ACT Reading Gets Graphs

Starting in 2021, the ACT will join the SAT in featuring graph questions in its reading portion. Students must use the table or graph accompanying a text to answer an Integration of Knowledge question.

What are graph questions?  Such questions ask test takers to draw conclusions from the graph or connect the data to the text. Reading and writing oriented students may groan when they hear that math questions are leaking into the verbal portion of the ACT. The silver lining, however, is that generally there is only one question per figure.

Here is an example of a graph question a student may see:

The title of this grouped bar graph tells us purpose and main idea of the information presented. The vertical y-axis shows, on average, how much a gift is appreciated, while the horizontal x-axis compares the ‘giver’ versus the ‘recipient.’ An astute student will note the differences between giver’s opinion on gift prices and the recipient’s opinion on gift prices.

Strategies for Graphs

Here are some helpful tips and tricks to know before tackling a graph question.  First, note whether the graph provides information about percentages or numbers.  For example, if the y axis of a line graph displays percentages of people, an answer that says ‘a greater number of people’ would be incorrect.  Whenever numbers versus percentages is present, the test makers will be sure to present misleading answers to trick careless students.

Another piece of advice is to separate the important data points from the unnecessary ones.  A table may provide dozens of numbers, but often only one column or one row is relevant to the question.  Careful discernment can simplify an otherwise daunting chart.

Practice with finding facts and gathering inferences in reading, in addition to solving graph questions in math, will make ACT students an expert at answering graph questions in reading passages. 

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