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Chris Lele

What You Need to Know about the SAT Critical Reading Section

“Know thy enemy” is sage advice especially when it comes to the SAT Critical Reading Section. Especially if you are new to the SAT, reading this post – and of course applying what you learn – can lead to a significant improvement in your CR score.

Below are several key points and strategies that can help you raise a 500 score to a 550, or even more.


The Sentence Completions become increasingly difficult

For many, the first sentence completion is usually fun. The answer comes quickly and you feel a little surge of confidence. By the middle question –say 4 or 5 – things aren’t so much fun anymore. Sentences have become increasingly complex and a few tough words pepper the answer choices.

By the time you’ve reached the last question, you are dealing with such arcane words that they would give a Rhodes scholar pause, or are dealing with a sentence that is downright byzantine.

The reason for this progression from easy to pull-your-hair-out is the questions become increasingly more difficult. This phenomenon is known as order of difficulty – the larger the number next to the question, the harder the problem.


So how does knowing this help you?


Well, every question on the SAT is worth one point, from the easiest to the hardest. So don’t spend your time fretting over an insanely difficult Sentence Completion – skip it! That is, you have other fish to fry on the Critical Reading Section, namely the Reading Comprehension.  And for this section the more time you have on the passage the better you will do on the questions.


Speaking of reading comprehension…


The Reading Comprehension has no order of difficulty

There is no order of difficulty on the reading comprehension section. The first question can be the hardest – the last the easiest. Usually, it’s all jumbled up in terms of difficult questions.

The thing is, you can often times determine which question is a difficult one. Questions that contain words such as infer, imply or questions that do not contain specific line references and instead force you to read an entire paragraph are ones you might want to skip.

Instead, go for the easier questions – or the low hanging fruit. Why climb to the top of a tree to pick an apple that you could simply pluck while you still have two feet planted on the ground?

Then, if there is enough time, come back to the harder questions and/or try to tackle those difficult sentence completion questions. But by freeing yourself up to focus on the easy and medium questions you can quickly boost your score.


About Chris Lele

Chris Lele is the GRE and SAT Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh Online Test Prep. In his time at Magoosh, he has inspired countless students across the globe, turning what is otherwise a daunting experience into an opportunity for learning, growth, and fun. Some of his students have even gone on to get near perfect scores. Chris is also very popular on the internet. His GRE channel on YouTube has over 8 million views.

You can read Chris's awesome blog posts on the Magoosh GRE blog and High School blog!

You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook!

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