Mistakes to Avoid on the SAT: Reading Section

Flickr user Greg Wagoner

Sometimes it helps to know mistakes you should avoid when it comes to exams. Here are some things you will want to try to look for or remember when you’re on the Reading Section of the SAT.

Being Careless With Time Management

Time management is necessary for any portion of the SAT, but it is a skill that comes in especially handy during the Reading Section. Most students read at a different pace, but the section includes five passages and 52 multiple choice questions. Each passage is about 500 to 750 words and has 10 to 12 accompanying questions.

This leaves you with under thirteen minutes for each passage and its questions in the Reading Section. It’s important to use your time wisely to ensure you complete this part of the test. If you want time to review your work at the end, you should aim for twelve minutes rather than thirteen. As with the rest of the SAT, if you find a question particularly difficult, skip it and return if you have time.

Ignoring The Context or Voice of the Passage

In every passage of the SAT Reading Section, there will be a different context. It’s always essential that you determine the context of the piece before starting. The test generally includes these:

  • A piece that is classic, contemporary, or world literature.
  • A passage that is a United States document or refers to a global conversation.
  • Two passages on Science.
  • A passage on Social Studies.

Before you continue reading the passage, determine which of these four subjects it is. This will help you ensure you’re reading the piece correctly and understanding the fundamental ideas behind the passage. You don’t want to get to the questions and realize you misinterpreted the entire piece.

In addition to the context, you also have to pay special attention to the voice. What is the author trying to say? In some cases, passages will be paired together and be on an identical subject, yet have two different voices. You may be asked to compare the two voices in each of the passages.

Not Taking Advantage of Multiple Choice

The process of elimination is extremely handy for any multiple choice question, but it’s especially true when it comes to the Reading portion of the SAT. On the new SAT introduced last year, you will not be penalized for a wrong answer, so it makes sense to provide an answer, even if it is just a guess.

When you take a look at the question, decide which answer does not fit and cross it out. This lowers your chances of guessing incorrectly. However, also make sure you read all the answers through completely. It’s easy to select the first answer that seems correct while skipping the rest. There may be a better selection in the later choices.

Everyone makes mistakes, even on the SAT. However, you can easily avoid most by coming to your exam fully prepared and knowing what to expect. Always keep good test taking habits in mind throughout the Reading Section and the rest of the SAT.

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