Mastering the SAT Reading Section: Essential Tips for the 2024 Exam


The SAT is a standardized test that students take for seeking admissions into tops colleges for the under grads program. It is a time bound computer adaptive test. College Board is the maker of the SAT, and it is conducted 7 times in a year (March, May, June, August, October, and December). The score of the SAT is widely accepted by top universities worldwide and it provides admission into undergraduate programs in countries like USA UK, Canada. Top Colleges in India too have started accepting the SAT score. A top SAT score also provides scholarship to the successfully enrolled students.

SAT Test Structure

The SAT test consists of two broad sections:

  1. Reading and Writing Section
  2. Math Section

Let us discuss the SAT Reading and Writing questions in detail.

The SAT Reading and Writing section consists of 27 questions (25 operational + 2 pretest questions) and the time specified is 32 minutes for each module. There are two modules and that makes a total of 52 questions to be solved within 64 minutes. This provides 1.19 minute per question for both Reading and Writing question types. While solving a question from the writing section may be pretty easy within 1.19 minute, the same time can seem less if a student is not aware of the strategies involved.

The following tips below can definitely help to master the SAT Reading section.

TIP 1: Understanding your weakness

It is seen that the majority of the students struggle with either comprehending the passage well or if comprehending well, not being able to do it within the stipulated time. To begin with your preparation, you should be sure about where your problem lies. So, always begin your preparation by making a timed diagnostic test. Thorough analysis of the test will help you to understand your weaknesses and then develop strategies to work on it. Taking an untimed test is not suggested as it will not reflect the actual scores.

TIP 2: Developing a tentative action plan

After scrutiny of the diagnostic test, one will be clear about the entire content of the test and the flow of questions. So here comes the important step of understanding the skills tested by the College Board. For instance, the questions under the SAT Reading Section broadly test two skills: Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension.

For Vocabulary, a student needs to first have a strong sense of word meanings. Secondly, there are other specific strategies that can also help to guess the correct word that will fit in the context or blank. These strategies can be learned by taking help from a test prep planner and educator.

Similarly, Reading Comprehension again tests various skills like understanding the main idea or reason behind writing a piece, retrieving a detail, supporting a claim made in the text with more text or a diagram, deciphering poetic languages and the behind etc. Also, understanding the passage types can help to dissect the information clearly. Topics of passages can be from literature and that will focus on certain themes, the characters and their roles in the text. On the other hand, historical or social science passages will require paying attention to the author’s point of view, supporting evidence, and its historical relevance. Lastly, scientific passages can be easily understood by identifying the main focus, hypothesis included, and conclusions made.

TIP 3: Strategic reading

SAT strategic reading

The first and foremost thing is to be an active reader on the SAT, especially for the SAT Reading questions. As you start solving the Reading Comprehension questions, you should develop a strategy to be able to tackle passages better. All reading comprehension passages do not require similar type of reading. Paying good attention to structural signposts, key words, transition words is also essential.

Let us look at an example:

For instance, a main idea question will ask what is the main thing that the entire passage wants to state? To solve that, you should first know how to read the passage. Start by identifying the main focus and then highlight it. Next, highlight what does the author says about the main focus and then use the annotation box to put a summary of both. The annotated context will take you closer to the answer. However, annotation may not be possible always and in certain scenarios, you will have to rely solely on the highlighted points. Traps here can be mere facts from the passage and not the main idea.

Similarly, a purpose question will ask the reason for which the author wrote the passage, the function of an underlined sentence, or the overall structure of a passage. These questions will again need a different approach and here focusing on the details given in the text is a trap. Thus, understanding the differentiation of the questions, the skills tested, and the strategies involved in solving them will help to get a near perfect score on the SAT Reading.

TIP 4: Skill building

As stated above, different questions of the SAT Reading section will examine different skills. Firstly, we have the Craft and structure questions. The Vocabulary questions will either test your ability to find the suitable word for a given blank or determine the meaning of a word in the context. The purpose questions will require you to understand the reason behind which the author includes a sentence in the passage or write the entire passage. Lastly the dual text questions will require you to draw the connection between two given passages.

Similarly, the Information and Ideas questions will test your ability to grasp the argument behind a stated piece of information. For example, the main idea and inference questions, you will require understanding the overall argument of the passage or the detail about the topic in question. Evidence based questions will require you to support your answer based on the evidence provided, be it textual or numerical.

TIP 5: Analyzing Traps

College board is well equipped in creating trap answers. A student who doesn’t know about the potential traps related to specific questions may fall for one. Trap answers sound good and even look logical. But one should keep in mind that analyzing a text from one’s own point of view or assuming and interpretating something that is not given in the text is not entertained by the College board.

TIP 6: Working on errors

Working on SAT errors

After the development of a study plan based on strategy and skills required, you will appear for mock tests. Always take mocks from reliable sources like those on the official website of College Board or reputed sites like the Princeton Review for additional practice. These tests should be analyzed to understand the weaknesses both topic wise and question wise. Understanding the explanations and then working on them will help to get rid of the confusions and misunderstandings.

STEP 7: Time Management

As the SAT is a time bound test, keeping a tab of the time is very important to have a good score. As you already know that in every module of the Reading Writing Section, there will be 27 questions for 32 minutes, Distributing the time equally for Reading and Writing questions will be a major fault as the module will clearly contain more reading questions. Knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses, plan for a tentative strategy to have enough time for the time-consuming questions. And if you feel completely stuck, leave the question for the time being and come back to it later. This is one of the global strategies that can help in effectively solving the questions with time conveniency. Learning such strategies will help in effective time management.

STEP 8: Consistency

Practice makes a man perfect isn’t just a saying. Consistency is essential to master the tools and techniques. Even if you know the strategies, applying them regularly will only help you to achieve mastery in them. Taking the timed tests at regular intervals will help in building confidence and the review of the mistakes will again help to work further.

STEP 9: Positive attitude

Overall, having a positive attitude and a calm mindset will help you to ace the test. The moment you let anxiety or fear take in, you will find yourself stuck in even the easiest questions. Thus, maintain a calm and composed attitude and take the test with a positive mindset.

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Does the SAT have reading and writing questions in two separate sections?

No, the reading and writing questions do not come separately but together make one section.

What is the order of questions in the Reading- Writing section in the SAT?

On the SAT, the reading questions will always come first and then the writing questions will follow for both the modules.

Will reading questions come before the writing questions always?

Yes, for both the modules, reading questions will come first and writing questions will follow.

Does the SAT Reading section test vocabulary?

Yes, vocabulary is a major part of the SAT Reading section.

Is there an order in which questions appear on the SAT Reading section?

Yes, SAT Reading questions can be broadly divided into two types: Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension. Vocabulary questions will always appear first in both the modules and then the reading comprehension questions will also follow their order.

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