The reading section of the SAT is one of the most difficult to perfect, due to the restrictive time limit and the difficulty level of the texts involved. There are many facets to doing well on this particular section, including vocabulary knowledge and the ability to understand the context of the texts themselves. If you’re looking to improve your score, here are some tips and tricks to help…
As you only have 65 minutes to answer 52 questions from 5 texts, managing your time is extremely important. If you find yourself struggling with one passage in particular, consider skipping it and trying again at the end. This ensures you have more time to finish those texts that you find easier, therefore almost guaranteeing that you will be able to answer the questions correctly. In this case, if you run out of time, you will only be leaving the most difficult questions. The key to completing the entire reading test is to skim read. This is the process of reading the article quickly but retaining the information. This is much easier if you practice!! Additionally, if a question asks you to read certain lines, make sure you don’t waste time by reading everything, just read the lines they give you!
Process of Elimination
If you find yourself struggling to choose from the choices given, go through each answer and eliminate the ones it absolutely could not be. You will hopefully be left with a choice of two and can therefore focus better on the question and text. Remember that specificities can change everything – sometimes just one word will render the answer incorrect. You also have to think: Is the answer too specific or too broad? Is it referring to the correct person? Are the adjectives/verbs used also in the text? Lastly, is the information in the answer even relevant to the text or does it blur the main focus?
If possible, it’s a great idea to try predicting the answer before even reading the choices. Sometimes you can guess the answer almost correctly, and then find the closest one in the choices. Many of the questions in the reading section just use common sense, and therefore 3 of the answers make almost no sense. Of course, this is slightly different with the vocabulary questions. Here, the words are usually almost synonyms but rely on the context, therefore it is a good idea to practice learning vocabulary in texts – not just single words.
Try a Different Method
If you’re a bit of a slow reader, or find yourself quickly running out of time, try changing your method. Most people read the text first and then go to answer the questions, but another great idea is to go for the questions first! Answer the vocabulary questions first, as they only require you to read the paragraph around the word. Then go for the questions that relate to certain lines, as you already have a target in the text. Lastly, after having studied the text in order to answer the other questions, try the ‘big picture’ questions which ask you to summarize the passage (or certain paragraphs) as a whole.
Understand Your Mistakes
When doing practice papers before the actual exam, make sure you record the numbers of the questions you get wrong. This way, you can identify which question type you most struggle with. For example, if you are consistently making mistakes with questions that ask you to identify the correct answer and which line it corresponds to, you most likely need to practice the evidence-based questions. Furthermore, it is always good to record why you missed the question. Did you misunderstand a word or maybe just the general meaning? Was it the text that tricked you or the question and its answers?
Unfortunately, many students find the dual passages extremely difficult. This could be because they are usually in contrast with each other and therefore take time to compare, or it could be because you must understand two different opinions in the same test. Whatever the reason, the best piece of advice for this is to take them separately. Read the first passage and answer the questions related, then do the same for the second passage. Lastly, answer the questions that ask you to think about them both. Don’t try and retain the information from both and then go to the questions, it gets very confusing and blurs the opinions of the authors.