Tips for Acing the Reading Section!

SAT Reading Tutorial

Tips for Acing the Reading Section!


Hello! Efficiency is one of the biggest components of success on the SAT because you already have the knowledge that will allow you to do well, but it’s very easy to get caught up in little details or frustrated. Here are some tips and tricks to efficiently get through the SAT Reading Section.

Sample Problem

Question source

Questions are based on the following passage.
The most wonderful mystery of life may
well be the means by which it created so much
diversity from so little physical matter. The
Line biosphere, all organisms combined, makes up
only about one part in ten billion of Earth’s mass. Line 5
It is sparsely distributed through a kilometer thick
layer of soil, water, and air stretched over the
Earth’s surface. If the world were the size of an
ordinary desktop globe and its surface were viewed
edgewise an arm’s length away, no trace of the Line 10
biosphere could be seen with the naked eye. Yet
life has, incredibly, divided into millions of species,
each playing a unique role in relation to the whole.


1. The exercise involving the desktop globe (lines 8-10) is meant to
A. suggest that a determined student can master the complexities of ecology
B. compare the diversity of life on different continents
C. reiterate the comparatively small size of Earth
D. emphasize that most of life on Earth is invisible to the naked eye
E. illustrate the extent of the biosphere relative to the size of Earth

2. The tone of the passage is primarily one of
A. detached inquiry
B. playful skepticism
C. mild defensiveness
D. informed appreciation
E. urgent entreaty


Tips and Tricks:

1. Read the questions before you read the passage. If any questions are about a specific line or word in the passage, underline it in your book before you read. This way you are alerted to that line’s importance and it becomes easier to find if you need to go back.

2. Once you have read the questions, marked the text based off of those questions, and understand what the questions are asking, read the passage with the questions in mind. Don’t get too caught up in the answer choices, but take a glance at them.

3. Try to answer the questions in your own words, as if someone asked you without the multiple choice. For question number one, you would most likely come to the conclusion the author is trying to say something about the size of the biosphere compared to that of the Earth. Answers C and E are the only ones that deal with size, but answer C would be incorrect because it is not a comparative. The answer would be E. For question 2, when asked about tone, you would come to the conclusion that the tone is factual but not quite detached like academic writing. Answer D would best fit that conclusion (and would be correct).

4. If you cannot think of an answer in your own words, do not spend too long thinking. Go to the answers and eliminate the ones you know are wrong. This is called process of elimination (a strategy that you’ve probably heard many times before). Often times with the reading section on the SAT, they will try to get you caught up in small details. If one answer does not stick out as the best one, move on and come back later. Try to answer as many questions as possible that you know how to answer first. Mark the ones you cannot answer quickly and come back to them afterwards. If you can use POE to get it down to two or three choices and you cannot figure out the answer, it is best to guess. There is no penalty for guessing, but it should be a last resort if you are running out of time or truly are not confident in an answer.

5. Recap: Read the questions first and mark text appropriately. Glance at the answer choices, but after reading the passage try to answer the questions in your own words first. Choose the answer that fits your answer best. If you cannot quickly answer the question in your own words, look through the answer choices and eliminate the ones you know are wrong. If you still cannot find the answer, move on and come back to it at the end. Answer the questions you know and can do quickly first. When you go back to the skipped questions, if you still cannot find the answer, you should guess, but try to eliminate as many choices as possible first to increase your chances of getting it correct. Try to answer every question.

About The Author

Reading/Writing And Social Studies Tutor
Hello! My name is Rachel. I am a recent Johns Hopkins graduate with a degree in Political Science and also a graduate of the Derryfield School (a 6-12 independent school in NH). I have taken advanced English literature, political science, and history coursework and college level math and science. I ...
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