The SAT Reading section gives students five passages that need to be read deeply and thoroughly, with about twelve minutes per passage. While speed is certainly a factor, trying to rush the SAT Reading section often leads to many missed questions. These tips will focus on ways you can speed up without sacrificing your score. Because, of course, there’s one very easy way to beat the time limit: rush through and bubble random answers. However, you won’t get a very good score with that tactic, will you? Here’s how to be fast and accurate to beat the time limit on the SAT Reading.
1. Read for Fun
This might sound very obvious to some of you, but students who read for fun tend to read faster and do better on the SAT Reading section. Reading books for fun builds skills for every aspect of the SAT Reading Section. Reading speed, reading comprehension, and vocabulary are all improved by reading regularly. However, what many students don’t realize is that even if they don’t already read for fun, as long as they begin reading a book they’re interested in, they can still reap these benefits.
If you only take one tip from this article, I hope it’s this one. Students can see huge leaps in their score as long as they read a book that interests them a little bit every day. Don’t worry about whether it’s a “worthy” or “important” book; as long as the student is interested in it and reads it, these benefits will begin stacking up over time.
If you’re having trouble finding a book, try our guide: How to Find an Interesting Book To Read.
2. Have Confidence in Your Choices
Often, students can get stuck on one question, going back and forth between a few answer choices with increasing frustration and anxiety. They second-guess themselves, and then third-guess, and then fourth-guess their choices. Not only does this take up precious SAT time, it also uses a lot of the student’s mental and emotional resources- too many questions like this can leave a student feeling burnt out and stressed at the end of the first section of a multi-hour test! Feeling burnt out or stressed is a terrible state to test in, so it’s best to avoid getting stuck like that on questions. So, how?
When you are stuck on a question, and making no headway, pick the choice that makes the most sense to you in the moment and move on. Accept that you are uncertain of that question, but have made the best choice you can and clear your mental desktop for the next SAT question. If you’re really uncertain, put a star by it for you to come back to after you’ve finished the rest of the test. Suffering or repeatedly questioning yourself over whether you got a question right or not might feel like the right thing to do in the moment, but it only costs you time and mental processing power, and does not help you finish the test on time.
If you feel particularly haunted by a question or an inconvenient emotion, take five seconds to breathe, acknowledge it, and consciously let go of it, like a balloon flying into an empty sky. It’s better to spend five seconds centering yourself than pay the cost of minutes lost to thoughts weighing on your mind. Move through the questions like a swimmer, with momentum, sustained effort for the problems ahead, and a clear mind.
3. On Split Passages, Split Your Reading
On parts of the SAT Reading test where you are asked to read two passages (usually labeled passage 1 and passage 2) read the first passage first, and then do the questions that only deal with the first passage. Then read the second passage, and do the questions that only deal with the second passage. Then, do the rest of the questions for the two passages. Answering the questions in between the readings helps you think of each of the passages on their own before you compare them to each other. This leads to a deeper, clearer reading without putting in too much extra effort or time.
4. Know What Troubles You
Do you struggle with the dense science sections? Do the historical passages take a lot of extra time? If you know what trips you up or takes the most time, you can either target your studies towards strengthening your weak spots, or work around them.
Let’s say you are taking the test soon, with very little time to study, and know that you’ll probably run out of time. You know you spend the most time on the historical passages, but the densely worded scientific passages give you no trouble. Consider skipping over the historical passages to snap up the scientific passage points, and then looping back to go through the historical passage at the end. This way, you don’t miss out on questions you know you can answer because of the time limit.
If you have time to study, spend some extra time and effort reading and decoding the passages that give you trouble. Try practicing more of them or finding interesting books or articles that might mimic those passages’ style. Keep it mindful, and remember that you can defeat these passages! You just need to prepare first.
That’s all! I hope you feel better equipped to beat the time limit on the SAT Reading! If you want more SAT and ACT prep advice sure to join our mailing list for a free 27-item checklist and 30-day free SAT email course.