Everybody encounters reading passages on their SAT, but not everybody likes reading passages in the first place. Topics often hold a variety of subject matter, and students' interest in the passage often relates to how familiar they are with a given topic. However, just because you don't enjoy moving through dense and unfamiliar passages doesn't mean you can't take advantage of a few simple strategies to sharpen your reading skills and to cut those passages down to size :) Let's dive right in!
The trick to doing well on any section of any standardized test (especially the SAT) is to first understand how you learn best. Here's a few ways you should try out to see how you prefer to digest your reading:
- Read the whole passage first, and then answer the questions
- Read the whole passage after reading the questions
- Read a chunk of the passage after reading a single question (or a group of relevant questions)
Stick to What You Know
One of the easier ways to quickly pick up points on the reading section is to come back to questions that are especially difficult. You should always start with questions that you have confidence in, as marking correct answers is the quickest way to quickly gain points! If a question trips you up, mark it and move on so that you have enough time to address it later after getting the points you're confident in. Because the SAT penalizes for incorrect answers that are marked, you'll want to come back and guess only on questions for which you have a reasonable guess (see the SAT scoring policies here).
The best (and most time-consuming) way to improve your performance on reading passages is to read. It's important to read frequently anyways, as you need a strong vocabulary to do well on all things verbal for the SAT :) Reading high-quality news articles, journal pieces, and literature is the easiest way to make reading long passages easier; this kind of practice improves your reading endurance, broadens your vocabulary, and sharpens your critical reading skills! While you're reading, think about the purposes of the sentences, paragraphs (or chapters), and finally the whole piece. It's important to understand whether an argument is being made, what assertions and assumptions the author relies on, and how you would describe the language and prose of the piece. If you keep a small notebook or journal with these notes, you'll be able to track your own progress and see how much better you process long reading passages over time! For more on why this is important and works well, check out this great piece from our own Chris Lele :)
Practice in Magoosh
Did you know that you can customize your practice in Magoosh? You can select the SAT reading section from the Practice Tab, and receive custom practice and quizzes based solely on reading passages like these so that you can get used to the pacing, difficulty, and requisite endurance you'll need to conquer these passages!