How to Practice Reading for the SAT and ACT

Posted by Colleen on 3/14/18 6:15 PM

Reading iStock.jpg

Many students either don’t get the scores that they are hoping for on the reading section or feel like they aren’t reading accurately enough or quickly enough. But how do you improve your reading? Let’s go through some strategies that can help you improve your reading speed and accuracy.

Read. A lot.

Read frequently and widely, beyond official test passages. As you read, ask yourself questions about what you are reading. What is the argument and how does the author structure his/her arguments and supporting points? What is the function of particular words, lines, or paragraphs? Guess how the essay or story will end. 

The goal here is threefold:

  • The more you read, the faster you will read.
  • Practice will help you keep your attention up. You will start to read actively, instead of just scanning over words.
  • These drills will help you think critically about the passage that you have in front of you. 

Practice Marking Up a Passage

One of the most important skills for the reading section is quickly locating where you can find the answers to questions. When you read a practice passage, mark up what you think is the most important. Use underlines, circling, or any other mark that is useful to you. Once you get to the end, take a look at your marks: which ones were important that you marked? What did you miss? If you see a pattern of important ideas that you missed (main characters, main ideas?), remember those for when you read your next passage.

Read Across Different Genres

Both tests include a variety of passages: they come from fiction, the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. As you practice, read across of variety of genres. Identify passages that you find the most difficult, and read widely in those genres. For most of my students, fiction and science are the hardest genres, so if you don’t know what is hardest for you, that might be a good place to start.

Practice Skimming

Reading fast and being able to skim will come in handy during the exam. A lot of students feel like they are not good at skimming. On the one hand, this might not be true: when you skim, you won’t understand everything in the passage perfectly. So if you skim and only understand 50% of the passage, you’re doing well, don’t be hard on yourself.

On the other hand, skimming is a skill like reading or answering questions. So maybe you do need to work on it. There are many different ways to skim: You can look for important words or let your eyes pick up different words as you glance around. Everyone has a different method for skimming, so give a few different methods a try and really practice the method that seems most natural for you.

What Comes Next?

Ready to tackle the reading section? Check out my other posts on reading passages and questions. As always, reach out to Cambridge Coaching for individualized test prep.

Are you interested in connecting with an SAT tutor to help you review?

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Want to brush up on more tips on the SAT?

How to Strengthen Your Reading Sections on the SAT and ACT Test

How to Read for the SAT and ACT: Three Methods

Tags: SAT