The Most Effective Method to Read the Passages for the SAT Reading Test
The Most Effective Method to Read the Passages for the SAT Reading Test
For most people, a difficult aspect of the SAT is the reading part of it. This fact continues to hold even more value ever since the latest version of the SAT was released with a new format. This part comprises of a 65-minute long section. If you need to recap the structure of this section, visit our overview of the SAT reading test section. In this section, you will need to maintain a high level of attention while reading passages. You will be expected to look throughout the bodies of text for proof of your answers.
This blog will cover the most efficient and effective methods for the approach to the SAT reading test. In using the methods outlined here, you will improve your score and even have the possibility of attaining the Holy Grail – the perfect score of 800. The SAT reading test may seem intimidating due to the harsh time limits and tricky answers meant to distract you. However, by implementing the correct approaches mentioned in this guide, you can figure out how to tackle these problems. To begin with, lets take a look at what the newly structured passages look like on the latest version of the SAT.
The New SAT Version’s Reading Types
There was no way of knowing the types of passages that you would come across in the previous version of the SAT. You had to rely on your intuition to determine whether they derived from literary fiction, natural sciences, social studies, or humanities. You were faced with uncertainty with regards to the number of passages you would receive relating to each area. Also, you did not know what precise order that they would appear on the SAT.
Luckily, the latest version of the SAT diminishes that level of uncertainty (to a degree). The SAT reading test is structured as four separate passages and a single pair of passages. Two of the passages stem from Social Studies as well as History, another two stem from Science, and one stems from World and US Literature. Each passage comprises of a word count of 500 to 750. Also, at least one passage will be accompanied by some form of visual data, such as a graph or diagram.
Before jumping into a briefing on a few methods you can utilize while reading the passages, we will first examine the kinds of questions that you will see on the SAT. The types of questions still are quite similar to the kinds that were presented on the previous version of the SAT. The most notable alterations are the new appearance of “data analysis” as well as “evidence” questions. These two types of questions will be explained here.
The Kinds of Reading Questions Found in the Latest SAT
The kinds of reading questions on the new SAT are somewhat similar to the old SAT. The latest SAT reading comprehension questions types are broken down into author technique, inferences, function, vocabulary in context, details, as well as, main points. Also, two new kinds of reading questions make an appearance in the new SAT. These two types of inquiries are called “data analysis” and “evidence support.” These two types of questions can be answered by obtaining information from a graphic such as a graph or a table.
The SAT has grown less interested in evaluating isolated details and more interested in you being able to make certain connections in the passages. The latest SAT holds a greater value in regards to how you deconstruct logic or arguments by linking supporting proof from either graphics or text. Bearing in mind this recent change in values while remembering the following question type explanations can help you score highly on the SAT. By studying the content below, you can stay alerted for the important details as well as meanings while you read through the given passages. Here are the primary methods that the College Board will use to evaluate your reading comprehension capabilities:
The Main Point: Can you identify the general purpose of the passage? Is an event or a problem being explained? Is the passage attempting to hypothesize, contradict, review, or prove something?
The Details: Typically, detail questions will give you some direction by telling you to seek a particular line in the passage. The may inquire the meaning of a sentence or its functionality within a whole passage.
Inference: This type of question involves asking you to evaluate and interpret the meaning of a particular line of the passage. There is nothing to be anxious over as the answers will not too open-ended as there is only one correct answer.
Vocabulary in Context: This type of question normally additionally provides references to a certain line. Then, you will be expected to answer a question in regards to how a single word operates in the given line. The level of the vocabulary is typically at a standard level of comprehension. Instead of being complex in nature, they are normally everyday words of which might hold a unique significance in regards to the context they are used.
Function: This kind of question frequently inquires about what a selected paragraph, sentence, or phrase is achieving within an overall meaning of the entire passage. This kind of question directly connects your comprehension of the main point or otherwise known as the “big picture.”
Author Techniques: This kind of question will ask either what the author used for technique, style, or tone. The couplings of passages from the SAT will often use these types of questions to contrast as well as compare author ideologies or techniques.
