6 SAT Reading Tips to Get a Score of 800

Woman smiling and reading
Updated:
November 22, 2023
7 min read
Contents

”Mary

Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 11/22/23

Are you looking for tips to help you prepare for the SAT Reading test? Below, we’ll explore SAT Reading tips and tricks you can use to help you ace the exam. Keep reading for more! 

Eat. Study. Sleep. Repeat. When preparing for the SAT, you may think this is all you need to do to tackle the exam. But where do you start? Should you study the same way for each section? 

While there are similarities among them, the SAT sections have their own unique challenges and require you to follow specific methods to ensure you prepare for them successfully. We’ll give you a list of tips to improve your chances of getting a good score. Let’s get started!

Tips for the SAT Reading Section

Preparing for the SAT Reading section is different from other exam sections. The SAT Reading section evaluates your ability to use critical reading and comprehension skills to draw out the main ideas of passages. 

These SAT Reading section tips can help you navigate the section like an expert!

Female student with books taking notes

Tip 1: Know What To Expect

Just like the Math section, preparing well to achieve a high percentile on the SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) section is imperative. The SAT Math section, however, covers a more precise set of topics, and the methods of answering these questions are more straightforward. 

The EBRW section is unique in that it can range from topics on literature, history, social studies, and natural sciences and requires more theoretical or reading comprehension-based answers. Tools for solving EBRW questions don’t include equations.

So what does an SAT Reading section look like? There are three components to consider when preparing for the exam: format, scoring, and strategy. 

Format

SAT Reading is the first of all sections in the SAT. It contains 52 questions and five passages, with a time limit of 65 minutes. 

The passages can vary in subject, including literary narrative, natural/social sciences, and history (the first of which is always literary narrative). You may encounter dual passages in any of these subjects (except literary narrative)  that contain two shorter passages from different works. 

Additionally, at least one of the passages will be derived from “older” text, like excerpts from 19th or 20th-century novels, 18th or 19th-century speeches, or even a Federation paper or founding document.

Scoring

You’ll receive an SAT Reading section score combined with your Writing and Language score for a total EBRW score (200-800). This EBRW score is combined with your Math score to make up your total SAT score.

Strategy

Instead of relying on your memorization skills, this exam section doesn’t require content knowledge to achieve a high score. There’s no need to memorize dates, names, or texts; instead, it requires strategic, comprehensive thinking. 

This means less reliance on analytical thinking and more understanding of the context that the language of a Reading question poses.

Tip 2: Practice, Practice, Practice

One of the most important SAT reading tips is to rely on practice tests. Even though the EBRW section of the SAT is unique every time it’s constructed, practice tests still help you to understand how the questions look and what they feel like. 

The College Board provides downloadable full-length practice tests on its website. These tests are made by the same people who make the actual SAT. To simulate a real experience, taking these tests with the same time limit you’re given during the actual SAT is recommended.

Tip 3: Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review (SQRRR)

Every Reading section is different. When it comes to SAT reading strategies, remember to stay consistent. It helps to have one you can rely on when tackling each unique question to have a better chance of staying focused on the correct topic. One strategy you can follow is the SQRRR method: Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review.

Survey

Instead of reading each passage right away, methodically glance over (survey) it to identify critical points, including the subject matter, point of view, and purpose of the text. 

Skim the first sentence of each paragraph, identify keywords and use a visual identifier to mark them for future reference (i.e., circling or underlining key terms), and do the same for each question. This is a top tip for the SAT Reading section that can help you quickly find pertinent information. 

Question

Reading a passage right away can get you lost in your thought process. To avoid this, rely on SAT reading prep. After you’ve surveyed the passage and the questions, come up with a few questions about the passage that get you to think about it more critically. This helps warm you up for active reading. Here are a few questions for critical thinking:

  • What is this passage about?
  • Why does this passage exist?
  • What question is this passage trying to answer?

Read

You’re ready to read the passage actively when you reach this step. Visually mark keywords that are important to the passage and questions. Do the same for the “buts” and “ands”–this will keep your brain active while reading and help you identify continuations and changes in arguments or thoughts.

The most important claim in each paragraph, or the main thought, is usually found in the first and last sentences. Knowing where to find these claims can be crucial in collecting the supporting evidence for your answers.

Recite

After you’ve written your answer, read it to yourself! This may seem simple, but it is a fundamental trick you can use to ensure that you’re in control of the thought you’re trying to convey. When you read your answer to yourself, you confirm whether it’s understandable and relates to the question being asked.

