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8 BEST Reading Tips & Tricks for the SAT and ACT

The SAT and ACT are very fast paced exams, especially the reading sections. So many students complain that they are not able to finish reading all reading passages and answer all the questions within the time allotted. Does this sound like you?
If so, the best way to improve on the reading section of the SAT and ACT is to read the questions first, annotate the passage, and focus on the line reference questions. However, this blog post will dig deep into 8 ways to improve your score on the reading section of the exam.

1. Read above and below the lines.

When a question gives you a line reference, never just read that line reference. Always read a bit above and below the line reference to give you more context of what is happening in the passage.

2. Tackle dual passages one at a time.

You will almost always have a dual passage on your exam. Dual passage are when you have one set of questions that pertain to two smaller passage that will be labeled either “Passage 1” and “Passage 2” or “Passage A” and “Passage B”.

Instead of reading both passages first and then tackling the questions, I encourage you to read just Passage 1 and then answer the questions just pertaining to Passage 1. Then read Passage 2 and then answer the questions just pertaining to Passage 2. Then answer the question that compare and contrast both passages. The questions will always go in the following order: Passage 1 questions, Passage 2 questions, comparing and contrasting Passage 1 and Passage 2 questions.

3. Complete the main idea questions last.

The main idea questions are typically the first questions listed after the passage; however, I suggest skipping them and coming back to them after completing the rest of the questions pertaining to that passage. This is because you will learn more information about the main concepts of the passage as you read the other questions.

4. Try to answer the questions in your head before looking at the answer choices.

Oftentimes when you look at the answer choices they all look very similar and all may appear correct. However, to avoid this, prior to looking at the answer choices devise the answer in your head and then see if the answer is there. If it is, choose your answer and move on.

5. If you run out of time for the last passage, dont read the passage. Instead, just do the questions with a line reference.

If you run out of time on the last passage, no need to read the entire passage. Skip to the questions that have a line reference (ie. What does the word “devise” mean in line 22?) and complete these questions. You can complete these types of questions (for the most part) without reading the entire passage.

6. Annotate the passage to help you focus. Write a 2-3 word summary after each paragraph.

If you have a hard time focusing and comprehending what the passage is about, note taking is a great strategy. I suggest writing 2-3 words after each paragraph which can help jog your memory about what the passage is about once you are done reading the entire essay. This can also help you locate sections of the passage better. Additionally, note taking forces you to pay attention as you read.

7. Read the questions first, annotate the passage, and answer the questions as you read.

Reading the questions before reading the passage is one of the best tips to tackle the SAT and ACT exam. When you read the questions, annotate any line reference questions in the passage. Then as you read the passage, you should answer the line reference questions as you pass them. Once you are finished reading the passage and answering the line reference question, you can go back any answer any remaining questions. This strategy helps you avoid double reading the passage. For instance, if you read the entire passage and then a question asks “What did the author mean in line 22?”, you would then need to go back and read that line reference again. However, if you answered this question as you read line 22 the first time, it eliminates double reading and wasting time.

8. Do the passages you are good at first.

If you typically run out of time on the test, that’s okay! Many students don’t complete the test. However, I suggests to do the passage that you are good at first. Meaning, if you know you enjoy science, tackle the science passage first. This way you can guarantee the easier points

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