Are you studying for the SAT or planning on starting sometime soon? If the answer is yes, you may want to take a look into the essential strategies that will boost your score in the SAT Reading section.

Also Read: The 5 Best SAT Prep Books

SAT Reading section makes up about 50% of your Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Score on the SAT with the other half being the Writing and Language section. This means that 400 points in your final score out of 1600 depends upon this SAT Reading section.

Don’t freak out! Yes, the SAT Reading section is pretty important when it comes to your final score but it is not impossible to secure all 400 points. Remember, you have no need to memorize any pesky grammar or punctuation rules. Moreover, you do not need to memorize any vocabulary words. You will be able to determine the definitions of any and all vocabulary you encounter on the test through context.

In other words, you will only need to learn how to approach reading each passage. Easy enough, right?

Get ready to make it even easier! Here are six ways you can aim for a perfect score on the SAT Reading section.

SAT Reading Tips for a Perfect Score

1. Know the SAT Formula

We mention the phrase “know the SAT formula” a lot. This is because it is really important! The test is designed in a particular formulation that is followed for every test until the regulations change. The last time the regulations changed was in 2016 so you do not need to worry about any possible misinformation. Here’s an excerpt from our guide on How to Build an Effective SAT Study Plan :

“Many students delve into studying for the SAT without really examining the structure and content of test first. Why should you waste precious hours of studying to looking into the topics and types of questions on the test? A lot of students believe that this type of information will come up naturally while studying. This is true. However, these students are not effectively studying. Familiarizing yourself with the test before studying will ensure that you know every type of question that will come up on the test. The SAT has its own manner of asking questions with specific keywords that indicate what sort of answer will be correct.

As a result, an effective SAT study plan focuses on each type of question you encounter in each section. The SAT has a formula that it follows without fail. Dedicating time to learning the formula will make studying go faster and will bring a better end result.”

SAT studying

Practice makes perfect!

Here’s a quick summary holding essential information about the SAT Reading section:

  • Test duration: 65 minutes
  • Number of Passages: 5 (taken from literature, social studies, history, and natural sciences)
  • Total number of Questions: 52 Questions
  • Types of Questions include:
    • Determining the meaning of a word using context
    • Deciding the reason why the author chose to include a particular detail
    • Identifying the main idea of the passage
    • Comparing and contrasting two passages
    • Pinpointing information using a graph

Also Read: How to Effectively Self-Study the SAT

2. Answer in a Smart Order

The questions in the reading questions are in chronological order not the order of difficulty. As a result, you should approach the questions in a smart way. Skip the questions you don’t have an answer to. Come back to them once you have completed everything else you can.

If you cannot answer a few questions, do not fret! Mark down your best guess in the answer sheet and move on. Remember, there is no penalty on the SAT for wrong answers so guessing will not result in a lower score than not answering at all.

We suggest spending a maximum of 45 seconds for each question the first time around. If you cannot determine the answer within that time, skip it and come back to it later.

3. Skim and Scan, No Need for a Close Read!

No matter how fast of a reader you are, reading and trying to grasp each and every detail in the passage is a waste of time. You are given the passage and the questions side-by-side. Skim the passage to get a general idea first. Then, scan the passage to find the correct answers to the questions.

In other words, move back and forth between the passage and the questions. Focus on the parts that you need to answer the question.

If you cannot find the answer to a question immediately, a closer read may be necessary. However, remember that the devil is not in the details when it comes to the SAT. Once you know the formula, the test becomes pretty simple.

4. There is a Right Answer

SAT Reading

Unlike your English class, there is actually one right answer. You cannot take evidence from the passage and use it to back your claims. College Board painstakingly designs each question such that there is only one option that best answers the question.

To be frank, you must leave your opinions at the door. Regardless of what you think, if there is an answer that is better supported by the passage, choose that one! Anything that isn’t as straightforward or obvious will not be the answer.

5. Take the Comparison Passages One at a Time!

One of the subsections of your Reading test will have two shorter texts on the same topic. These passages will either be from your science, history, or social studies text types. The questions for this particular subsection will largely focus on comparing and contrasting the two passages.

Separate the questions of that section as such:

  1. Passage 1 questions
  2. Passage 2 questions
  3. Compare/contrast questions

Tackle each type of question completely before moving onto the next type. This will keep the passages clear in your head and their similarities and differences stark.

6. Answer the Main Idea Questions Towards the End

Most of the reading passages will have a related question that will ask you to identify the main claim, subject, or purpose of the passage, the narrative point of view, or a shift that occurs through the passage. This is a general, main idea type question. Usually, these questions will be the very first question for each passage.

If you are using the skimming and scanning method, answering this question first is not feasible. It will require you to read the whole passage instead!

Rather, come back to this question once you have completed most of the other questions related to that passage. By then, you will know the main ideas and themes of the passage, making it easier to answer the question quickly and accurately.

Employ these essential strategies while you are studying and watch your score increase! To find more resources on SAT preparation, check out our Everything You Need to Know About the SAT Masterpost.

Posted by Irfhana Zakir Hussain

Irfhana Zakir Hussain is an undergraduate student in Computer Science and Engineering with Big Data Analytics. A lover of both STEM and humanities, she combines the two by writing analytical pieces on essential topics in education. In 2016, she was one of 15 students worldwide selected to speak at the inaugural TED-Ed Weekend. There, Irfhana navigated the complex issue of solving the effects of racism and intersectionality on educational opportunities.