10 Tips for Acing SAT Reading | SAT Reading Strategies & Tips (2023)

Note: this article is part of a two-part series. See also this post, which covers the multiple-choice grammar section.

1) Take a moment to understand the question before you jump to eliminate any answers

This is especially true when a question is worded in a complex/confusing way. High scorers often lose points because they don’t take a few seconds to think about what complicated questions are really asking. As a result, they are either unsure of what they’re looking for, or thinking in the wrong “direction” when they go to look to look at the choices. Then they get confused.

Good rule of thumb: if you find yourself saying “Huh?” after you read a question or answer, you need to take a few moments and clarify.

2) Keep moving through the passages – and the questions

Reading and re-reading confusing sections of a passage is one of the biggest causes of time problems. If you find yourself starting to loop over the same section, you must resist the temptation to reread over and over again. That section might only be relevant to a single question – or no questions at all. If you spend a lot of time on it, you’re likely to end up rushing later in the section and losing easy points.

(Video) How to get a perfect score on the SAT reading section: tips from a 1600 scorer

As you work through the questions, you should be doing something – anything – to work toward the answers at all times. If you’re so confused that you can’t even figure out how to start working through a question, leave it and move on. You won’t get the answer by sitting and staring. Very rarely do high scorers have time problems because they’re spending too much time on every question. More often it’s a couple of questions that drain all their time. If you’re spot-on everywhere else, you can afford to guess on a question or two; you cannot afford to rush and get two or three questions wrong per set. Figure out where your weak spots are, and learn to work around them.

As a general rule, you should spend the minimum amount of time possible on easy questions while still working carefully enough not to make any careless errors. Your goal is to leave yourself as much time as possible to work through the hardest questions.

3) Do not EVER eliminate an answer because it confuses you

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. There is absolutely no relationship between your understanding of an answer and whether that answer is right or wrong. If you’re not sure about an answer, leave it.

4) Be willing to go back and forth between the question and the passage multiple times

The answer will most likely not reveal itself to you if you just sit and look at the choices. You may need to go back and forth between the question and the passage four or five times, checking one specific thing out at each go. Do not – I repeat, do not – rely on your memory.

(Video) Top 10 Tips for the SAT Reading Section

5) Read before/after the line references

A line reference tells you where a particular word or phrase is located – it does not tell you where the answer is. The answers could be in the lines cited, or it could be before/after. If you’ve understood the question and the section of the passage referenced, and still can’t find the answer, there’s a good chance you’re looking in the wrong spot.

If you’re dealing with a function/purpose question, there’s about a 50% chance the answer won’t be in the exact lines cited, but regardless of the question type, do not ever start or stop reading in the middle of a sentence.

Likewise, if you’re asked about something close the beginning/end of a paragraph, back up or read forward as necessary. Main ideas are usually at the beginnings/ends of paragraphs – when in doubt, focus on them.

6) Answer questions in your own words

If you’re a strong reader, spot an answer immediately, and are 100% certain it’s right, it’s fine to pick it and move on. When things are less clear-cut, however, it would strongly behoove you to get a general idea of what information the correct answer will contain, keeping in mind that it might be phrased in a very different way from the way you’d say it. Even doing something as simple as playing positive/negative can make the right answer virtually pop out at you.

(Video) SAT Reading Tips: How I Answered All 52 Reading Questions in 8 MINUTES

To reiterate: you cannot rely on the answers already there 100% of the time. They are there to sound plausible, even if they’re no such thing. Defend yourself.

7) Practice keeping calm when you don’t know the answer right away

If you stand a serious chance of scoring an 800, there’s a good chance that you’re pretty good at recognizing correct answers. There’s also a pretty good chance that most of the questions you’re getting wrong are the ones you aren’t sure about in the first place. When this is the case, one of the biggest challenges tends to involve managing your reactions when you encounter questions you aren’t sure about right away. This might only happen three or four times throughout the test, but that’s enough to cost you.

From what I’ve observed, many students who fall into this category have a tendency to freeze, then panic, then guess. Learning to keep calm is a process; you have to practice it when you’re studying in order for the there to be any chance of your doing it during the actual test.

