For most students, even high-scoring students, the time pressure on ACT reading is much greater than it is on the English section. It’s just a lot harder to achieve a winning balance of speed and accuracy on the reading section. However, that doesn’t change the fundamental principle of ACT time management: mastery = speed.
If you don’t believe me, try teaching a 6-year-old to tie her shoes. Every day, without even thinking about it, you tie your shoes flawlessly. On top of that, from a 6-year-old’s perspective, you do it with lightning speed. Now, imagine that you’re babysitting your 6-year-old cousin, who has just gotten her first pair of lace-ups, but she hasn’t learned to tie them yet. She watches you tie your shoes, her eyes grow wide, and she exclaims, “Wow! Teach me to tie my shoes fast like you!”
I think you can see the problem: before she can learn to tie her shoes fast, she must first learn to tie them at all. In fact, if she were to focus on speed at first, it would actually be counterproductive – it would simply lengthen the time it took her to learn how to tie her shoes, thus increasing the time and effort before she could do so quickly. It would also increase the amount of frustration involved in the whole process. If the frustration continued for too long, she could even develop a complex, convincing herself that she’s “just not good at tying shoes.” On the other hand, if she first focuses on learning how to tie her shoes correctly, speed will follow just as naturally as day follows night.
After all, how did you get to the point where you could tie your shoes so fast? Was it from studying shoe time management tactics? Did you take a “speed lacing” class? Of course not. You probably never gave a single thought to tying your shoes quickly. You just learned how to tie laces, very clumsily at first, then continued doing it every day, day after day, until eventually you could do it easily, with high accuracy and speed.
I’m here to tell you that standardized tests are much like shoe laces. So, before jumping into specific tips aimed directly at buying time on the reading section, it’s important to remind yourself that, by a long shot, the absolute best thing you can do to increase your speed is to continue practicing accuracy tactics until executing them flawlessly becomes second-nature, just like tying your shoes.
That said, in the next installment, I’ll share some things you can try if you feel you’ve exhausted the pacing benefits to be gained from practicing accuracy tactics.
Until then, happy practicing!