Evidence Support: This kind of question will require you to select either a sequence of lines or a single line. The text you chose should give evidence of which holds the greatest value to prove your response to the prior question. Hence, this type of question could possibly make a reference to any prior question kinds that have been aforementioned in the descriptions above. However, vocabulary-within-context questions do not apply to this rule. The inquiries usually articulated this fashion, “Which choice provides the best evidence to the previous question?” Although evidence support questions may aid in your ability to evaluate your reasoning, you will most likely encounter a trap. This trap ensnares you when you have given an incorrect answer to the correlating previous question. There is a possibility that you will spend a great amount of precious time scouring the passage for evidence that belongs to a faulty answer. This waste of time will only result in your frustration and limit the amount of time you can spend on other questions. If you find yourself repeatedly reading the passage and are still unable to find any evidence to support your answers, then, perhaps you should consider revising the related answer to which the evidence is based.
Data Analysis: This kind of question is completely brand new and deals with observing and interpreting graphs or charts. The SAT might inquire about something related to a graph like, “Which statement in regards to weather information is being supported by the following graph?” The more difficult questions might entail a blend of a data interpretation inquiry with an inference inquiry such as, “Which interpretation of the information found in this figure is the author the least likely to stand behind?”
Grasping the types of passages and questions will start you on your journey to increase your score on the SAT reading test. Also, it will positively affect the way you will examine each passage. During your practice, pay attention to how individual questions fall into one or even more of the categories outlined above. This will help you to predict the types of questions you are likely to be asked on any given passage. After a while, you will become very good at this.
Reading the Passages Properly
There are several techniques that students utilize, such as diving straight into the reading of the entire passage first; analyzing the questions prior to the reading; or jumping back and forward between the questions and bodies of text. The methods that I outline here, however, have been tried, tested, and true. They’ve been proven to work, so it’s worth your time to practice them.
Time is a valued thing when it comes to reading five passages and then answering fifty-two questions with the short sixty-five-minute time limit. Review the following steps, attempt to use them, and determine whether the methods can benefit you keep your level of attention as well as both effectively and efficiently work while you prepare for the reading part of the SAT.
Step 1: Skim Over the Questions!
One great way to approach the SAT reading test passage is to skim over the correlating questions before you start the actual reading of the passage. By doing this, you will have more of an idea of what you are looking for in the passage and have a better sense of where you should channel your attention.
Although the passage might be a captivating explanation of newly discovered planet or oriental dance moves, in-depth reading isn’t your objective. Rather, replying correctly to the given questions in an effective and efficient manner is.
Just by using this method alone, you can accomplish several things to ensure your success on the SAT reading exam. For the questions that call for you to cite or read certain lines, you could create a mark beside them and give those certain lines extra focus when you read the passage. For example, pay attention to the context of those lines by taking into account the lines before and after them (or the paragraph they are in). This will easily help you answer this sort of question.
If a question asks you for the main point of the passage, just wait until you’ve finished reading the whole passage before you try to answer it. Also, read the little blurb before the passage – sometimes that can tell you the main point of the passage.
Step 2 – Read the Blurb Before the Passage!
Take note of the information briefing that is directly above the body of passage. By doing this, you should get at least a general understanding of what the passage is about. For example, when did the author write the passage? What is his or her profession? Does this author write non-fiction or fiction? The picture above is from the first passage of the official SAT practice test 1 from college board. This passage was hard to understand for many of my students because they didn’t read the blurb and jumped right into the passage and had no idea what was going on. Once they finished reading the whole passage, they had to re-read certain sections to make sense of it all. Reading the blurb would have made it so much easier. The blurb, in this case, lets us know the setting is in olden Japan and the situation is that a guy has come to ask for a girl’s hand in marriage. And the girl is from a noble family. And then the passage actually goes into detail about the situation!