Stop, take a moment, re-read the question calmly, and make sure you’re crystal clear on what it’s asking. Once, you’ve fully processed what you’re being asked, you can probably get rid of an answer or two. As you work through the question, you might find yourself getting a clearer idea of what it’s asking for. If you don’t, pick one specific aspect of each remaining answer to check against the passage. If you’re stuck between a general and a specific answer, start with the more specific one.

When you go back to the passage, pay attention to strong language and major transitions and “interesting” punctuation (however, therefore, but, colons, questions marks) since key information tends to be located right around them. If you’re unsure about what you’re looking for, focusing on these elements can make you suddenly notice things you missed the first time around.

(Video) SAT English Tips - 8 Hacks to Ace the Reading and Writing Sections of the SAT

8) Be willing to reconsider your original assumption

Sometimes you’ll understand a question, answer it in your own words, look at the answer choices… and find absolutely nothing that fits. When this happens, you must be willing to accept that the answer is coming from an unexpected angle, back up a couple of steps, and re-work through it from a different standpoint.

Reread the question carefully, make sure you haven’t overlooked something, get rid of answers that are clearly way off, and look at the remaining options anew.

9) Ask yourself what you’re missing

When you can’t figure out the answer, you must be willing to turn things back on yourself and ask yourself what it is you’re not seeing. Thoughts that start with, “But I think that the author is saying xxx…” will not get you to the answer. If you’ve understood the question and the answers and can’t connect one to the other, the answer must be coming from an angle you haven’t considered. You might need to read more literally, or you might have to consider an alternate meaning of a word. Embrace that fact, because fighting the test won’t change it.

10) Remember that the SAT can break its own “rules”

(Video) How to Score a 700+ on the SAT Reading without Reading any of the passages!

It’s undoubtedly a good idea to know some of the more common patterns of the test, e.g. “extreme” answers are usually wrong. If you’re seriously shooting for an 800, though, you must be willing to consider that on very rare occasions, there are exceptions. Sometimes the correct answer may include a word like always or never. You must find a balance between using the patterns of the test to your advantage and not getting so stuck on them that you let them override what’s actually going on in the passage.


10 Tips for Acing SAT Reading | SAT Reading Strategies & Tips? ›

You will need to answer 51 to 52 of the 52 questions on the Reading test correctly, to get a perfect score. This score will be combined with your results from the Writing test. You can start with these study tips. The work you put into your practice tests makes a huge difference.

How can I improve my SAT reading? ›

Top 6 Strategies & Skills to Improve SAT Reading Scores
  1. Save Time on Reading Passages. ...
  2. Know-How to Eliminate The Wrong Answers. ...
  3. Identify the Weakness areas in Reading & Boost them. ...
  4. Take Advantages of Study Materials. ...
  5. Improve your Vocabulary. ...
  6. Take Practice Tests Regularly.

How to get 800 in SAT English? ›

You will need to answer 51 to 52 of the 52 questions on the Reading test correctly, to get a perfect score. This score will be combined with your results from the Writing test. You can start with these study tips. The work you put into your practice tests makes a huge difference.

How to get a 1400 on the SAT? ›

To get a 1400+ (700 Math, 700 Reading & Writing) you need:
  1. all of the math and grammar content – no gaps at all.
  2. a superior vocabulary. ...
  3. excellent reading skills.
  4. excellent reasoning skills – in other words, you need to be spot on with your problem solving techniques and approaches.

Why do I struggle with SAT reading? ›

SAT reading can be hard for several reasons: There is a lot of text and not a lot of time. There are 65 minutes allotted to read 4-5 passages and answer 52 questions. This in itself is difficult for many students who are not used to reading quickly or have attention deficits.

Why can't I improve on SAT reading? ›

Adopt a New Reading Technique

If you've been practicing and practicing and your score hasn't started to reflect it, the strategy you're using to read the passages might not be working for you. If you find yourself struggling to finish this section on time, it might be a good idea to shake things up.

