Some students find that the SAT reading comprehension questions are some of the most difficult parts to prepare for on the exam. However, it does not have to be so daunting! Whether you are working with an SAT tutor, PSAT tutor or SSAT tutor, our approach to reading comprehension will help you tackle any text-based set of questions.
Here are some SAT tutor-tested strategies that will help you to tackle the questions that are passage-based.
Pre-scan questions to mark passage
Before you read the passage, (quickly) scan the questions for “detail” questions – on the SAT, these are often accompanied by references to certain lines. There is no need to read through the answer choices, just the questions. Don’t spend more than 20 or so seconds on this. When you see a “detail” question, circle the world or mark the lines in the passage with a line beside the paragraph (underlining each individual line will take too long). This way, when you read through the passage, you’ll be able to focus in on the particular word/phrase/lines. about which you are being asked. As soon as you come across these circled or underlined words in the passage, return to the question and find the correct answer, then continue reading the passage.
Pay especially close attention to the first paragraph
Often, particularly on longer passages, SAT passages will be written so that the author’s thesis/the main point of the passage will be presented in the first paragraph. While reading the first paragraph, make a mental note of the point the author seems intent on conveying. As you continue reading, keep this point in mind, and check whether your initial impression is supported by the information presented in the passage.
Thoroughly read all the answer choice
Always read through all of the answer choices. The answer choices on the SAT can be very tricky sometimes. The test-makers will often make one part of an answer correct while a second part is inconsistent with the passage. For example, an answer choice may be: “The author dwells on how the ambivalent feelings between the two groups is detrimental to their progress.” If in the passage, the author did describe ambivalent feelings between two groups, but stated that this ambivalence lead to more explosions of art and creativity, this answer would be wrong.
Make sure to read through not only the entire answer choice, but to read through choices A-E so you do not miss one that is more correct than your current choice!
Utilize process of elimination
More often than not, at least 3 of the answer choices for each question are clearly wrong. Narrowing the possible choices down to 2 will greatly improve your chances of arriving at a correct answer. You should be careful not to eliminate a correct answer, however, so only eliminate a choice if you are very sure it is incorrect.
Here we have presented just a few strategies that may help you as you tackle a passage on the SAT. You should practice these strategies and pick and choose whichever ones work for you. Stay tuned for more SAT strategies in the future!