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Traps to Avoid on the ACT Reading Test

Written by Stefan Melnyk

Avoiding traps on the ACT Reading Test is essential to raising your score. You are given so little time to complete the test (35 minutes to answer 40 questions!) that it’s easy to fly past questions without reading them thoroughly. Unfortunately, the writers of the ACT know this and will try to trick you with trap questions. These are questions that have an answer designed to look like the correct one to students who haven’t read the text (or the question) carefully enough. Even if you have top-notch reading skills, however, it can still be useful to know what traps to expect. Here are a handful to look out for:

THE “EXACT WORDS” TRAP

You read a question that asks you to find the answer that best matches the point of the passage. You glance down at the choices and see one that uses some of the exact words you remember from the passage.

IT’S A TRAP!

Read the answer with the exact words more carefully – chances are, you will find that it uses those words to make a point that actually contradicts the one in the passage. Instead, look for the answer that paraphrases the point – that is, makes the same point using different words. That will usually be the correct one!

THE “ABSOLUTE” TRAP

Some answer choices will sound correct but will use words like “always,” “never,” “only,” etc.

IT’S A TRAP!

These are absolute words, and you have to be very careful with them – they don’t allow for any exceptions! If an answer includes a statement that is usually correct, but the answer says that it is always correct, then that answer is wrong! When you see an absolute word on the ACT Reading Test, you should take it as a warning and watch carefully for a trap!

THE “COMMON DEFINITION” TRAP

Some questions on the ACT Reading Test will ask you to say what a word means as it is used in the passage. One of the choices you are given will almost certainly be the most common definition of that word.

IT’S A TRAP!

You’re not being asked for the first dictionary definition of the word, you’re being asked how the passage is using the word. Always look for context.

THE “NEGATIVE WORD” TRAP

There will be questions on the test that use words like “NOT,” “EXCEPT,” or “REJECT.”

IT’S A TRAP!

Even though these words are usually written in all-caps in the question to help you spot them, a lot of students still miss how those words change the meaning of the question. The presence of one of those words means that you are looking for a false answer among the true ones, and that false answer will be the correct one!

THE “IRRELEVANCE” TRAP

This last trap is a pretty common one, but it also trips up a lot of students as they take the test. As you look at the answers, you may see more than one that is true, or makes a good point. Chances are,

IT’S A TRAP!

The most common trick that the ACT Reading Test will try to pull is giving you a possible answer that is technically true but has nothing to do with the passage. Always remember that this is a reading test, and there can only be one correct answer, only one answer that reflects the content of the reading passage. The other answers may be true, but that doesn’t mean they’re correct!

The reading test can be quite a sprint, but knowing the hurdles it might throw in your way is essential to getting through it. You can do it![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]