Is a 650 on the English SAT good? ›

The top 10% of test takers tend to earn between 660 and 800 in Evidence Based Reading and Writing and above 680 in Math. To be considered competitive, the score has to be between 650 and 690 in Reading and Writing and 610 to 670 in Math. Above average is 510 to 580 in Reading and Writing and 520 to 600 in Math.

Is 460 a good SAT score for English? ›

460 SAT Score Standings

Out of the 2.13 million test-takers, 2134155 scored the same or higher than you. You can apply to 14 colleges and have a good shot at getting admitted. You have a very low chance of getting into 1484 schools with this score.

What percentile is 650 on SAT English? ›

Understanding Your SAT Score
Section Score (Out of 800)Math Percentile RankReading/Writing Percentile Rank
16 more rows

How to read SAT passages fast? ›

Tips to improve your reading speed for SAT
  1. Pay attention to how you read. ...
  2. Skim through the questions. ...
  3. Determine your baseline reading speed. ...
  4. Minimize fixations and back-tracking. ...
  5. Read groups of words instead of individual words. ...
  6. Practice and time yourself by individual passages.
Jan 18, 2023

How do you skim a SAT reading passage? ›

Top tips
  1. Cover up the choices.
  2. Go back to the passage to find the word/phrase.
  3. Make up your own version of the word/phrase using context clues in the surrounding sentences.
  4. Uncover the choices, and find a match to your prediction in the choices.

How can I improve my SAT reading in a month? ›

Step 1: Take and score a full-length SAT practice test in a single sitting. Step 2: Review your practice test. Step 3: Study for each section of the test, focusing on topics that you have not yet mastered, but are getting right at least 50% of the time.

Can I get into Harvard with a 1400 SAT? ›

While a 1400 makes you eligible to apply to places such as Harvard, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania, it won't make you a competitive candidate.

What is the most common SAT answer? ›

Just make sure you stick with it for each and every guess. C isn't any better or worse than any other letter, or any more likely to be the correct answer, but if you decide to stick with it for every blind guess you make, you'll have a better chance of success than if you try your best to be "random."

Is 1400 SAT enough for Harvard? ›

Can you get into Harvard with a 1400 SAT? Harvard applicants with a combined SAT score of 1300-1400 and an average GPA of 3.5-4.0 have a better chance of being accepted to Harvard University.

What is the hardest part of SAT reading? ›

Paired passage questions contain some of the most difficult questions on the SAT Critical Reading section because they ask you to look at arguments from different viewpoints and make inferences about the views of passage authors.

How do I stop overthinking on the SAT? ›

In addition, if you start to get anxious during the test, simply stop and take ONE DEEP BREATH while grounding your feet. Over time, this simple practice will become your automatic "reset" button for dissolving anxiety and thinking clearly, calmly, and accurately.

Do readers do better on SAT? ›

In addition, those who read more know more about literature, history, science and even practical matters. Literacy scholar Jeff McQuillan has argued that pleasure reading is the best way to score well on the SAT, and it is far more effective, economical and pleasant than test prep.

How many should you get wrong on SAT reading? ›

For Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, you can skip/answer incorrectly on average 9 questions on the writing portion and 12 questions on the reading portion. For Math, you can skip/answer incorrectly on average 17 questions between the calculator and no-calculator sections.

How rare is a 1500 SAT? ›

A 1500 puts you in nearly the 95th percentile of all 1.7 million test takers.

What was Steve Jobs SAT score? ›

Celebrity ACT Scores
CelebrityACT Score (or equivalent)SAT Score (or equivalent)
Steve Jobs321480*
Marilyn Monroe211080*
Sonia Sotomayor351580*
John Cena20 and 36 (whaaa???)1050* and 1600*
11 more rows
Feb 2, 2016

What is SAT score for Harvard? ›

Is 1150 a good SAT score? ›

The average national SAT score is between 1050 and 1100 every year (on purpose), putting an 1150 at an above-average 67th percentile — that's a score to be proud of! It means that you scored higher than 67% of all other test takers.

