Prepping for the SAT Reading Test

The SAT Reading Test makes up 50% of your score on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section of the SAT.  (The other half comes from the Writing and Language Test ).

That breakdown makes the Reading Test important, but it’s not insurmountable. There are no formulas or comma rules to memorize— you just need to know how to approach each reading passage.

Prep for a great SAT reading score with these essential reading strategies.

SAT Reading Tips for a Great Score

  • 1. Know what to expect.

    You’ll have 65 minutes to read five passages (taken from literature, history, social studies, and the natural sciences) and answer a total of 52 questions. The questions will ask you to do everything from determining the meaning of words in context, deciding why an author included a certain detail, finding the main idea of a whole passage, comparing two passages, or even pinpointing information on a graph.

  • 2. Choose your own order.

    Reading questions are not presented in order of difficulty, but they are in chronological order. Don’t be afraid to skip a hard question, and don’t worry if you can’t answer every question. Learn more about SAT strategies for working questions out of order. 

  • 3. Read what you need.

    You don’t have to waste time reading every single word of the passage and trying to become an expert on whatever the topic is. You have the passage right there in front of you. So, move back and forth between the passage and the questions, focusing only on what you need instead of getting mired down in all the little details.

  • 4. Leave your opinions at the door.

    Often, in an English class, you are asked to give your own opinion, supported by the text. Not so on the SAT. Be careful when you see a question that contains the word infer, imply, or suggest. The answer may not be directly stated in the text, but there will still be plenty of evidence there to support the correct answer.

  • 5. Take dual passages one at a time.

    One of your science or history/social studies passages will be a set of dual passages—two shorter texts about one topic.  Do questions about the first passage first, questions about the second passage second, and questions about both passages last. This will save time and keep you from confusing the two passages when you’re evaluating the answer choices.

  • 6. Save main idea questions for last.

    For many of the Reading passages, the very first question will ask a general question about the main idea or purpose of the passage, the narrative point of view, or a shift that occurs through the passage. Those general questions are not good to do first because you haven’t read the entire passage yet. Once you’ve done most of the other questions, you'll have a really good idea of the overall themes of the text.

Put these reading strategies to the test. Try your hand at some SAT reading practice questions.


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