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Top Tips and Strategies to Ace the SAT Reading Section

By Laura Whitmore

The SAT Reading section is where many students struggle the most and run out of time. Setting the tone as the first section of the SAT, the reading section must be approached with a sense of purpose and confidence.

Here is a list of tips and strategies that I cover with my students as we practice reading passages together during our sessions:

1. Know the Lay of the Land

The more familiar a student is with the general structure of a passage, the easier it will be to understand the passage as a whole and answer the main idea questions. Here are some key questions I cover with my students to strengthen their familiarity with passage structure:

  • Where does the author usually put the thesis statement (argument)?

  • What is the function of the introduction paragraph and conclusion paragraph?

  • Where is the main idea of a paragraph?

2. Mark Up the Passage

Most of the questions are line reference questions (yay)! Students can avoid reading everything twice and wasting valuable time if they mark where each question in the passage is at first and answer them as they are reading the passage.

3. Find Synonyms!

Oftentimes, the answer choice that is correct says the same exact thing as the passage, just in a different way.

4. Reflect

Students should never practice and score a reading section without combing back through the questions that they missed afterwards. It is pivotal for students to understand why their answer is wrong and another answer is correct. This will help them learn to hone in on the right answer more often!

5. Practice Reading a Variety of Material

Read, read, read! Students should read anything they can get their hands on outside of the SAT sessions: novels, research articles, magazine articles, newspapers, etc. The SAT reading section encompasses a wide range of reading material, including fiction and nonfiction passages, so reading a variety of material will help students build their overall reading skills.

Please note that this list does not encompass all of the reading strategies I teach my students. But, this is a solid starting point for a significant boost in their baseline score!


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