Is a 920 a good SAT score? ›

Unfortunately, 920 is not a good SAT score. In reality, it's a weak score that will keep you from achieving your college admissions goals. Although you're still outperforming the majority of test takers, it's still not enough to get you into the top schools in the country.

What is an 80% on the SAT? ›

So if you got an 80th percentile score, you scored better than 80% of all other test takers. Remember that your percentile is different from a test score out of 100. A test score represents the number of questions you got right, and a percentile refers to the number of test-takers you performed better than.

What is a good SAT score for Ivy League? ›

What's a Great SAT Score for Ivy League Admission? An SAT score of 1580 (out of 1600) will place you exactly in the top 25% of the applicants for most Ivy League Institutions, whereas an SAT score lower than 1450 would place you in the bottom 25% of the total applicants.

What colleges accept a 900 SAT score? ›

While you can't apply to the majority of colleges with a 900 SAT, you're able to be a competitive candidate at a handful, including Wesley College in Delaware, Northeastern Illinois University, and Southern Vermont College. Your Target schools should all have (roughly) an average accepted SAT score between 875 and 915.

What is a 70% on the SAT? ›

So, if you get a percentile score of 70, you've scored better than 70 percent of all the other applicants. Talking about the average SAT score of 1060. The test is intentionally designed to ensure the average score floats around 1000. The average math score is 528, and the average score for EBRW is 533.

How long should it take me to read an SAT passage? ›

The SAT Reading Test is 65 minutes long and contains 5 passages with associated questions. This means you need to spend 13 minutes per passage on average. You should plan to read through an SAT passage in about 5 minutes.

Should you skim SAT passages? ›

You should read quickly, even skimming for important features. These include the last line of the introduction (usually the thesis of the passage), opening sentences of paragraphs, and the conclusion.

What are the 5 passages in SAT reading? ›

First, there are five main types of passages that you will encounter: narrative or prose passages, natural science, social science, humanities, and paired passages, which usually fall under the social science or natural science designation.

Should you read the entire passage first SAT? ›

1) Read the passage fully before looking at any of the corresponding questions. – You won't miss out on any important details. – You will have a better understanding of the main point of a passage. – This may take longer for slower readers.

What are the two main types of passages you will see on the SAT? ›

The standalone passages and the paired set are each 500–750 words. The passages are drawn from the following types of documents: 1 literary passage from a work of fiction. 1 or 2 passages from a U.S. founding document or a text in the Great Global Conversation they inspired.

How do you ace reading comprehension? ›

7 strategies to improve your reading comprehension skills
  1. Improve your vocabulary. ...
  2. Come up with questions about the text you are reading. ...
  3. Use context clues. ...
  4. Look for the main idea. ...
  5. Write a summary of what you read. ...
  6. Break up the reading into smaller sections. ...
  7. Pace yourself. ...
  8. Eliminate distractions.
Mar 10, 2023

What is the most effective way to study for the SAT? ›

Below, we break down nine ways to prepare for the SAT, with advice from test-prep experts.
  1. Create an SAT Study Schedule. ...
  2. Use Quality Prep Materials. ...
  3. Increase Your Reading Speed. ...
  4. Target the Mistakes You Can Control. ...
  5. Come to Test Day Prepared. ...
  6. Answer the Questions You Know First. ...
  7. Eliminate Incorrect Answers.

How can I improve my SAT score in 10 days? ›

Create a Schedule

You need to create a strict study schedule and stick to it. With only 10 days to get a 200 point score increase, 30 minutes per day is not going to do it. Here at PrepScholar, we recommend fitting in about 80 hours of preparation if you're hoping for a 200 point score improvement.

How many hours should I study to improve my SAT? ›

As a rule of thumb, here is the amount of time students need to improve their SAT scores: 10+ hours of studying to maintain their score. 20+ hours of studying for a score improvement of 10-100 points. 40+ hours of studying for a score improvement of 100-150 points.

Is a 4.7 GPA good for Harvard? ›

Average GPA: 4.18

(Most schools use a weighted GPA out of 4.0, though some report an unweighted GPA. With a GPA of 4.18, Harvard requires you to be at the top of your class. You'll need nearly straight A's in all your classes to compete with other applicants.

