. Our answer would say, they're more dessert-like in their color and cut. Bright yellow, pink, blue, macaroon effect, and we would have nothing about daring. So let's say we did that.

How could we work by process of elimination? Well, we can go back Answer choice A, they are lighter in color. Well, we can go back and check in the passage. No, they actually weren't lighter in color. They were lighter before, and then they become brighter. So we can do that.

More mature, we can go back and check and see if they are more mature. We might be tempted by that and then that might be the trigger that we need to read a little bit further and find out where it might mention mature. But remember it has to be based in the passage. That's our next step, be literal. If there's nothing in here that says that they are more mature or she made her look older or some synonym of that, then it's not correct.

And so autumn-like in shade, well, let's go back to the passage because this is a good one. Autumn-like in shade. A lot of times, wrong answer choices will pick up on a word that's actually used in the passage but that is not actually associated with that particular moment that we're looking at.

So there is a part later on in the next paragraph in this passage that you can see below where the author talks about the colors becoming more autumn-like when the dresses become heavier and more formal later in her life. So it's taking a detail from another passage and using it to describe something that it's not actually supposed to be describing. So we can work by process of elimination as well too, and that was our final step.

So let's take a look at a more difficult example. That was a detail question. We were basically just looking for a detail in the passage. It literally said those dresses were daring. Now this one is a generalization. The passage characterizes a young Marie Antoinette in Austria as, now there's no place in the passage where it says she was naive or bold or subdued or irresponsible.

I'm gonna tell you that right now. We have to look at the gist of it. So lets go to the first paragraph. Marie Antoinette is in Austria. And we see that she is, lets go ahead and read and look for the clues that tell us what's her, how is she being characterized?

What's her state at this current amount of time? Okay. So first of all she's sleeping in a dark room. Then, she's in the palace in an early grey morning light. It's not really about her. We went into a close-up of Marie Antoinette waking up.

All right. It's now more about Marie Antoinette. She is completely unaware what the future has in store for her. She allows the attendants to dress her just as on any other day. She waits for them to lace her corset and finish here hair. She appears unconcerned. So I am underlining all the words that tell us what she looks like, how she's acting.

And she's playing with her little pug. And she's dressed in a soft velvety and lavender blue two-pieced dress and then meets with her mother before being sent off to France. So I already peeked at my answer choices, which we should have covered up, but that was just to illustrate that this is a bit more of a difficult question. So let's go ahead and see if we can, what would you say in your own words is Marie Antoinette's state?

How is she being characterized in this part? So, I would say unaware and unconcerned. Remember we don't want to stray too far from what's in the passage. So if you can ever pull out words even if you know it's not gonna be exactly what the question's gonna ask you for, use the words in the passage. So unaware and unconcerned.

That's what I'm gonna say for my answer. And let's go back to the question. The passage characterizes a young Marie Antoinette in Austria as unaware and unconcerned. Which of these best matches up with that? Well, irresponsible?

You know that is a really tempting one. Let's start with D. We're gonna work from the bottom this time. Irresponsible is a really tempting one because we think, oh, well if somebody's unaware and unconcerned, then maybe they're not being responsible. But then we've fallen into that trap of overrationalizing.

So, unaware, unconcerned doesn't necessarily mean irresponsible. It just means she's not aware of what's going on. So be careful of reaching. Subdued. Well, that's a little bit off. It's not like she's just not doing anything.

She's playing with her pug. So I'm not gonna say C. B, bold. Well, she's not doing anything to indicate that she's being particularly bold here or acting out or being courageous or anything like that. But naive, now that sounds like a really good possibility here.

Because if she's unaware of what her future has in store for her and she doesn't know what's going on, well, that's the definition of naive. So naive is our best answer here. And we wanna be careful of not falling into a trap like irresponsible, which we can rationalize. But remember the key is to be literal.

Don't go too far beyond the text. All right. So let's go ahead and recap our basic strategies. Number 1, read the question. 2, go to the relevant part of the passage. 3, come up with your own answer first.

Remember to be literal and then match your answer choice. And work by process of elimination if necessary. Remember you may not see something that absolutely matches your answer, and you may need to go through the answer choices and check and see which ones have flaws. And a lot of the times it's easier to work that way, particularly on difficult reading questions.

So those are our basic strategies. Go ahead and apply them as you are working through your reading practice

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Basic Strategies