By Students, For Students: The Reading Section of the SAT


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The SAT Reading Section can be difficult for some students so here are some tricks to handling it.

Edward Wang, Guest Writer

The SAT Reading section is arguably one of the hardest sections in the overall examination. It also happens to be the first section you will encounter.

The reading section contains 52 questions (five passages total with about 10-11 questions per passage) with 65 minutes. You should take about two to three minutes to read a passage, leaving you with 50 to 55 minutes for the questions. This means you will have roughly 60 seconds (57-63 seconds) per question, so it is important to move quickly and trust your instincts.

Below are three main tips specific to the SAT Reading section. Know them well!

Do not flip the page back and forth too often.

This is a common mistake for people taking the SAT. The student reads the passage, looks at the first question and then flips back to the passage to look for the answer. However, flipping the page back and forth to look for the answer is a good way to waste your time. Instead, try to do everything in order. Read the passage, try to comprehend as much as you can, and then answer the questions. Only go back if you are absolutely clueless about the answer.

Of course, if you feel like you can manage your time effectively, you do not have to worry about this step.

The answer will always be in the text.

It seems unbelievable, right? Well, the idea is, the College Board cannot make a question open to interpretation because that would be unfair; in other words, there must always be an answer.  The answer to a reading question will always be found in the associated reading passage. However, does the answer have to be obvious? No. In fact, the College Board will try to hide the answer to some of the more harder questions; this can especially be seen in the Great Global Conversation passages (duo-passages followed by questions).

Part of the task of the Reading section is to be a critical reader (basically, an active reader). You need to pay attention to the text as you read, take note of important details, and make your own observations and conclusions so you better understand the passage.

Process of elimination is very important in this section.

However, blindly eliminating answers (i.e. crossing possible answers out because it does not sound right) will do you no good. Blindly eliminating answers will almost certainly lead you to eliminating the correct answer(s). There are a few things to consider when eliminating answers:

The SAT (English section) is designed in a way that makes one answer correct and one answer almost correct. The other two answers will likely make sense in the context of the question. Begin by eliminating the answer(s) that make no sense in the context of the passage and question. Afterwards, you want to go back to the passage and find the specific section that basically “answers” your question (Remember: the answer will always be in the text). Compare the answer you found in the passage to the remaining multiple choice answers in the question. Ask yourself which multiple-choice answer has the same meaning as the answer found in the text. The answer that is almost correct but actually incorrect will have a minor element (detail) that is incorrect.

Next up is the SAT Writing section.