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

Posted by Colleen on 2/5/18 4:37 PM


Welcome back to another blog post about the SAT and ACT tests! This post continues on my earlier posts on practicing reading and ACT and SAT reading questions. If you haven’t read them, be sure to circle back and check them out. 

What Should You Have Done Before You Get to the Questions?

Depending on your reading strategy, you’ll be at a different place by the time you get to the questions. My blog on How to Read for the SAT and ACT goes into different reading strategies. Whatever strategy you choose, however, by the time that you answer the questions, you should have either skimmed or read the whole passage. Going straight to the questions and hoping you can then find the answers in the passage usually takes too long. Plus, there is no way of knowing that you have found the optimal section to use for answering the question.

In addition to having read the passage on the SAT or ACT test, it is also important that you have made some marks to orient you when you go back to find the passage. Some circling of major names or underlining or major ideas can save you crucial seconds.

Strategies for Answering the Reading Questions

Before we talk about specific types questions, let’s go over some general tips:

  • You can always do the questions out of order. Sometimes skipping a question that you don’t know can help you out. The other questions and answers for the passage can help you figure out parts that you overlooked or misunderstood the first time.
  • It is important to go back to the passage for your answer. Don’t go with what sounds right. Prove it. The test is based on the reading, so the answer is found directly in the reading. If you find yourself justifying a reading answer, saying well I think this could mean…, you are probably stretching what the text says farther that you should. Look at the other answer choices to see what is backed up more clearly by the text. 
  • The only exception to the above rule are questions that ask you to extrapolate from what you read. These questions often use phrases like “most likely,” indicating that the passage gives clear clues to the right answer but does not state the answer outright.

Answering Particular Types of Questions 

  • Some questions, especially on the SAT test, come in pairs. The first question asks a question; the second question asks for the line that backs up the answer you chose. These questions can be a bit tedious, but don’t let them become a time drain. Before you do any question, see if you will need line references in the next question. If you do, be sure to tackle both questions together. That way you don’t spend time answering the same question twice. Doing these questions together can also point you in the direction of the right answers for both questions, since you need to pick the two answers that make sense together.
  • If a question includes a line number, it is worth your time to go back and read the sentence. There’s no way that you can remember every line—you need to go back and see what the question is specifically asking before you can jump into the question. Otherwise, you might be thinking that the question is asking about a different part of the passage.
  • It is especially important to go back to the passage when the question asks about the meaning of a particular word as it is used in the passage. Often, all of the answer choices will be real definitions of that particular word. You need to find out which definition is being used in that particular sentence. I think the easiest way to answer these questions is to read the sentence, substituting in the various answer choices. Usually one will stand out as clearly correct. 

What to Do Next?

Keep reading my blogs for the reading section! Next, take a practice test and see how you do! 

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Craving more on the subejct?

How do I use Punctuation on the ACT and SAT Exams?

How do I use Punctuation on the ACT and SAT Exams? Part II

The Key to Selecting the Right Answer on the SAT & ACT: Part 1

The Key to Selecting the Right Answer on the SAT & ACT: Part 2

Tags: ACT, SAT