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Test PrepSATReading

SAT Reading

Often times, the Reading sections, with their long, frequently boring passages, are the ones students dread the most. It’s easy to see why; this is the place that folks become bogged down in dull detail. We can help you navigate the tedium and develop the skills necessary to improve your Reading score.

The Breakdown

The Reading portion of the SAT consists of three scored sections--one 20-minute section and two 25-minute sections. You’ll receive a single score of 200-800 based on your performance on all three sections. There are two types of Reading questions, both of which are multiple-choice:

  • 19 Sentence Completions
  • 48 Passage-Based (Reading Comprehension)

While sentence completions primarily test vocabulary and reading passages primarily test reading comprehension, in truth, both types of questions test both skills. 

Strategy Talk

Your strategy will be dependent on your current score, the score you hope to achieve and the gap between the two. If you have yet to take the SAT, you can use your PSAT score to predict your SAT performance (just add a “0” to the end). Be realistic. Boosting your score more than 30-40 points on this section may not be likely, especially if you only have a few weeks to prepare.

Like the Math portion, you’ll discover that the difficulty increases as you get further into a section. However, here it happens within each question type. So, if you have 9 Sentence Completions in a row, the last few will feature tougher vocabulary and more difficult sentence construction than the first few. Of course, with the reading passages, the difficulty of one passage over another is often subjective so it’s not really worth considering.

Regardless, time management will be critical. Unless you are aiming for a 700 or above, you don’t need to answer every question. In fact, you’re likely better off focusing on fewer Passage-Based questions and increasing the percentage you answer correctly than rushing through all of them with much less accuracy. Look at it this way, if there are 48 passage-based questions on the test and by doing all of them, you only get 30 correct, you are significantly better off only attempting 40 of them and increasing your accuracy to 35 correct. With a less rushed pace you can greatly reduce careless errors.

Unless you are significantly better at the passage-based questions than the sentence completions, we don’t recommend wholly skipping the sentence completion questions without as much as a glance. That’s a poor strategy. Why? First off, they don’t take a ton of time. Secondly, you can often eliminate at least one or two of the answer options making your chances of guessing correctly that much better.

Preparation Tips

This section of the SAT is probably the toughest when it comes to making big improvements in your score, specifically because it tests skills that aren’t easily acquired in a short period of time. Folks who ace the Reading section tend to be voracious readers, but a love of reading is something that develops over a lifetime.

The most important thing you can probably focus on is your time management, or pacing. Next, you’ll want to make sure you have a clear attack plan for how you’ll approach each and every Sentence Completion question. Then, you’ll want to learn and practice tackling reading passages without losing track of time. Finally, you can work on strengthening your vocabulary. Our Skill Reviews will help you with each of these steps.

If you aren’t a big reader already, try to “amp up” your literary diet by skimming a news magazine every week.  Additionally, you should set aside 30 minutes a day for perusing the newspaper. You don’t find world events scintillating? Don’t worry, the sports page or arts section are just as good.

For maximum benefit, when you come across a word you don’t know, try to figure out the meaning through context.  Afterwards, look it up to check your accuracy. Further, to help boost and/or test your comprehension, discuss the articles with friends or family. The breakfast, lunch or dinner table (really any food-based activity) is a great place to do this.

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Don Munce