SAT Reading Test - Best Approaches

Improving Performance on the SAT Reading Test

Students taking the 2016 version of the SAT can significantly improve their performance by learning the best approaches to the SAT Reading Test Questions. These include becoming familiar with question types through guided practice, previewing test questions, separating denotation from connotation, taking note of the most important information while reading the passages, guessing answers if necessary, and learning time management skills and stress reduction techniques.

Strategies for Taking the SAT Reading Test

Preparation through guided practice is the single most important approach to SAT Reading Test questions. This hones the skills that lead to high performance and teaches students what to expect on test day. A competent SAT tutor or instructor can greatly simplify the process of SAT prep and make sure that student efforts are properly focused. Skimming the Reading Test questions associated with an individual reading passage before reading the passage itself is a great way for students to begin each portion of the Reading Test. This approach allows a test-taker to read passages with an eye toward crucial information, skills assessed, and implied meaning versus stated meaning.

In the questions, look for key words such as "summarize," "purpose," or "focus," and then read the passage with those words in mind. Also pay attention to key phrases such as "the passage indicates" and "most nearly means," in order to discern whether direct information or implied information will be required. The SAT no longer penalizes guessing through point reduction. This means that process of elimination is a viable approach to Reading Test questions. Elimination of any incorrect answer choices greatly increases the chances of a correct answer, and since no points are deducted for incorrect answers, it doesn't make sense to leave any answers blank.

Using Time Management Skills

Time management is important both on test day and during the preparation period. Students are allowed 65 minutes for 52 questions associated with four single reading passages and one paired passage, which is an average of 1 minute and 15 seconds per question. Five reading passages equals an average of 13 minutes per passage, but additional time should be allotted to the paired passage. The best approach to time management should focus on completion of the questions for each individual reading passage in no more than 12 minutes, which will leave at least 17 minutes for the paired passage.

Best Practices in Preparing for the SAT

During the test preparation period, students should focus on small amounts of daily practice. For the SAT Reading Test, this daily practice should consist of reading a wide variety of materials, from classic literature to contemporary newsmagazines, and focusing on issues such as rhetorical techniques, use of evidence, and word choices. It is widely accepted that learning is best accomplished through consistent and relatively brief periods of daily study. Recent research indicates that "cramming" is of no benefit and may very well do more harm than good. The best approach to preparing for the SAT should be oriented around planning ahead, devising a manageable routine, and sticking with that routine.

The best study plan varies from student to student, but the development of a structured approach to SAT preparation maximizes the effectiveness of student efforts. When preparing for the SAT, remember that rest is just as significant as study time. Researchers have shown the important role of an adequate amount of sleep in the learning process, which allows the brain to consolidate and retain new information. Students should not neglect this crucial aspect of their academic development.

Stress Reduction and Test Anxiety

Stress reduction techniques have been shown to benefit academic performance and overall well-being. For example, a recent study of combat veterans afflicted with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder showed that brief daily meditation sessions not only helped alleviate their symptoms, but also gave them improved abilities in various tasks of mental acuity. For many students, test anxiety can be a significant obstacle to their best possible performance on the SAT, but this condition is manageable. The best defense against this potentially debilitating emotional state is adequate preparation. Proper nourishment, exercise, and rest can greatly reduce adverse symptoms on the day of the test. While preparing for the SAT, it is advisable to spend time with successful students and avoid people with overly pessimistic attitudes toward academics in general and the SAT in particular. While taking the test, simple deep-breathing exercises can help test-takers relax. At the same time, students should not expect to be completely free of nervous feelings. The goal is to manage these feelings and succeed in spite of them, which is an invaluable skill in itself.