Our previous blog post addressed the upcoming changes as the SAT goes digital in 2024. But, while the medium will change, does that mean the content will be all that different? Because the reading material can be diverse and unfamiliar to some, this makes the reading section difficult for many students. The density of the text, topical knowledge, and complexity of questions make some passages more difficult than others. SAT takers should use strategy when studying for and taking this test portion.
Expand your lexicon (a.k.a. study vocabulary)
Step one towards a perfect score starts with vocabulary. Consume words and acquire as many new ones as possible. Research the most common terms used on the SAT (don’t be surprised when you find lists in the hundreds) and start studying there. A strong foundation of wide vocabulary will aid reading comprehension and answer selection; the older the words, the better—some of the toughest vocabulary words used on the test hail from the 1800s.
While critical thinking is ultimately tested on the SAT, memorizing common SAT words still cannot be emphasized enough. To get a rough idea of both vocabulary knowledge and critical thinking ability, determine your untimed dictionary score (UDS).
This score helps identify problem areas in vocabulary and critical thinking skills. First, it helps the test taker determine the strength of their prior vocab knowledge and how likely they are to comprehend the test. Second, it identifies the gap in critical thinking skills. If vocabulary is not an issue, and the score isn’t above 750, knowing the words isn’t enough and demonstrates issues with overthinking, second-guessing, and making inferences. Focus on building vocabulary and these critical thinking skills.
Improving critical thinking with practice tests
Becoming an active reader is a skill that will serve students well through college and beyond. Active reading goes by different names. Some may call it critical analysis or annotating. Still, it’s all the same method– slowing the reading process to engage with the material meaningfully beyond passively reading. It involves taking notes, marking material, asking questions, identifying patterns, and connecting ideas to make inferences and predictions. When taking practice tests, take the time necessary to analyze the passage without worrying about time. Speed will improve, and active reading skills improve, and the only way to strengthen active reading is through repeated and sustained practice. While reading, make notes of unknown words to look up and add to the vocab list, and once finished, try to summarize the main claim (non-fiction) or theme (fiction) in a single sentence to test comprehension before answering any questions.
Don’t panic about confusing or unknown answers.
Sometimes, an answer surprises the test taker, which can create self-doubt and throw off their rhythm. In this situation, it’s best to skip the question and return to it after the other questions have been answered confidently. Those questions may also give clues to the answer– always use the test to take the test. But if the answer isn’t known, there are ten strategies to eliminate options and make the best-educated guess possible.
These ten strategies are excellent for answering any question, even the test taker may know, as they help to catch tricky questions and answers meant to trip them up or make them second-guess their initial response.
Want to gain an edge on the SAT? At Learn to Write Now, we offer multiple test prep courses by veteran teachers focusing on improving reading and writing scores. Our SAT Workshop is a semester-long program designed for 8th-12th grades, but we also offer an introductory 8-week PSAT Workshop for 7th-8th graders. In these programs, students strengthen reading comprehension and grammar skills while developing study habits that will serve them well beyond the test.
It’s no secret that the most effective way to get students to read is to let them choose what they read. Decades of research have studied students who read for pleasure, seeking to understand what motivates habitual reading and the benefits of those sustained reading habits.
Reading comprehension is the ability to process, retain, and correctly recite in their own words information learned from reading. For years, ELA teachers have emphasized skills like finding the main idea, summarizing
Our previous blog post addressed the upcoming changes as the SAT goes digital in 2024. But, while the medium will change, does that mean the content will be all that different? Because the reading material can be diverse and unfamiliar to some, this makes the reading section difficult for many students.