Review

Reviewing your answer goes hand-in-hand with reciting. Actively listen to your response to see if it would make sense to another person. Without having another pair of eyes look at your answer, it is your responsibility to be as objective as you can when reviewing your response to a question.

Male student reading book

Tip 4: Take on Dual Passages One at a Time

As mentioned earlier, there will be a set of dual passages in the SAT’s Reading section. These passages revolve around one of three subjects: history, social studies, or natural sciences. 

To manage your time wisely, do the questions of the first passage first, then do the questions of the second passage, and finally, do the questions that pertain to both passages last. This will also help you avoid mixing up both passages while coming up with your answers.

Tip 5: Know The SAT Reading Question Types

As you practice and become more familiar with the SAT, you’ll gain an acute understanding of the types of questions that SAT examiners use: 

  • Words in Context
  • Command of Evidence
  • Function/Purpose
  • Main Ideas
  • Detail or Line Reference
  • Inference
  • Charts and Graphs 

The following example excerpts are taken from The College Board’s Official SAT Practice Test #1:

Words in Context

This question type asks students to choose a word or idea similar in meaning to a word or idea used in the passage.

D) With precision.

Command of Evidence

Command of Evidence questions ask students to select a line reference in the passage that best supports their answer to a previous question.

Function/Purpose

These questions ask students to determine the purpose of a part of the passage (i.e., line, word, idea, etc.) or its entirety.

Main Ideas

Main Idea questions ask students to determine the main ideas of passages as a whole, a series of lines, or paragraphs.

Detail or Line Reference

These questions ask for specific details in the passage.

Inference

Inference questions ask test-takers to form a logical conclusion based on specific parts of the passage.

Charts and Graphs

These questions ask test-takers to analyze a chart, which is usually related to the passages.

Becoming acquainted with these question styles can help you better prepare for your SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Test.

Tip 6: Gauge Your Time Vs. Skipping Ability

Skipping questions is a normal part of test-taking, but this process can also lead you to lose out on precious time if you rely on it too much. 

If you feel like you may not have enough time left when you circle back to your skipped answers, be sure to leave an educated guess first before moving on. You may get it wrong, but giving yourself a chance is infinitely better than guaranteeing yourself a zero by providing a blank answer.

clock drawn on blackboard

FAQs: Simple SAT Reading Tips

Still have questions about SAT Reading strategies? Take a look at our answers to these frequently asked questions for more information.

1. How Can I Improve My Reading on the SAT?

Use practice tests and practice regularly. Practicing for one day doesn’t equate to practicing consistently over a longer period. It’s similar to brushing your teeth – you’re much better off making a habit out of your studying. Wondering how to get better at the SAT Reading section? Learn how to create the ultimate study schedule here! 

2. Is 700 a Good Reading SAT Score?

Generally, 700 is a good SAT Reading score. Ultimately, this score will be calculated with the SAT Writing & Language score for a total EBRW score.

3. How Do You Pace Yourself on the SAT Reading Test?

Since the test has a time limit of 65 minutes, a student should spend roughly 13 minutes on each section. There are 52 questions in the section, so it should take roughly 1.25 minutes to answer each question. To simulate these time limits, use a stopwatch or a digital timer while doing your practice tests.

4. How Much Time Should I Spend on the SAT Reading Exam?

SAT passages should take roughly five minutes to read through. Using the SQRRR method will help you survey the passages efficiently to ensure you’re actively reading the text and leaving markings you can reference later.

5. Is the SAT Reading Section Easy?

The SAT Reading Test is as easy as you make it for yourself. Preparing in advance helps build your test-taking experience and gives you a better chance of coming out of it with more peace than stress. 

Remember, everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. You’ll be just as awesome when you finish as you were before you started, so the only thing left to do is give it your all!

6. How Do You Approach SAT Reading Passages?  

Many people find that skimming the section first and underlining key information before looking at questions is their favorite approach to the Reading section, whereas others prefer to glance at questions first before reading. 

There are several SAT reading tricks you can rely on, and ultimately, how you approach the Reading section is up to you, but many students will find success using the SQRRR method! 

Final Thoughts

The SAT EBRW test can be a challenging and fun opportunity to score points on your SAT and become one step closer to getting into your dream college. One of the best SAT reading tips is this: know that your success is in your hands, no matter what other people say. 

Putting time and effort into your prep gives you a better chance of scoring high. Know you can do great on the SAT and anything you put your mind to. Embrace the journey, and good luck!

Take on 5 free practice SAT questions here

Take on 5 free practice SAT questions here

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