Effective Tips and Strategies to Improve SAT Reading Scores

Effective Tips and Strategies to Improve SAT Reading Scores

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Getting ready for the SAT reading section doesn't have to be tough; you can quickly boost your score with the right advice and practice. The section tests how well you understand and analyze different texts. This skill is helpful for the SAT, college, and beyond. Whether you're aiming for a perfect 800, a solid 700, or improving from a 600, there are strategies you can use to get better at SAT reading.

One common issue students face with the SAT is struggling to grasp the passage's content. Another challenge is managing time effectively. The reading section includes five passages and 52 questions to be completed in 65 minutes, averaging about 13 minutes per passage and its corresponding 10 or 11 questions. Many students find it time-consuming to reread passages to find the correct answers.

In this article, we'll share some simple and practical tips to help you improve. Covering everything from active reading techniques to building your vocabulary. We'll also go over specific methods for answering evidence-based questions. By following these recommendations, you'll feel more confident and ready to tackle this SAT section.

And hey, if you're looking for that extra edge, Tutorpeers has your back with some excellent SAT tutors who can give you tips and tricks on how to ace this section.

Understanding the SAT Reading Section

Types of Passages

One key to success in the SAT Reading section is understanding the types of passages you will encounter. The SAT includes literature, historical documents, social sciences, and natural sciences. Each type has its unique style and challenges. For instance, literature passages often explore themes and characters, while historical documents might include complex arguments and archaic language. Social sciences texts present theories and studies, and natural sciences passages discuss experiments and findings. Practicing reading various texts will help you become familiar with different writing styles and improve your ability to tackle each type effectively.

Recognizing Text Structure

Aiming high on the SAT Reading section requires focused practice and a structured approach. Recognizing the structure of the text is crucial. This includes identifying the main idea, tone, and purpose, which can help you answer questions more accurately. Additionally, understanding how the text is organized and identifying the author's arguments can provide valuable clues for comprehension. For example, noticing whether a passage follows a cause-and-effect structure or a compare-and-contrast format can guide your reading and help you anticipate the types of questions that might be asked.

Time Management

Time management is another critical aspect of the SAT Reading section. With only 13 minutes on average to read each passage and respond to the related questions, it's essential to practice under timed conditions. Developing strategies for pacing yourself, such as skimming passages to grasp the main ideas before diving into the questions, can help you manage your time effectively. Regular timed practice sessions can build your speed and confidence, ensuring that you can complete all the questions within the allotted time.

Having a Strong Vocabulary

Building a strong vocab is also essential. A robust vocabulary helps you understand the context of passages better and answer questions more confidently. For instance, knowing the precise meanings of words can help you infer the meaning of unfamiliar words from context and grasp subtle nuances in the text.

To enhance your vocabulary, engage in regular reading across diverse genres, such as novels, newspapers, and academic journals. This exposure to different writing styles and vocabularies will broaden your word knowledge. Additionally, utilizing vocabulary-building tools, such as flashcards, apps, and word lists, can significantly improve your vocabulary. Consistent practice with these tools can reinforce your learning and help you recall words more easily during the exam.

Moreover, integrating new words into your everyday conversations and writing can help cement them in your memory, making them second nature by the time you take the SAT. A strong vocabulary not only boosts your reading comprehension but also enhances your overall performance in the reading section.

Effective Tips to Improve the SAT Score

Here are some approaches that can help you improve:

Read Actively and Critically

One of the best tips is to read actively. This means engaging with the text as you read, underlining key points, and making notes in the margins. Active reading helps you stay focused and improves your understanding. Ask yourself about the author's purpose, the main idea, and the text's tone.

Metacognitive Reading

One effective way to improve your SAT reading score is to use metacognitive reading. This involves thinking about your thinking as you read, which helps you become more aware of your understanding and approach to the text. Research has shown that students who use metacognitive techniques tend to perform better.

Mean Number of Questions Answered Correctly Based on Strategy and County
United States41.6329.06
Leddo, John & Hong, Qianqian & Shyamala, Nandini & Xue, Aaron. (2019). Improving SAT reading scores by using metacognitive reading strategies. 91-93.

For example, a study found that students in the United States who used metacognitive approaches answered an average of 41.63 questions correctly, compared to 29.06 for those who used standard strategy. Similarly, students in China got 40.25 questions correctly with metacognitive methods versus 35.58 with standard ones. This data highlights the effectiveness of metacognitive strategy in improving reading comprehension and accuracy.

To use a metacognitive strategy, you must:

  1. Start by setting a purpose for your reading.
  2. Ask yourself what you need to learn or understand from the passage.
  3. As you read, monitor your comprehension by summarizing paragraphs in your own words and asking yourself about the main ideas and details. If you find a section confusing, reread it and try to clarify its meaning before moving on.

Another key metacognitive strategy is to evaluate your progress and adjust your approach as needed. Reflect on which techniques helped you the most and which areas you struggled with. This reflection helps you refine your approach for future test-taking.

Mitigating Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is another challenge that can affect your performance. This bias occurs when you favor information that confirms your preconceptions, leading to misinterpretations and incorrect responses. To mitigate confirmation bias, you must approach with an open mind and be willing to reconsider your initial interpretations.

Mean Number of Questions Answered Correctly Based on Condition
Control Condition13.5*
Confirmation Bias Inducing Condition13.3*
Confirmation Bias Mitigating Condition17.7
Numbers with an asterisk are not significantly different from each other.
Leddo, John & Kadangal, Bhadra & Bisht, Shyla & Rajeev, Neha. (2018). Improving SAT reading scores by mitigating the confirmation bias.

