ACT Questions Explained: Reading: Question 2

This is a video walk-through of ACT Practice Test 1, Reading Question 2, from the ACT Red Book (the only book that has *real* ACT questions/tests).

This question appears on page 181.


Look at the test as a game, and yourself as a player. This is not only an accurate metaphor, it is useful. Treating the test as a game can be a powerful tool for increasing your score.

This is a dual vocabulary question, meaning each answer choice has two vocab terms. This type of question obviously favors those who have done the work to level up their vocab stats. On the other hand, players (test-takers) with low vocab stats will find this question type extremely difficult to beat.

Note – if your vocab stats are low, but you’re hoping to crush ACT or SAT reading – you NEED to grind vocab! But there’s a smart way to grind vocab and a bunch of not-so-smart ways. More on that in a later video.

The correct answer choice will describe how the passage describes Fran’s mom. That is, it will restate how the passage describes Fran’s mom. Both vocab terms in the answer choice must be On-Point Restatements (OPRs) in order for the answer choice as a whole to be an OPR (correct). If even one vocab term in an answer choice is a distractor (wrong), the answer choice is a distractor. (see the vid for a more detailed explanation of “OPR” and “distractor.”)

The question itself contains two PsyOps “attacks” – words or phrases that often mislead or confuse the player. PsyOps attacks can also cause the player to feel fuzzy or uncertain about what the question is asking, protracting (lengthening) the player’s decision making process and weakening the player’s morale (confidence).

Counter the PsyOps attack with your “Translate” ability – restate the question in a more simple, straightforward way that more clearly expresses what the question is asking you to restate (e.g., “The passage describes Fran’s mother as…”)

As always, identify 3 distractors and 1 OPR to beat the question and get your loot (1 raw point).

*Answer choice F is a distractor because:
~”Arrogant” is irrelevant. Though the passage says Fran’s mom is “vain” about her nails, it doesn’t describe her as a vain person in general.
~”Cruel is irrelevant and contradicted. Though “dragon-lady” is a derogatory term referring to a domineering woman who wields ruthless, corrupt power, the phrase is used to describe Fran’s mom’s nails, not her personality in general. More importantly, Fran’s mom’s behavior in the last paragraph shows that she is empathetic and caring, not cruel.

*Answer choice G is the On Point Restatement (OPR) because ~”Strong-Willed” is an OPR. Lines 18 – 25 describe Fran’s mom as so sick and frail from cancer treatment that she appears to be dead already. Yet, she pays a lot of attention to her physical appearance, despite the fact that, under such circumstances, people find her sense of style shocking. In other words, she does not yield to others’ opinion that her appearance is unfitting for someone who is so ill. Also, line 38 describes Fran’s mom as “speechless for once” – meaning she is assertive about expressing herself. Finally, in the last paragraph, Fran’s mom offers unsolicited advice about what Fran should do, and when she should do it. She is attempting to impose her will on Fran.
~ “Caring” is an OPR. Fran’s mom’s behavior in the last paragraph shows that she is empathetic and caring. She understands how Fran must feel and offers words of encouragement.

*Answer choice H is a distractor because:
~ Friendly is irrelevant. The passage doesn’t describe Fran’s mother as being pleasant or unpleasant in social situations. Is Fran’s mom being “friendly” to Fran when she shows empathy in the last paragraph? No – what she does in the last paragraph is deeper than what is conveyed by the term “friendly.” Friendly is too weak a word for such behavior.
~ Withdrawn is irrelevant. Withdrawn means you don’t want to communicate with others. Yet, Fran’s mom actively communicates with Fran for most of the passage.

*Answer choice J is a distractor because:
~ embittered is irrelevant. Embittered means angry or cynical because of something bad that happened to you. Fran’s mom has cancer, which is obviously bad. But nowhere does the passage describe her as being bitter about it.

If you have any questions, post them in the comments, and I’ll answer.

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