Most students struggle with time management when it comes to reading passages in the SAT, and end up sabotaging their SAT Reading score. Usually, they rush with the passages and even end up answering easy questions incorrectly simply because they did not have enough time to understand what the question was asking them or because they didn’t comprehend the passage at all.
Remember that the SAT gives you ample time to complete and it is not impossible to solve the entire exam. All you need is loads and loads of practice and clear concepts. Most importantly, you need to understand that the SAT is not like those high school exams you take. Those exams were pretty straightforward and the comprehensions required you to thoroughly read every word of the passage so you could answer questions like “What were two things Jane couldn’t stand about Sasha?” The SAT has been designed to trick you and the only way you can tackle it is by figuring out all those tricks.
The first step I suggest is be optimistic and confident. If you believe you won’t be able to do, it will make things way harder than they already are. Not being able to finish the SAT Reading section in time is a common problem students come across when they give the SAT, so don’t degrade yourself thinking that you are the only one out there who is frustrated because of this.
Let me walk you through some steps to help you improve your SAT Reading Score. If you follow these and practice a great deal, your reading speed will increase significantly:
- SAVE TIME READING THE PASSAGE: Like I mentioned before, the SAT is different and so you need to understand the ideology behind this exam. Don’t waste time scanning and absorbing the passage like your life depended on it, thinking that you might miss out something they’d ask you about. I suggest reading at a normal pace and make small summary notes alongside every paragraph. Just try to understand the main idea of every paragraph and summarize it in 5-7 words. Ideally, you should take about 4-5 minutes to read or skim through the passage and that can easily be managed if you read normally, underline and make summaries.
- LEARN TO ELIMINATE 3 WRONG ANSWERS: This requires a lot of practice but you’ll be able to get the hang of it eventually. You need to be able to figure out which of the 4 options are clearly wrong. Once you scratch them off, the list you’re left with the ones that you can spend a few seconds thinking about. On the contrary, if you feel like all four are correct, then this might be a problem because you’ll be spending way too much time trying to pick out the right one. Understand that one answer is 100% correct and the other three are 100% wrong so you need to know what makes the choices totally wrong and completely right. Again, practice is key as well as having a good eye for any tiny hints that could make an option wrong.
- KNOW WHAT TYPE OF QUESTIONS YOU HAVE TROUBLE SOLVING: Among students, question types that they usually get wrong, varies. When you solve a couple of practice tests, you’ll know what type of questions you usually have a problem with. There are a couple of types like Big Picture/Main Point, Words in Context, Command of Evidence Inference, Perspective, Analogies, Tone and Attitude etc. Once you know which ones you have a problem with, make sure you send extra time practicing them so you can polish the concept up. This will save a great deal of time on test day because you’ll be familiar with the tricks of this question.
- SAT READING MATERIAL: Make sure you practice authentic SAT passages so you know what exactly the passages would look like on test day. You need to choose a good SAT book or source because this will create all the difference. Ample material is available online and in market but you need to choose the right material which is in align with the ideology of test makers (more detail on this in another article).
- DON’T FOCUS ON MEMORIZING VOCABULARY: A lot of students, literally a lot of students have this wrong notion that by memorizing vocabulary they will be able to easily pass the reading test. This is not going to happen! There are questions (words in context) about vocabulary in the Reading section but not all of them ask you about vocabulary so memorizing 1000 or 10,000 words won’t help you a lot. Also, the vocabulary questions ask you the meaning of a specific word according to the context in which it has been used in the passage and not the literal meaning. So you see memorizing literal definitions won’t help you a whole lot. You need to understand the CONTEXT in which the specific word has been used to gain more points. Instead of spending hours memorizing words, work on practice tests and concepts and improving your comprehension skills by becoming an avid reader.
- UNDERSTAND THE MISTAKES YOU MAKE: Do NOT skip the mistakes you make on practice tests. Instead, read the questions over and over, know WHY you got it wrong and what information you need to look for in order to get it right. This will help you on test day immensely because you’ll know exactly what to do and what mistakes to avoid. You’ll develop a sixth sense that will make you more careful while answering the questions. If you overlook your mistakes thinking “Oh its okay I won’t make this mistake again, I know better now,” let me make it clear for you that you will make that mistake over and over again so know the reasons behind your mistakes and work harder on them.
- GUESS ON THE QUESTIONS YOU DON’T KNOW: Don’t make this a habit when you’re practicing because that won’t help you gain marks. This strategy is for when you’re in the exam room and have the SAT booklet in front of you, you’ve got the Reading section right there and a couple of questions you just do NOT understand. That is the time where you begin the guessing game. Don’t leave questions blank, you never know your wild guesses could actually be correct. The New SAT does not have a wrong answer penalty so you can always guess and not worry about getting a negative mark. While doing this, eliminate the obvious wrong answers first and then you have a better chance at getting it right.
If you follow these steps, it is highly likely you will save heaps of time so make sure you practice while keeping these steps in mind. Remember that these habits cannot be formed in a day or two. It is a long term approach and it takes a great deal of time and effort. You cannot expect to give your best without spending time on practice.