Active Reading

Chris Lele
Lesson by Chris Lele
Magoosh Expert
Learn More About Magoosh SAT
Welcome to the active reading passage. How do we go about reading in an active manner? What does active reading even mean? Well, first off, some common approaches. Number one. String words together, reading faster and faster as you become more confused, hoping for sudden enlightenment at the end.

Oh, but it doesn't happen, but so many people like to do this cuz it's a time test and we're already In freak out mode. But this will actually backfire, you won't understand the passage and you'll waste time. Next approach, read but become bored by the first paragraph so that you're reading words without knowing what they mean, words, words, dumb, ice-cream.

So yeah, don't do that either, and this is so tempting. I mean, a lot of people and if you're tired especially, that's what happens. About number three. Skim real fast line after line. Just get some basic details. Yeah, there's this guy and he meets this girl, they don't like each other or something.

You're gonna to miss, especially on the denser passages, you're gonna miss way too much. So don't skim. What about four? Don't read the passage at all. Just read the questions and go back to the relevant part of the passage.

This sounds so great, and the test writers know this, so they make it so that passages are, in a certain way that if you use this or follow this strategy, you'll get quite a few questions wrong. Do not use this. It is tempting, some test prep gurus or experts out there say oh, go ahead and do this.

But honestly, it's pretty much been discredited amongst most, if not all, SAT experts. What do you do? Not take the SAT! Take the ACT! Well, maybe, but you can use active reading on any standardized test, including the ACT.

First thing is to get excited, this is big. You have to really psych yourself out. You have to convince yourself that something that's not interesting really and that you don't wanna do is actually awesome. It's such a fascinating topic and you really wanna read all about it. Okay, you have that energy, you ready to have your pulse pumping?

Good. The next thing is, you want to read to get a general sense of each paragraph. I like breaking things up with paragraphs. Usually most of these have paragraphs, or if it's fiction, as we'll see in a moment, you'll have bits of dialog. And what you should of course is read, get a general sense of that paragraph, and then kinda pause every paragraph, or after every batch of dialog.

And say, okay, this paragraph was about A,B,C, really quick, just like that. And then by the very end of the passage you should be able to list three or four main points. This passage is basically about this guy da, da, da two, three, four points. If you can do that, then you've passed the test. Now you don't actually have to do that each time you finish a passage.

But your brain should be able to do it, and thats what were gonna practice here in a second. I finally put dont break the flow. Because what happens is active reading, you have to be in the moment, kind of seeing where the passage is going, and summarizing what its already said, anticipating the next turn.

And if you get to kind of a part where its a little bit confusing, theres a lot of words going on, don't break the flow by rereading, rereading. Cuz some parts are tough, but you can always go back to those tough parts, and there usually aren't many in one passage, unless it's the really hard passage. And so in general, just go over that, meaning don't read it, just skim that part.

You can skip that part, it's fine. But again, don't break the flow because you're trying to actively read, which means these four steps. And of course, those four steps fall apart if you break the flow. Okay, you getting excited? You ready? You want to do active reading?

Okay, we're going to do active reading on a work of fiction. I want us to do this a paragraph at a time, or a batch of dialogue, and I'll tell you exactly what I want you to do. Okay, first you're gonna read from here to here, and you're gonna pause the video. Okay, I assume you paused the video. What's going on here, how do we summarize this?

There's this guy, hanging out with his buddy in his pretty house, and the main point is they're just talking about art. Narrator shares his views on art. Notice that I did not want this to break the flow. This is terrible. This is so dense and trammelings and censures, the forgeries, it's very dense.

But we don't know if it's necessarily that important until we get to the questions, so, get the main idea that he's holding forth on his opinions on art. Okay, now let's read this paragraph. Okay, I see we've paused the video. It just says that, hey. This guy, his buddy has this view of this new theory.

What if someone painting something, a forgery, in order to prove a theory? Ooh, very interesting. Okay, ooh, getting excited, good. Now, I want you to read from here to here, doing the same thing. When you get to the end you should say, okay, this is what the two talked about. Okay, so we've paused the video.

And so what's happening? He says, I have this actual painting from this person. I have this so called forgery that priced, to prove a theory. That's all you have to do from all that. Okay, next up. This one, and you can pause it now.

Okay, unpause it, and I want you to read, actually, all the way up to here. Pretty easy, right? Okay, it shows him a picture of this beautiful young man. And of course, we can read from here all the way to the end where it says WH. Okay, I assume you've paused the video. I assume you're not just reading word after word.

You're actually getting excited about it, and you're you're remembering what you read, and you're remembering that there's this, these initials there. W.H., who is this W.H.? What is going on? Could it be W.H. from the Shakespeare sonnets? Really, wow, what's going on now?

So, that's all you really need to get from all this text, and, we go on to the next the next page. You can go there, and let's go all the way to the very end. Okay, I assume you've done that, you've paused the video. What's going on now? Is this idea that, oh there's a theory about who WH is.

And the narrator of the passage has already heard about it. It's this Lord Pembroke guy, everybody knows that's not a mystery. And his friend says, well, I agree with you. But, this guy, my friend who left me this forgery, this painting, he had his own theory. Then what?

Well, basically it's over, and they just say, here, tell me the story. And he says, okay, I will tell you the story. Not much more than that. And so you can see that's not terribly complex, but it helps you get an idea of active reading. Now, had you not done that with me, it would have been maybe by that first part where he talks about his views on art, maybe by then, you would have already been like, this sucks, I don't wanna read this.

And it's actually not that bad when you get past that part, and you start reading about what's going on. You might have even gotten to some of that part, but your brain might have wandered off. So, active reading, the specific way of chunking the paragraphs and doing these quick verbal summaries in your head after you read them, keeps you in tune with the passage, and that is the beating heart of active reading.

Show Transcript

Next Lesson


Strategies and Fundamentals