Step 3 – Read Actively
Now that you completed the first two steps continue on and read the passage. Active reading is when you make notes and marks on critical information while you read. Passive reading is when you don’t do anything while you read. Active reading helps you remember stuff way more than passive reading. So it is to your benefit to do it. Know where important information usually appears:
- the last line of the introduction paragraph usually states the thesis or main point
- transition words – or the beginning of the body paragraphs can tell you things like if the author is contradicting or criticizing something stated earlier
- the first line of the conclusion paragraph usually sums up the author’s statement or arguments
This strategy is a lot more time-conserving and helpful as opposed to attempting to grasp every individual word.
Step 4 – Main Point and Author Tone!
Now that you’ve finished reading the passage, you should have a good idea of what the main point is. Write it down as concisely as you can. If there is a ‘main point’ question, go ahead and answer that now. You will most likely get the answer right away by finding the one that’s most similar to what you wrote down.
For the author’s tone of voice, ask yourself if you thought the author was supportive/happy/inspired, neutral/informative/objective, or critical/angry/against. These are usually the tone of voices you see in the SAT passages. You can write down the word or you can draw a smiley face (which is what I do). It’s easier and faster and a little fun. Basically, you draw a smiling smiley face if you thought the author was supportive/happy/inspired; a neutral smiley face for neutral/informative/objective; and a frowning smiley face for critical/angry/against.
This method should help you get these two types of questions right 100% of the time, once you get good at it.
Step 5 – Answer the Rest of the Questions
It may prove useful to attempt to answer your questions before reviewing the selection of choices. The questions are crafted so that more than one sound like they could be the answer. There are often ‘red herrings’, answer choices that are designed to make you think it’s the actual answer through tricky wording. For example, look for all-or-none type of phrasing like “The author believes that all politicians become corrupt at some point in their lives.” This sort of answer is usually wrong.
If by chance your passage contains a graph or chart, they will be followed by the maximum of two data analysis questions. Just by glancing over the passage, you might be able to answer these types of questions. However, in the majority of situations, it would be more useful to have some extra context to base your final answer off of. So, make sure you leave the data analysis questions for the end.
Several of the questions found on the SAT reading test do not just ask for data interpretation by itself. Rather, the questions ask if the information provided in the graph support a statement made in the passage. Another way the question could test you is by asking what would happen if the passage author added a data entry to debate or agree with an argument. These types of questions will require you to seek proof within the given data and in the written content.
Side Note: Bubbling
Jumping between the test booklet passage and the bubble sheet continuously can lead to mistakes in bubbling. So, you may want to consider preserving time, energy, and focus by first answering the questions directly into the SAT test booklet. Then, once you have your questions answered, input all of your answers on the bubble sheet. By doing the task of transferring the answers onto the bubble sheet in one big portion, you can spend more time on the actual SAT questions. Just make sure you leave a few minutes at the end to give yourself enough time to bubble them all in!
These five steps are an extremely effective method for a majority of students, on the SAT reading test. Give the method a chance and see if you can achieve a higher score on your SAT reading. This method is particularly more effective if you find yourself always failing to meet the given time limits. You can also take a look at these two SAT reading test strategies to further add on to what you have read here.
Methods and Tricks for Critical Reading
There are, of course, a few other things you can do to help you ace the SAT reading test. For example, the timeless, process of elimination trick can still remain a useful way to answer the questions.
Seek to Eliminate Incorrect Answers
For many questions, it will seem as though not one of the given answers is obviously incorrect. Actually, the questions are crafted to all seem like possible answers to the questions. On the old SAT, there were usually two obviously incorrect choices. Not anymore. Also, there are only four answer choices, whereas, on the old SAT there were five.
Your mind can be quick to draw conclusions based off of answers that may seemingly be the right fit for the given question. However, it’s easy to fall for traps – choices that don’t have proof in the passage text or choices that make an inference or conclusion that the author did not explicitly state. Remember that there is only one correct answer to any given question. And there must be proof of that answer within the passage. If you can’t find the proof for it, it’s likely not the answer.
Normally, incorrect answers are far too detailed, precise, too vague, explain a connection backward, or introduce a new completely irrelevant idea.
For example, evading all-or-none statements, as stated above, is an excellent rule to go by. These types of statements are usually not the answer.
