Last Updated On: May 17th, 2020

What does it test?

The SAT Critical Reading section tests verbal reasoning, reading skills, and vocabulary. It requires you to comprehend complex passages that might be similar to what you will see in college texts. Unlike the reading you do for English class, most passages are non-fiction.

What types of questions does it include?

The Critical Reading section includes 19 sentence completions and 48 questions related to short and long reading passages. Sentence completions require a combination of vocabulary knowledge and verbal reasoning skills, while questions about reading passages focus on correctly comprehending and interpreting the text.

 To what extent is it a vocabulary test?

A strong vocabulary is important to do well on the sentence completions, which make up about 30% of the test. Studying lists of “SAT words” and making flashcards can be helpful, especially since some words (garrulous and laconic, for example) seem to show up only on standardized tests. Learning new vocabulary through reading, however, can be more important and helpful than studying word lists in isolation, since reading comprehension is a greater part of one’s score.

How can I improve my reading comprehension skills?

The best way to improve one’s reading skills is, of course, to read. Reading comprehension skills must be developed over time, and the more time you devote to it, the better. Hopefully, you’ve already been reading both inside and outside of school.  As you prepare for the SAT and for college, seek out high quality texts, such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Economist, and quality literature and non-fiction books. Challenge yourself to read a variety of texts, but try to make reading enjoyable too; there is a lot of reading material that is both engaging and educational. As you read, note new vocabulary words and add them to your list of words to study.

You should also practice with SAT-style reading passages and questions, since these short passages can be significantly different from the reading you do at school or for fun. Fortunately, there are many practice passages out there, including some published directly by the College Board. After you’ve had some time to get used to the structure and format of the Critical Reading section, start timing yourself to practice pacing and working under pressure. 

How important are test-taking strategies?

Though no amount of strategy practice can make up for poor vocabulary or reading comprehension skills, learning strategies specific to the SAT can be an important component of improving one’s Critical Reading score. For example, marking up the text with extensive notes and questions during a first read might be a good strategy for your school textbook, but students who do this on the SAT will likely run out of time before they finish the test. Instead, you should learn strategies that help you stay focused during your first read without taking up too much time, which will leave time to re-read the parts of the passage you need to answer the questions. Also, the SAT tends to use the same types of questions (main idea, inference, vocabulary in context, etc.) across passages. Learning the best approach to each type of question can help you hone in on the correct answer and avoid common test-taking traps. Your tutor can teach the strategies you will need to apply your vocabulary and reading skills to the test and achieve a higher score.

How should I pace myself during the test?

Because there is a guessing penalty and pacing is a challenge for some test-takers, you might not want to answer every question. It’s better to work carefully and leave a few questions blank than to work carelessly and get many questions wrong. Your tutor can help you decide whether to tackle every question or plan to leave a few blank, along with which questions you should answer first.

How can a tutor help me prepare for the test?

Working with a tutor can provide the individualized help you need to raise your score. LA Tutors are experts on the content and structure of the test. They will help you to build the skills that you need to do well in Critical Reading and will develop an individualized study plan to help you succeed. In addition, they know test-taking strategies specific to the SAT that can help you get the best score possible. Contact LA Tutors today to get started!

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