14 Feb 2017

Breaking Down the SAT Reading

The SAT Reading section will be the first part students see when they take the SAT. It comprises 5 passages spread across 52 questions. Students are given a total of 65 minutes for the section, which is an average of 13 minutes per passage. While I do believe that the new reading section is easier than that of the old SAT, there are still a couple things to keep in mind so that you don’t rip your hair out when taking the test.

1) The new SAT reading draws heavily from the ACT Reading. On the new SAT, reading passages will generally have these 5 categories:

Prose Fiction
Humanities
Social Science
General Science
Dual Passages

2) The 5 categories don’t necessarily have to be in order. And what’s even trickier is that the “Humanities” slot might not be a regular Humanities passage. It could be replaced with another science passage, an “American document” passage, or some other whimsical article.

Overall, what this means is that a) you do not have to do passages in order and b) you should discover what type of passages you’re better at and actively attempt to do those first. While there is more time on the new SAT reading, you still need to ensure that you have enough time to get the easier questions correct and leave the harder questions for the end. Thus, do the easier passages first. If the probability of you getting questions on the hard passage correct is low anyway, then you might as well do it when you have little time left.

The new SAT also has only four answer choices as opposed to five on the old one. If you’re looking to get better on the SAT reading, you must learn how to spot trap answers and the clue words that make those answer choices wrong. You can obviously just go into the answer choices looking for the right answer, but that’s harder to do when there’s only one of them among the four. Also, confirmation bias can play tricks on you. So in evaluating answer choices, follow these general guidelines:

  1. Read the question, ignore the answer choices, and find the “window” for the answer in the passage.
  2. Read for what you need. Have that answer in the back of your mind as you tackle the answer choices.
  3. Look for the 50/50 split. This is the hard part. As you go through the answer chioices, there should be one that’s obviously wrong. Get rid of that one. Then do your best to eliminate one more answer (in future articles, I’ll discuss what to look for in eliminating answer choices). This is your 50/50 split. Do NOT look for the correct answer. Try to find 2 that are incorrect.
  4. Now with two answer choices left, you can pick one and move on. If it’s not easy, take one last look at the passage, then go with your gut and move on. Don’t spend too much time on any one question.

This should give you a rough guide to the reading section. Next time, I’ll write about the passage types. If you have any more questions, feel free to contact me at Lom@yprepacademy.com. Toodles.

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