How to Read More Efficiently


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When you study for ACTs, you have to read ACT test prep books. That much should be obvious, but what many students don’t realize is that reading doesn’t necessarily mean reading. When there’s that much material to be covered in such a short amount of test prep review time, it makes much more sense to scan and to skim.

Here’s how you do it.


Skimming is when you only look for the general or main ideas of factual material when doing test prep review, and can be done to study most any subject quickly, with the exception of English.

The key to skimming is to read the first few paragraphs of a chapter or web page in detail, as you normally might when doing test prep review, and then to read the topic (or first) sentence of every following paragraph in order to find the material you’re looking for. If the topic sentence of the paragraph seems important, read the rest of the sentence. If it doesn’t, then skim over the rest to see if there are any important names, dates, or events.


Scanning is a little different than skimming in that you’re only looking for one specific fact or piece of information. It’s what you do when you need to look something up, and it’s best done after you’ve already read or skimmed over your college test prep review material. Scanning can help you refresh yourself on what you highlighted or noted as being important.

The trick to scanning is know how the material has already been arranged and laid out, which is why it only really works on something you’ve already read. You need to know if the material is arranged alphabetically, chronologically, categorically, textually, or what have you. Taking that into consideration, use your hands to guide your eyes across the page until you see the detail you’re looking for, and et voila. There you have it.

Skimming and scanning material are two crucial ways to get more test prep review done in less time, but be warned — you can’t skim and scan all of your material. In order to fully comprehend some material, you’re going to have to read it in detail.

Try it out for yourself. Skim and then scan a section of material, and answer some ACT study questions on it to see how you did. Let us know how your test prep review came out in the comments.

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