Now suppose you focused instead on your efficiency. Let’s say your pace is 10 minutes per passage and you bag nine out of every 10 questions: That’s 27 of the 40 questions in 30 minutes, with five minutes to spare. Even with only 27 answers right, a rare case of extremely bad luck, we would land a reading score of 24 on this ACT.
That also means your overall ACT score would be 1 point higher, just from focusing on efficiency!
For the self-studier, focusing on efficiency can be key to making improvements. Most students, though, simply focus on going faster or getting to the harder questions at the expense of the easier questions.
One incredibly destructive myth about the ACT and SAT is that the tests give more points for harder questions. They don’t!
Thus, improving your score is often as simple as making certain that you don’t miss any easy questions. That is, improving your efficiency. Don’t try for hero points by getting all the hard questions when it’s costing you the easy ones. Unless you’re capable of scoring perfectly on an ACT or SAT, you don’t need to worry about the very hardest questions. Look at the ACT and SAT’s conversion tables and see how many questions you need to bag to reach the score you want. Odds are that your desired score won’t require you to see every single question on the test.
» Look up which school in your district has the highest SAT score here
Even if you are seeing every question on the test, though, an understanding of your efficiency can benefit you in other ways. Let's say you're taking the PSAT or SAT this October. On the Reading Test, you'll always have "One passage or a pair of passages from either a U.S. founding document or a text in the great global conversation they inspired." Guess what, most students stink at this portion of the Reading Test.
Maybe you’re a student who likes science. Great news! The SAT and PSAT will also always have two reading passages on science. If you’re good at science passages, though, and you end up bogged down on the U.S. founding document/great global conversation passage of death, you may find yourself rushed or barely seeing the one of the two sections you’re the best at. On the Reading Test, don’t kill yourself on a passage you aren’t as strong on.
So how should you handle your worst passage(s)? Save them for last. Do the passages you can do the fastest and most efficiently first. Save your worst for last.