Active Reading Strategy for ACT and SAT

Reading is a two-way street. Nowhere is this statement more true or more important than on SAT and ACT Reading passages. Don’t expect information from test-based reading passages to automatically populate your brain for effective recall unless you approach the passages with a pro-active attitude. Don’t expect that passages will make you want to read them. Don’t expect to love them. Don’t expect to be interested in their information. In certain cases, you will be engaged by the content. In other cases, that engagement has to be artificially created. So take an interest in the reading material, whether that interest is real or contrived. Hate to read about dance? Love it on the SAT. Hate to read about baseball players? Love it on the ACT. Bored by politics or history?  Change your attitude. When you are interested in something, you simply, magically, learn it better.  So, get interested!

Here are some strategies that will help.


As you read a passage, place yourself in the action. Be a character. Form opinions about the other characters and think about how specific actions or situations make you feel. How do the other characters feel about you? Be a world leader. Could you make the same tough decision that someone else made? Would you? How would that make you feel? What would you have done differently?

Be Opinionated

Don’t read passively. Form opinions about the passages as you read them. How do you feel about decisions that were made in history? Does the conclusion of a particular event justify the means? Are the reasons for going to war valid? Let SAT or ACT passages move you.  Opinions are remembered; things you don’t care about are not.  So form opinions. It doesn’t really matter what those opinions are, as long as you have them!

Get Emotional

Countless research studies have provided overwhelming confirmation of the connection between emotion and memory.  Think about it…what do you remember from your early childhood—things you didn’t care about or things that provoked an emotional response? On the SAT and ACT, neutrality is the enemy and emotion rules.  Your brain prioritizes input that has an emotional connection.  If you don’t care about something, why should your brain waste time processing it? With so much data pouring in every second, you can help train your brain for success.  All it takes is emotional activation.