When it comes to standardized testing, the SAT is inarguably the most impactful on a student's academic journey into higher education. Among the various sections of the SAT, the reading section stands out as one of the trickiest to master. Not only do you need a strong grasp of language and comprehension, but you also have to manage your time effectively. Mastering the SAT reading section requires skill and strategy. Use these SAT reading strategies and you’ll be better equipped to tackle the reading section and get the score you’ve worked so hard for.
The reading section of the SAT tends to have dense and intricate passages that cover a range of topics. An effective strategy to combat information overload is to start by skimming the passage briefly before reading them in full. Spend a few seconds looking over the introductory paragraph, headings, subheadings, and any formatting that grabs your attention, such as bolded or italicized text. Skimming over the content first will give you an overview of the passage's main ideas and structure. This will probably make reading the rest of the passage more manageable and easier to comprehend.
Take Notes as You Read
Marking up the passages is a great way to practice active reading for the SATs. Keep a pencil on hand to underline key points, circle unfamiliar words, and jot down notes in the margins. These annotations will help you find important information more quickly when it’s time to answer the questions. Taking notes is an excellent SAT reading strategy because it helps with comprehension and promotes active engagement with the text. This could lead to better understanding and retention.
Be Strategic About How You Tackle Questions
Some people suggest reading the entire passage before getting to the questions while others advise reading the questions before looking at the passage. If time allows, the best thing to do is a hybrid. Briefly review the questions first to know what you should be looking out for in the passage. Then read the passage in full to get a thorough understanding of its context. Avoid only reading to answer the questions, as this could cause you to miss critical details. Once you feel you have a solid understanding of the passage, then go back to the questions and answer them to the best of your ability. Using this SAT reading strategy should help you get as well-rounded an understanding of the information as possible.
Manage Your Time Wisely
Time management is one of the most important skills in the high-stakes environment of standardized testing. There is a predetermined time limit for every reading passage, typically around 12-15 minutes. Get in the habit of setting time limits for your practice tests. If you find yourself spending too much time on one section or not having enough time to get to all the questions, that is a sign that you need to adjust your reading strategy.
Be Wary of Extreme Language
The SAT reading section is designed to assess your ability to critically analyze and comprehend complex passages. Be extra cautious when you see answer choices that contain absolutes. Extreme language such as "always," "never," "everyone," or "none,” is usually a clue that the content has been oversimplified and is likely to lead to incorrect answers. You’ll usually be better off with answers that show a more balanced and nuanced understanding of the passage, showcasing your ability to think critically and identify subtleties.
Predict Answers Before Reviewing Choices
Before looking at the answer choices that are provided, take a moment to consider what you think is the correct answer based on your comprehension of the passage. This proactive approach keeps your mind focused on the relevant information and may make it easier to identify the right answer when you see it. Predicting the answer in advance also reduces your chances of being swayed by misleading answer choices.
Use Process of Elimination
Encountering a challenging question is not uncommon in the SAT reading section. In fact, it’s to be expected. If you find yourself really stumped, use process of elimination to your advantage. Start by crossing out answers you know are clearly incorrect or contradictory to the passage's content. This method narrows down the possibilities and increases the likelihood that you’ll end up choosing the right answer even if it’s not immediately obvious.
Refer Back to the Passage
Even if you recall a specific detail from the passage, it's always a good idea to refer back to the relevant section for confirmation. Doing this eliminates the risk of misremembering or misinterpreting the information. You’ll want to do this to make sure the answer you choose accurately reflects the author's intended meaning. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with double-checking just to be sure your choice is accurate.
Beware of Tricky Wording
The SAT is known for using cleverly worded questions that can trip up even the most attentive test-takers. The best SAT reading strategy for this is to carefully analyze the phrasing of both the questions and the answer choices. Subtle rewording can alter the whole meaning, so make sure to be extra vigilant to avoid falling into this linguistic trap. Closely examining the wording will help you get the most accurate response.
Simulate Test Conditions
Practice is the cornerstone of success in any situation, and the SAT reading section is no exception. Taking timed practice tests is the best way to mimic the type of setting you’ll experience once you take the real test. Familiarizing yourself with the format, types of questions, and time constraints will reduce less test anxiety and may lead to better results. Use these practice sessions as opportunities to refine your strategies, fine-tune your approach, and identify areas that require further attention.
To conquer the SAT reading section, it’s important to remember that success comes from a combination of strategic planning, ongoing practice, and honing your skills. By implementing the SAT reading strategies outlined above, you’ll put yourself in the best possible position to ace the reading section of the SATs.
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