SAT Reading Strategies: 5 Tips on How to Improve Your SAT Reading Score

Friday, October 26, 2018
Sat Reading Strategies

If reading isn’t your strength, you may be looking for SAT reading strategies to improve your score, or maybe you’ve already achieved a good score, but you want to do better. With hard work and focus, you can improve, but it will take time, practice, and strategy for the day of the test. Feeling confident on the day of the SAT gets you started on the right foot, but in order to get there you have to prepare. If you’re looking for information on how to improve SAT reading score, you’ve come to the right place. Here are 5 tips & strategies:


1. Take Practice Tests to Identify Your Strengths & Weaknesses

You can’t practice too much for the SAT, so don’t be afraid to take a few practice tests. Practice tests will help you to identify where your strengths lie and where you need to improve your skills. Once you know your strengths, you can take a step back from focusing on those areas and spend more of your time focusing on the areas you struggle with.

Time yourself, but also complete the reading section once the time is complete, marking any questions that you answered after the time was up. This allows you to evaluate your strengths on all aspects of the test while also acknowledging whether or not you need to work on time management skills.

It’s also important to understand your mistakes and why you made them. Don’t just keep taking tests over and over again hoping to see improvements. Spend time understanding the mistakes you made. Review every question that you got wrong and analyze what type of question it is, why you got it wrong, and how you can improve on questions similar to it. You can find free practice tests here and here.


2. Learn how to Skim the Passages

Most students spend far too much time on reading the passages and trying to comprehend them instead of skimming them for basic information. In your English classes you’ve been taught to remember specifics from a passage, while the SAT reading test tends to ask more general questions about the passage as a whole.

Some people can quickly skim a passage and have a general idea of what it is about while others need to spend more time, so if you know this isn’t a strength for you, use practice tests to work on your ability to skim passages quickly.

Your goal should be to skim the passage in three minutes only focusing on getting a general idea of it instead of trying to thoroughly understand every single line.

Then, you can look at the questions. If the questions refer to particular lines, go and read those lines again to answer the question. There are many more lines in the passage than you’ll need for answering the questions which is why skimming is the best way to save time, answer more questions, and improve SAT reading scores.


3. Eliminate 3 Wrong Answers

Each question on the SAT reading section will have four answer choices. The reality is that many people spend too much time focusing on which one is right, instead of eliminating the ones that are definitely wrong and being left with the correct answer.

SAT reading does its best to trick you into selecting the wrong answer by providing multiple answers that may seem right but aren’t completely right. However, only one answer can be absolutely right, which means the other three should be viewed as being absolutely wrong. If you try to eliminate answers, but still end up with several that seem like they may be right, you aren’t doing a good enough job of eliminating.

On the new SAT (introduced in 2016), there are no penalties for wrong answers, so this is where using the process of elimination really helps. Even if you don’t know which of the answers is right, you can eliminate several that you know are wrong. Eliminating 2 gives you a 50% chance of getting the correct answer, but your real goal should be to eliminate the 3 wrong answers.


4. Skip Questions to Manage Time 

Like most students, you’re probably better in some areas than others.You may come to questions that you’ll read over and over and still not understand. With timed tests like the SAT, these questions can draw you away from easier questions that you’re more likely to get correct, so a great way to improve your SAT reading score is to learn how to skip questions.

You’ll need to make a quick judgement about how long it will take you to answer each question. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t spend more than 30 seconds on each one and don’t read it more than two times. If you still aren’t sure after two read throughs of the question, make a quick guess, circle the question on your answer sheet, and move on. Circling the questions you guessed on gives you the opportunity once you’ve finished to go back and spend more time on it. Guess quickly on questions you aren’t sure of so you can move on to easier questions that you’re more likely to answer correctly. **Like most students, you’re probably better in some areas than others


5. Don’t Spend Too Much Time Studying Vocabulary

While it may be tempting to spend all of your time studying vocabulary because it feels like you’re making progress, it really isn’t a good use of your time. With the new SAT, there just aren’t that many vocab questions to justify the amount of time most students spend studying it. You may run into 2 or 3 questions that will stretch your vocabulary, but compared to the number of questions on reading passages, 2 or 3 is very minor. Your time is much better spent working on a strategy to quickly read passages and answer those questions effectively.