Most Common Mistakes on SAT® Reading – How to Avoid Them

Most Common Mistakes on SAT® Reading - How to Avoid Them
Gain an understanding of how to avoid commonly made mistakes on SAT® reading with the help of process of elimination, effective time management and paying attention to context
Most Common Mistakes on SAT® Reading - How to Avoid Them
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Important SAT Update: Transition to Digital SAT
Effective December 3, 2023, the traditional paper-and-pencil format of the SAT has been discontinued. Starting in 2024, all students are required to take the Digital SAT, ushering in substantial changes in duration, format, material coverage, and question types. This shift to the Digital SAT represents a departure from traditional testing methods. It is crucial for students, educators, and test-takers to acquaint themselves with the new examination structure. Read more about the Digital SAT here.

Here are some of the most common mistakes made on the SAT® Reading test and how to avoid them.

1. Running Out of Time 

The easiest mistake to make is mismanaging your time. With so much reading to complete and 52 questions to answer in 65 minutes, the risk of running out of time in the Reading section is high. As you prepare for the SAT exam, be sure to create realistic testing conditions, especially in terms of the time limits. For the Reading section, it is important to strategize the order you read the questions, read the passages, and answer the questions. It is also important to know what to expect in terms of genre and style for each passage. When you practice the Reading section of the SAT exam, be sure that you are practicing it along with the rest of the sections. Help your time management by taking the entire test at once to assess and improve your testing endurance. You will want to prepare for the lengthiness of the entire test. Running out of steam is common for students who haven’t practiced the exam all the way through.

2. Misreading the Question

Silly mistakes often happen when students misread the question and fail to understand what is being asked of them. The Reading section questions can be wordy and confusing, so be sure to read them in their entirety and don’t make assumptions about what is being asked. An example of this kind of mistake is when a question asks about lines, phrases, opinions, or meanings that are “most likely ____” or “least likely ____.” One word can make a huge difference! Avoid mistakes here by reading each question carefully and thoroughly.

3. Ignoring Context

You will want to pay attention to the type of passage you are reading (science, literature, or history). This context is largely important for time management. By acknowledging the type of passage you are reading, you can make predictions about the questions that follow. For example, big picture questions for science passages will often be reliant on your understanding of the thesis statements; author technique questions for literature passages will rely on your understanding of the text’s tone and mood. Pay attention to the passage’s context, and you can keep an eye out for these variations as you read

4. Using Outside Information to Answer Questions

You risk making big mistakes by basing your answers on outside information. Remember, this section of the SAT test assesses your skills, not your knowledge. You need to display your reading comprehension, which is largely based on your ability to find and use evidence from the text. Even on questions where the answers are not found in the text directly (like inference questions), outside knowledge is not reliable for finding the correct answer. When using the process of elimination to narrow down your options or selecting an answer choice, be sure that you are grounding your decision on evidence in the text itself rather than outside information.

As you prepare for the SAT Reading test, remember these common mistakes. If you find yourself making them in your practice tests, take some time to understand why and make the necessary adjustments for future attempts. You can use UWorld’s SAT Prep course and practice tests to practice managing your time, reading each question carefully, and understanding the passage’s context using evidence to select your answer choices.

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