Another study found that students in a confirmation bias mitigating condition got an average of 17.7 questions correctly, compared to 13.3 in a bias-inducing condition and 13.5 in a control condition. This demonstrates the importance of actively countering confirmation bias to improve reading accuracy.

To avoid confirmation bias:

  1. Question your assumptions as you read.
  2. Look for evidence in the text that either supports or contradicts your initial thoughts.
  3. Be willing to change your answer if you're presented with new or conflicting information.

These approaches, supported by research, provide a solid foundation for improvement.

Practice Regularly and Effectively

A consistent routine is essential if you want to get better at SAT reading. It helps you become familiar with the test format, improves your reading speed, and enhances your comprehension skills. Here are some suggestions to make your practice sessions more effective:

Set a Regular Practice Schedule

The best advice is to establish a regular routine. Set aside specific times each day dedicated to working on SAT reading. Whether it's 30 minutes or an hour, consistency is key. You'll gradually improve by making this a habit.

Use Official SAT Materials

For the best results, use official SAT tests and materials. These resources are designed to mimic the actual test, giving you a realistic idea of what to expect. Practice with full-length tests to build your stamina and understand how to manage your time across the entire exam.

Focus on Weak Areas

Identify what gives you the most trouble and focus on those areas. Targeting your weaknesses will help you quickly improve.

Use Active Reading

Incorporate active reading techniques into your exercise. As you read, underline key points, make notes in the margins, and summarize paragraphs in your own words.

Build Your Vocabulary

A strong vocabulary will help with the reading section and the writing and language parts of the SAT and improve your sat reading score.

Practice Under Timed Conditions

Simulate actual test conditions by timing your preparation sessions. Allocate 13 minutes per passage to get used to the pace you must maintain during the test. Practicing under timed conditions helps you manage your time more effectively and reduces test-day anxiety.

Review Your Practice Tests

Take the time to review your work. Analyze what you got wrong and understand why the correct answers are right. This reflection helps you learn from your mistakes and avoid them in the future.

Following these suggestions and committing to regular routine can significantly improve your score. Remember, the more you practice, the more confident and prepared you'll be on test day. Keep working on your reading skills, and you'll see the results in your improved scores.

Evidence-Based Reading Methods

The SAT reading section includes many questions that require you to find and cite specific information from the text to support your answers. Mastering these is crucial for a good result. Here are some approaches to help you tackle it effectively:

Understand the Question Types

Evidence-based questions often come in pairs. The first question asks for the passage's main idea or detail, and the second asks you to choose the best evidence to support your answer. Recognizing this pattern can help you approach these more strategically.

Look for Direct Quotes

One helpful tip is to look for direct quotes or specific lines. Refer back to the text and choose the option that directly matches the information in the passage.

Skimming for Key Details

Develop the skill of skimming info for key details. This means quickly identifying the main ideas and important points. Efficient skimming can save you time and help you locate evidence faster.

Highlight and Annotate

As you read, highlight or underline key phrases and sentences that serve as evidence. Annotating the text with brief notes about important details can make it easier to find the proper evidence.


Always cross-check your answers with the text. Ensure that the evidence you select supports your explanation of the first question. This double-checking can prevent careless mistakes and improve your accuracy.

Use Sample Passages

This will help you become more familiar with the question format and improve your ability to find and cite evidence quickly. Use official SAT practice tests and other reputable resources.

Time Management Strategies

Effective time management is essential for success. You must use your time wisely, with only 65 minutes to complete five passages and 52 questions. Here are some approaches to help you manage your time more effectively:

Prioritize Easier Passages

This will help you build confidence and secure quick points early in the test. Save the more challenging passages for later, when you can use any remaining time to tackle them without feeling rushed.

Skip and Return

If you encounter a tricky question, don't spend too much time on it. Skip it and move on to the next one. You can always come back to it if you have time left at the end.

Use the Process of Elimination

When you're unsure, use the process of elimination to narrow down your choices. Eliminating wrong answers increases your chances of selecting the correct one and helps you make quicker decisions.

Stay Calm and Focused

Maintain a calm and focused mindset throughout the test. Anxiety can slow you down and lead to mistakes. Use relaxation techniques and stay positive to keep your mind clear and your performance sharp.

With the right approach, you can complete everything within the time limit, improving your chances of achieving a high test result.


Improving takes dedication, consistency, and the right strategies. You can significantly boost your performance by understanding the structure of the test and focusing on key areas like active reading, vocabulary building, and time management.

Following these recommendations and incorporating these methods into your study routine will make you feel more confident and prepared on test day. Keep practicing and stay focused, and you'll be on your way to success.

Good luck on your SAT journey. Remember that with the right approach and consistent effort, you can reach your goal and open doors to your dream college.


Q: What is the SAT Reading section, and why is it important?

A: It tests your ability to understand and analyze written text. It's crucial because it reflects your comprehension skills, which are vital for college success.

Q: What's the best way to manage time during the SAT?

A: Prioritize passages that align with your strengths first and keep track of time, aiming to spend about 13 minutes per passage.

Q: What skills should you demonstrate in the SAT Reading test?

A: You should showcase your ability to interpret, synthesize information, and analyze arguments across various content areas.

Q: What are the 3 main categories of questions on the SAT Reading test?

A: Evidence-based, words in context, and data interpretation.‌‌

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