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Tips for the PSAT/SAT: Strategies to Conquer the Reading Section

By Barbara

"You have 25 minutes to complete the Critical Reading Section of this test. The time starts now." How many times have you heard those words at the beginning of a test, any test? When those words are said for the PSAT/SAT tests, make sure you are strategic in how you conquer the reading section.

When you are faced with a time clock and the reading section of the PSAT/SAT, you have two choices: reflect and waste time or roll up your sleeves and read. Given that you have paid for either test, the latter is the more prudent route to go. Learn the strategies you need to conquer the critical reading section of the SAT. The next time you open up the envelope to check out your PSAT/SAT scores, you will see the college-competitive scores you were waiting for.

Test-taking Tips

  • Complete the easier shorter passages of the reading section first to gain momentum for the longer reading passages.
  • Remember that all questions have answers in the passages. If you are asked a direct question such as, "What season did Frost write about in his poem?" you will find the answer "winter" in phrases like, "frozen ponds," "ice covered roads" and "snowy driveways."
  • Underline descriptive words that describe people, happenings, and objects, such as "her face was long and scarred with juvenile acne," or "the burden of oranges swept the branches on the sun-drenched ground." Authors use descriptive words to infer meaning and provide visual clues to questions that precede the reading passages.
  • SRA: Skim, read and answer the questions! First skim the passage for understanding and then read for specific information in answering the questions at the end of the passage.
  • When you answer the questions, try to narrow your choices down to the best two out of four answers. Use the specific reading information in the passage to support your best answer choice.
  • Use the line numbers to move you through the passage and return you to the supporting reading materials for your best answer choices.
  • Look for words like "infer, implies, best describes, suggests, refers, primary, mentions" - and the list goes on - with words that direct you how to answer the questions from the reading passage.
  • Complete the passage before moving to the next one. Answer every question even if you have to guess between your best two answers. Keep it moving and remember that time doesn't stop just because you do.

Remember when you put your pencil down after completing the PSAT or SAT reading section, you can feel that you've conquered not only a test, but success as a reader.