Best Approaches for SAT Reading Test Questions
Improving Performance on the SAT Reading Test
Students taking the 2023 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, the particular skills being 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.
The more students complete practice SAT Reading Tests and familiarize themselves with reading passages and answering questions in a timely manner, the better their sense of time management will become. Whether a student is working on their own or preparing for the exam with the assistance of a tutor or instructor, it can be helpful to use a timer. Students can start a forward timer, read passages, and answer questions before seeing how much time they took to complete either a specific passage or the entire section. Students can also set a countdown timer for a specific amount of time and attempt to "beat the clock" by reading passages and answering questions before the time runs out. Students are allowed to wear a watch (with no audible alarm) while taking the SAT, so figuring out what time-related strategy is most helpful will allow individual students to become aware of their pace and learn to stay on track during test completion.
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" or staying up all night to study for an early morning exam 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 most effective 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. If at all possible, students should avoid studying right before going to bed, especially if their studying involves the use of electronics, since the blue light emitted from electronics is known to interfere with the onset of sleep by disrupting melatonin production. Depending on their schedules, students might initially try studying at different times of the day (late afternoon, early evening, morning if their school has a late start or it is the weekend) and then determine when they feel most awake, alert, and engaged. This will allow them to develop a consistent schedule so they can prepare for the SAT when they are able to take in and retain the greatest amount of information.
When it comes to preparing for the SAT Reading Test, consistency truly is key. Students should take some time, either on their own or with a tutor, to create a study schedule. A calendar can be used, along with reminder alarms or other apps that utilize "to do" lists or focus on tracking productivity, but whatever system is utilized, it is critically important to develop an individualized system that is sustainable. Learning gains will be minimal at best if a student is uncertain where to begin each time they find themselves sitting down to study or if they randomly choose something to study, become disinterested, and switch to something else. Persistence, dedication, and commitment are incredibly important when preparing for the SAT Reading Test, and for those students willing to give their best effort, the rewards can be high scores and increased educational opportunities, along with the chance to attend the college of their dreams.
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.
Countless apps exist to help manage anxiety, and a cursory search will allow students to try those that seem most promising. Relaxation and stress-reduction techniques do not need to be lengthy, as research has demonstrated that meditating or using mindfulness practices for as little as five minutes each day can help clear the mind, improve one’s mood, boost brain activity, support a healthy metabolism and immune system, and improve emotional coping.
Regardless of the time spent reducing anxiety, however, 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 they will use for the rest of their lives.