SAT Critical Reading Tips

Reading Comprehension can be very frustrating. With certain questions, it seems as though many of the answers can work. Often students throw their hands up in despair thinking that the test is rigged. Don’t succumb to such a temptation. The test is valid (you can always contest with the College Board). Finding the correct answer is possible if you try the following:


Don’t rush in

Often the reason why multiple answers seem to work is you go straight to the answer choices without thinking about the question. Suddenly, you grasp on to an answer choice that sounds good. Even though it is wrong, that answer choice can even influence your perception of the passage. And once you’ve interpreted a passage a certain way, it is difficult to see the passage with fresh eyes.


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Go back to the passage and think about what the question is asking

Do not spend time flailing about the answer choices. Go back to the passage and try to answer the question yourself. Often a great exercise is to cover up the answers and come up with your own answer (This strategy is especially helpful on main idea questions!)

Once you’ve come up with your own answer match that with an answer choice. Now, instead of letting the answer choices control you, you control the answer choices.


Use process of elimination when necessary

On more difficult questions, you may not always be able to home in on the right answer. But thinking about what the correct answer should be will often help you eliminate most of the answers choices, even on the most challenging of questions.


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  • Chris Lele

    Chris Lele is the Principal Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh. Chris graduated from UCLA with a BA in Psychology and has 20 years of experience in the test prep industry. He's been quoted as a subject expert in many publications, including US News, GMAC, and Business Because. In his time at Magoosh, Chris has taught countless students how to tackle the GRE, GMAT, SAT, ACT, MCAT (CARS), and LSAT exams with confidence. Some of his students have even gone on to get near-perfect scores. You can find Chris on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook!

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!


2 Responses to SAT Critical Reading Tips

  1. Roman Tatum November 26, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    So is it best to always read the full passage?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris November 26, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

      Hi Roman,

      Yes, you definitely want to read the whole passage. There are a few exceptions:

      1) You are running out of time and have yet to start a long passage

      In this case, do those questions that only relate to line reference questions (e.g. in line 24…). That way you need only read a few lines.

      2) Short paragraph passages

      I still urge students to read these, but sometimes bot hare questions that relate to a specific part of the passage and you can answer these without reading the entire thing.

      Otherwise, always read the entire passage, making sure you are not just stringing words together, but that you are getting a sense of the passage.

      Hope that helps!

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