Manhattan Review SAT Prep – Reading Test and Reading Skills
The 2023 SAT features a Reading Test that is similar to the 2016 version of the test, the last year the exam underwent what is considered a "major" revision. The current Reading Test is intended to evaluate a broad range of reading skills using a wide range of subject matter. The College Board has classified these skills into two areas that are tested across the "Evidence-Based Reading and Writing" section and three areas that are specific to the Reading Test. "Command of Evidence" and "Words in Context" are foundational principles for the general assessment of verbal skills and are tested across the entire Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section. In addition, the SAT Reading Test also focuses on three test-specific categories: "Information and Ideas," "Rhetoric," and "Synthesis."
Questions that fall in the Information and Ideas category focus on the author's message. In these types of questions, students will be asked to locate stated information, generate reasonable inferences, and apply what they have read to a similar situation. Students will be asked to determine the best evidence presented in the reading passage or the best support in favor of a particular conclusion. Students may also be asked to identify main ideas and themes, summarize pertinent information, and understand relationships including but not limited to cause-and-effect, compare and contrast, and sequencing.
SAT questions that fall into the Rhetoric category focus on how the author organized the provided text and how various individual pieces contribute to the text as a whole. Students will be asked to consider the author's word choices and how they shape meaning, tone, and style. Students will be instructed to examine how a passage is structured, as well as the roles played by the various parts of the passage, such as particular details. Questions related to the author's point of view and purpose will be asked, as will questions about claims, evidence, reasons, stylistic elements, and persuasive and/or emotional elements. The underlying emphasis among these types of questions is on the author's craft, rather than the author's message, encouraging students to think about how authors construct texts to present a clear message, share engaging material, inform readers, or persuade readers to reach a certain conclusion.
Finally, questions that fall into the category of Synthesis come in one of two forms. The first type of Synthesis question will ask students to identify connections between two given passages. For example, a question might ask students to predict how the author of one passage would respond to claims made by a different author of another passage. Students will be asked to identify how two passages are similar or different in content, style, form, or perspective. The second type of Synthesis question will ask students to use and interpret informational graphics. In these graphics, students will be instructed to locate a specific piece of data, determine which provided conclusion is most reasonable based on a set of results from a study, or integrate information from the graphic with information from a passage.
Reading Skills Needed for Success
The SAT Reading Test is ultimately an assessment of students' ability to comprehend written texts. Though the skills necessary for high test scores are complex and multi-faceted, the overall goal is simple: to demonstrate college-level reading ability across a wide variety of disciplines. Test-takers must be able to draw both stated and implied information from reading passages, infer shades of meaning with respect to vocabulary, understand the author’s purpose, analyze rhetorical strategies, assess the validity of arguments, and connect related ideas. These skills are tested with reading passages drawn from literary traditions around the world, historical documents, secondary sources in the social sciences, as well as the "hard" sciences such as physics, biology, and chemistry. The focus is on the reading skills noted above rather than subject-matter knowledge. All information needed to successfully answer Reading Test questions will be included in each individual passage. Test-takers do not need to concern themselves with acquiring specialized scientific or historical knowledge in order to receive high scores on this section of the SAT.
How to Read Test Passages
Reading efficiency is of the utmost importance to succeed on the SAT Reading Test. In this context, reading efficiency is defined as comprehension of all necessary information in the smallest possible amount of time. Speed is a valuable goal, because this leaves more time for the other test passages, but speed without comprehension is at best useless and at worst counterproductive. Briefly previewing Reading Test questions can help test-takers read the passages more efficiently. Students should look for references to specific lines in the questions, such as those that ask about specific words, and then place asterisks next to those lines in the passage. While reading the passages, distinguishing between evidence and argument can help test-takers answer the questions more quickly later. Underlining is a helpful tool in this regard and can be helpful in prioritizing certain sections of the passage.
How to Read Test Questions
Careful reading of the test questions is of immense benefit to test-takers. Students should pay special attention to the exact nature of the question that is being asked and the type of information that is being requested. This will help narrow down plausible answer choices and save time by creating a more streamlined process of elimination. For example, many Reading Test questions specifically ask for evidence of a given claim, but some of the answer choices are clearly not actual evidence and thus do not even need to be considered. Students should also pay special attention to the verbs used in the questions. When the verb "indicates" appears, for example, it can be assumed that the question concerns something stated directly in the passage, as opposed to information that needs to be inferred. Using SAT practice tests will help students become thoroughly familiar with the types of questions asked on the SAT Reading Test. These questions can then be applied to any text that students encounter in their academic and everyday lives, which will produce better SAT Reading Test scores and help develop a skillset that is invaluable to almost any area of academic study, as well as later professional life.
SAT Redesign and the SAT Reading Test
In its 2016 redesign of the SAT, the College Board has attempted to align the test more closely with the types of written texts typically found in high school curricula, and there is also a deliberate emphasis on testing the types of reading skills needed for success in college. The current SAT can therefore be considered a substantive improvement over pre-2016 versions of the test that to some degree assessed abilities (such as vocabulary memorization) lacking significant real-world applications. Student preparation should always utilize the most current resources, and it may be helpful to work with a tutor or instructor to ensure study materials contain the most up-to-date information. Despite the College Board's praiseworthy efforts to create an assessment more relevant to the actual academic lives of students, success on the test remains a specialized skill, and the best preparation strategy is informed and experienced guidance.