ACT Reading: Drawing Conclusions

The ACT Reading section will ask you to draw conclusions after reading a passage. The questions range, from asking for inferences to you interpreting the meaning of a word or phrase. There are 3 HUGE strategies for doing well on this question type:

  • Read the passage before looking at the question(s).

    Many test-takers confuse the purpose of a passage with particular details that may be included in the passage. It’s likely any reading passage will ask you about both the purpose of the passage and its details. It’s important to understand both.

  • Take notes as you read.

    Taking notes in the test booklet will ensure you’re actively reading the passage. Do whichever method works for you (i.e., underline, annotate), but do something. It’ll also help you identify where certain events/occurrences happened in the passage.

  • Read more than just lines A to B.

    If a question asks you what a word or phrase means and the question references the line(s) where you can find this, you should read a sentence or two before and after the referenced line(s). A lot of the time the answer won’t be on the line(s) referenced; it will be somewhere around them.

Drawing Conclusions Practice Question

My parents were farmers, potato farmers who dug into the soil and came home with dirt-stained hands. In County Cork, Ireland, children of farmers become farmers. But I had always been different, and my parents saw it in the way that I picked up sticks to draw in the dirt. They gave me pencils and then pastels and paper, too. They saw the truth about me: I was their son and an artist by birth. As if to validate this fact, they gave me a desk in the corner of the kitchen where I could keep quiet and immerse myself in fields of color, oceans of lines and forms. Instead of sending me out to dig potatoes with my brothers and sisters, they educated me by letting me stay at home, where I could look out the windows and draw the landscapes that spread out before me. All of my education, in this way, was the simple unfolding of an artistic spirit. But my parents knew it as well as I did, that no artist ever stayed in County Cork.
My great uncle was a writer of poetry, my parents told me, and when he turned fourteen, he left the family farmhouse to make his way in Dublin. I could tell that my parents predicted, as much as hoped, that I would do the same. Whenever I turned out a new sketch, they repeated my uncle’s story as a prophecy that paved the way for my path to the city. Fulfilling that prophesy, I left the farmhouse when I turned fourteen, walking north and west with sturdy brown boots on my feet and a satchel full of sketches I sold for food along the way.
What does it mean that the story of the author’s great uncle was “a prophecy that paved the way for [the author’s] path to the city?”

  1. The author’s great uncle left behind a map that described the path the author should follow to Dublin.
  2. The author’s parents told him the story of his great uncle whenever he turned out a new sketch.
  3. The story inaccurately predicted that author would leave County Cork and never return.
  4. The story of the uncle’s journey from County Cork to Dublin forecast the author’s similar artistic journey.

What’s the purpose of this passage? It’s to show how the narrator was different from his dirt-stained, farmer family. But there was a great uncle who was different and went to the city years before the narrator. A prophecy is when someone, or something, predicts that something will happen in the future. With this information, we can then draw the conclusion that the narrator’s journey to Dublin was prophesized by his great uncle’s similar journey. Do any of the answer choices relay this? It’s not A, since there’s no mention of a map in the passage. It’s not B, because this choice has nothing to do with foreshadowing anything. C can’t be it either, since there’s no mention that the narrator never returns. Thus, we can draw the conclusion that the great uncle’s venture to Dublin forecast (think weather prediction to figure out this word) that the narrator would one day travel from the country to the city, too.