Use Proof to Reinforce Your Answers
Instead of relying on your intuition to select the answer that “feels” correct, ensure that you are prepared to reinforce your answers with proof that comes directly from the content. Fortunately, no question on the SAT will need you to have any outside knowledge of the subjects and concepts discussed. Rather than evaluating what you know about the subjects, the SAT will be evaluating your level of comprehension while reading. You should have evidence from the content provided which supports and validates all of your responses.
Knowing this is important because the SAT will try to trick you into thinking you can use outside knowledge. For example, they may give you a passage that states ‘DNA was discovered by James McArthur’. And then in the answer choices they’ll have ‘Watson & Crick’ as one of the choices. You can bet that most students will use their outside knowledge and choose this answer, when in fact, they have to choose what was stated in the passage – James McArthur. The new SAT will utilize the content of which you might find yourself already aware of.
Work on Data Analysis Questions by Using the ACT Science Section
The adding of graphs, charts, and tables into the SAT reading test might seem strange to many students. However, being able to make sense of data is crucial to any critical reader. You will see many reading items in College or University where you have associated data to understand. Science courses will especially be like this. The College Board states that the addition of data and analysis are a part of the effort to link the newly developed SAT with exactly what students will be learning in the classroom as well as what skills they will be using in real-life.
The cool thing about the ACT science section is that they have been testing their section with data and analysis for a long time. So they are very similar to what the SAT is now starting to do. By solving ACT science related questions, you will increase your level of skill in the area of data analysis. The ACT also does NOT require you to have any outside science knowledge.
Understanding Your Literary Strategies and Terminology
The new SAT will not evaluate reading terminology the same way as the previous version. Rather, it concentrates more on testing your ability to understand the function of arguments, paragraphs, sentences, and even words. Hence, the majority of your preparation SAT reading will have to concentrate on making sense of the author’s reasoning, stylistic devices, and the structure the passage.
Even though the SAT reading test is no longer testing rare words, you still have to know some words. For students who never read, they will have a difficult time on the SAT reading test if they don’t prepare for the vocabulary. It will prove very useful to go over common vocabulary that is used in everyday speak. You can check out our mega list of confused and misused words tested on the SAT to get you started with your vocabulary building.
The vocabulary questions build on a foundation of information from the passages and will not evaluate your comprehension of less commonly spoken words. In other words, you are going to be tested on the use of common words, rather than the use or definition of exotic rare words that you never hear in everyday communication.
Actually, the restructured SAT has totally terminated those infamous vague “sentence completion” questions, which were designed to test your knowledge of rare words such as “ascorbic” or “incongruous.” The alteration in the new SAT is a small part of a bigger plan to help students make links between the exam and real life skills and learning.
So, make sure to practice understanding words based on the context they’re presented in. For example,
“George procrastinated to avoid his homework all day by playing video games and sleeping instead.”
The question may ask you to define the meaning of ‘procrastinate’. What if you don’t know what ‘procrastinate’ means? No need to worry. If we look at the context of the situation, we do have examples of what it means. The sentence tells us that playing video games and sleeping are the way to procrastinate. If George should be doing his homework, but he’s doing these other things instead, then procrastination must mean delaying or putting off. That’s how the SAT will test you on words using the context they’re presented in.
I will go more into this in another blog.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practice for the SAT seriously. That means, no distractions and in a quiet place. Concentrated studying will aid both your reading comprehension along with your timing and pacing. Practicing reading the exact type of materials you are likely to see on the SAT. We’ve already outlined a list of amazing reading articles for the SAT reading test. Make sure you practice critically reading for at least 30 minutes every day. Analyzing reasoning, breaking down arguments, as well as deciphering author tone and opinion within multiple types of writing will help you prepare well for the SAT reading test.
Complete all the official released tests from college board, determine your weak areas, analyze your mistakes, and efficiently practice as frequently as possible so that you may achieve the highest score you possibly can. Using the right methods and with an appropriate amount of time spent studying, you can obtain the perfect score of 800.