How To Prepare For SAT® Reading

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As you prepare for the Reading section of the SAT® test, it is important to learn about the details of the various question types and the strategies that can improve your scores. Here is a breakdown of all the information you need to know to succeed in the Reading section, from question types, practice strategies, and time management tools, to the scoring processes and tips for a perfect score.

You can study these question types and practice the strategies on practice tests, like the ones offered in UWorld’s SAT Prep Course. These practice tests will provide you with a score report where you can learn about the questions where your performance could improve the most. 

Once you know which questions to target more aggressively in your studies, you will be on track to improve your scores. Learn about the question types, reading strategies, passage topics, and common mistakes here, then start your studies with an understanding of what to expect after reading each passage.

Types of Questions On the SAT Reading Test

There are nine types of questions on the SAT Reading Test that you should be prepared for: big picture questions, little picture questions, inference questions, function questions, words in context questions, evidence support questions, author technique questions, analogy questions, and analyzing data graphic questions. 

After reading each passage, you will be asked to answer any of these question types. Learning more about the question types is important when targeting your weak points. You may also decide to answer the questions in your own order, depending on the question type. For example, some test takers strategize by answering big picture questions last. This provides a number of opportunities to interact with the smaller details before pinning down the big picture.

The Best Ways To Read The Passages On The SAT Reading Test

Here are a few key strategies for reading the passages in the SAT Reading test. We recommend that you read the questions first to know what to look for when you move on to read the passage.

Getting an idea of what specific lines will be in question is a great place to start. Next, you should read the introduction: this is a small, italicized paragraph before the text. It is beneficial to read this information, as it often provides significant context for the passage. 

While you read the passage, pay attention to introductions, conclusions, and thesis statements to track big ideas. You should pay attention to transition words as well, to track key points and comparisons.

Best Way To Practice For The SAT Reading Section

If you are looking to practice for the SAT Reading test, you should start with practice exams. It is important to create a realistic testing environment and find out what your weak points are. You can target the weak points exposed by practice exams in your study plan. 

When practicing, it is also important to take note of the questions you are guessing on. If you are getting the correct answer out of luck, you miss an opportunity to learn how to nail that question on test day. 

Any questions you guess on should be drilled to gain understanding, along with the questions you answer incorrectly. This is all to increase the number of questions you are confident in answering. Your practice should involve the weak performance areas and the lucky answers as well.

How To Prepare For The SAT Reading Test

Some tips and strategies to prepare for the Reading test include practicing being timed, finding a reading strategy that works for you, finding your weaknesses, and reading widely. You can also look at this list of books to prepare you for the passages’ levels of difficulty and improve your reading comprehension skills for the Reading test.

Vocabulary and Literary Terms

Some questions will ask you about the function of various literary terms. Knowing their definitions can help you understand what the question is asking. You won’t have to define the terms directly, but you will have to recognize them for questions about small details and the writer’s techniques.

Literature Passages

Expect one literature passage in the Reading section of the SAT test. Passages in this section will be fictional and come from a book or story. While reading these passages, pay attention to characters, track the emotions, and engage with the plot of the passage.

History Passages

The Reading section’s history passages can be daunting in subject matter, but remember that the Reading test does not test your previous knowledge. Instead, it assesses your skills with reading comprehension. 

To remain engaged with the dense history passages, you can create reference notes for the lines with questions tethered to them. You may not relate to the content matter but make an effort to remain engaged by tracking moments of emotion or shifts in mood. 

This is helpful, not only for your engagement and reading comprehension, but also for answering the little detail and author technique questions. Some history passages come in pairs, so you should keep an eye out for whether the history passage has a pair.

How to Approach Paired Passages on SAT Reading

Two of the five passages will come in a pair, and we have some tips for approaching these paired passages. You can start by reading the questions first to determine if there is a paired passage to pay attention to while reading Passage #1. 

You can then break its questions into three categories: questions about Passage #1, questions about Passage #2, and questions about both passages. You should know that the order you read and answer questions is important as well.

Running Out of Time

If you are struggling to finish the SAT Reading test, we have some strategies for you to try. You should start by monitoring your time during practice tests. Replicating a realistic testing environment in your practice work can make a huge difference in your test day performance, especially if the time restrictions impact your test day anxiety.

Get as much experience with the time limits as possible to improve your performance with their restrictions. The next strategy is to read the questions first, then read the passages. 

You can save time by looking for answers as you read. You can also improve your time management skills by building up your test-taking endurance. Test takers often fatigue in the later sections of the exam if they are not used to sitting for such an extended test.

Don’t let fatigue slow you down! When you practice, practice all of the sections in a row. We also recommend answering the easier questions first. If you have time to answer the more difficult ones later, you can come back to them. 

Don’t spend too much time on any given question, and use the process of elimination to cut time as well. Finally, you can try making notes as you read to avoid having to reread large chunks of a passage.

The Scoring Process

The Reading section is scored by using a raw score and converting it into a scaled score. The raw score is produced by totaling up the number of answers you mark correctly. 

The Reading test’s raw score is added to the Writing test’s raw score and scaled to a total Reading and Writing score between 200 and 800 points. You can read more about the SAT scoring process.

Many students receive their results and wonder if their Reading scores are good enough. Your scoring goals should be based on the colleges you are applying to. It is important to do some research on the scores your prospective colleges expect from applicants. 

Find out what scores got applicants accepted in the previous year. If you receive your scores and find that you are within the scoring threshold for each school you apply to, you should feel confident in your performance. 

If you receive your results and you feel unsatisfied with your performance, we have some tips to boost your scores in the Reading test. Remember that your score is based on the number of questions answered correctly.

Start by knowing what to expect, and focus on basing your answers on the text rather than outside information. You should also practice the various reading strategies, then read the passages and questions in the order that works for you. 

We recommend doing the main idea questions last to give yourself opportunities to look at the details first. This strategy helps you avoid digging for evidence to answer the main idea questions.

How To Get An 800 On SAT Reading

If you are looking to get a perfect score on the Reading section, we have some strategies for you to try out. Start by understanding your weaknesses and spend time improving them. 

You will also need to practice eliminating answers effectively. We recommend that you make predictions about your answers before reading the answer choices to avoid being swayed by confusing options. To get a perfect score, find a reading strategy that works for you. You will also want to pay attention to the introductions to gain context for the passages. 

To boost your reading comprehension for each passage, actively engage with the subject matter, and practice the time management strategies we have listed above to make time for checking your work. You can mark questions that you are not 100% sure of as you go. This makes going back to check your work more efficient.

The most common mistakes on the SAT Reading test are running out of time, misreading the question, ignoring the context, and using outside information to answer questions. You can learn more details about these mistakes, along with some tricks to avoid them.

SAT Reading Book List: A complete guide

In preparation for the SAT Reading test, you may be looking for relevant texts to read and become familiar with. While you won’t be tested on your knowledge of these books, reading them can help prepare you for the level of difficulty and the reading comprehension skills that will be assessed by the SAT Reading test.

If you can make a habit of reading as much as possible, you are sure to boost your performance in this section. The College Board has listed 102 books in their suggested reading list. 

You can take advantage of this list to refine your skills with finding evidence, pinpointing how the author uses evidence to support claims, making connections between graphics and passages, using contexts to decipher the meaning of words, and reflecting on how word choice impacts the text. Note that the list contains different genres, disciplines, or eras. 

It is a good idea to become comfortable with the wide range of texts you will encounter on test day.

How to Boost Your SAT Reading Score

We have some key strategies to boost your SAT Reading score. The first strategy is to do the Main Idea questions last. This strategy can increase your score by saving time. If you have multiple opportunities to look at the text’s details through the little picture, function, words in context, evidence support, or analogy questions first, then the main idea questions won’t require a ton of digging. 

You will likely know the answer, having combed through the details in the other questions. The next strategy is to know what to expect from the passages. Having realistic expectations for the style and difficulty of the reading material can help you target any weak points in advance. 

Suppose you know that your reading comprehension skills are stronger with science passages and weaker with history passages. In that case, you can be prepared for the greater focus that is necessary when you come to history questions. 

You can also benefit by basing your answers on the text rather than basing your choices on outside knowledge and information. The Reading test is designed to target your command of evidence, so do your best to utilize the information in the passage to decide your answer. 

The last strategy is to read in the order that works for you. For some students, reading the questions first, then reading the passage, then answering the questions works best. Others find the most success reading the passage in detail, then reading and answering the questions.

Another option is to skim the passage, then read and answer the questions. Test each order in your practices and find the one that works for you.

Most Common Mistakes on SAT Reading – Tricks to avoid them

The most common mistakes on the SAT Reading test are running out of time, misreading the question, ignoring the context, and using outside information to answer questions. In your practice, it is crucial to manage your time, read each question carefully, and understand the context before you select an answer choice.

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