What is the lowest SAT Harvard has accepted? ›

SAT average score for Harvard University out of 1600 is 1515. Harvard University's SAT 25th percentile is 1460, indicating that less than 25% of applicants score below 1460.

What is the lowest GPA Harvard has accepted? ›

You should also have a 4.18 GPA or higher. If your GPA is lower than this, you need to compensate with a higher SAT/ACT score. For a school as selective as Harvard, you'll also need to impress them with the rest of your application.

What is the best guessing letter on SAT? ›

Guess any letter for any question. It doesn't matter if you guess A,B,A,B or A,A,A,A or any variation. Your expected number of correct answers are equal—actually, you'll actually do sliiightly better by guessing randomly on every question.

Which SAT is usually the hardest? ›

In online forums, students also tend to identify Test #3 as the hardest of the official practice tests, so there truly seems to be a clear consensus. It's important to remember though that a hard practice test can actually be a great resource!

What is the best letter to guess on a test? ›

C or H are right (and wrong) as often as any other answer choice. The only guess letter you don't want to use when you are completely guessing is E or K because they only show up on the math test.

What is the lowest SAT score for Ivy League? ›

Ideal ACT/SAT Scores for Ivy League School Applications

The minimum SAT score to get into an Ivy League school ranges from 690 to 730 for the reading section and from 700 to 730 for the math section. Getting 700 or 710 (or higher) on both of these sections will give you an advantage at most Ivy League universities.

Does Harvard accept 3.7 GPA? ›

Can I get into Harvard with a 3.7 GPA? Harvard does not have a minimum GPA requirement. However, Harvard is highly competitive, so it may be challenging to get in with a 3.7 GPA. The average GPA for entering Harvard students is 3.9.

Can I get into Yale with a 1500 SAT? ›

The 25th percentile New SAT score is 1470, and the 75th percentile SAT score is 1560. In other words, a 1470 places you below average, while a 1560 will move you up to above average. There's no absolute SAT requirement at Yale, but they really want to see at least a 1470 to have a chance at being considered.

Is a 610 on reading SAT good? ›

To be considered competitive, the score has to be between 650 and 690 in Reading and Writing and 610 to 670 in Math. Above average is 510 to 580 in Reading and Writing and 520 to 600 in Math.

How long does it take to improve SAT reading score? ›

What is your target score?
Score improvement goalHours of study timeApproximate duration
0-5010-15Less than a month
50-15020-401-2 months
150-25060-803 months
250-350+100-1503-6 months
Jan 4, 2023

How can I improve my SAT reading in 2 months? ›

And for those with more hours to dedicate to studying, use your extra time to:
  1. Carefully analyze real questions.
  2. Master all applicable math topics and grammar rules.
  3. Hone your reading comprehension skills.
  4. Study vocabulary.
  5. Strengthen your weaknesses.
  6. Practice pacing yourself.
Mar 23, 2017

Is two weeks enough to study for SAT? ›

Two weeks isn't a lot of time to prepare, but it will give you ample time to at least practice your ability to take tests. For this reason, it's a good idea to do plenty of sample tests. Time yourself and go through the motions of the SATs.

What is the minimum SAT score for Harvard? ›

What SAT score is required for Harvard? ›

Harvard University's SAT scores for admitted students range from 1480 - 1580, with an average score of 1530. Although SAT scores are optional, we recommend that students aim for a good SAT score of at least 1530 to be competitive in the admissions process at Harvard University.

Is 950 on SAT bad? ›

The scoring scale runs from 400 to 1600, with the average test taker receiving a composite result between 1050 and 1100. A 950 falls in the 31st percentile, short of what most colleges and universities would like to see on applications for admission.

Is 2 months enough to study for SAT? ›

Two to three months of studying will put you right in the sweet spot for being well-prepared. You have just enough time to become an expert on the test and not let your grades suffer (especially if you're on summer break). But with this amount of time, it can be tough to stay focused.

Is 3 months enough to study for SAT? ›

Three months is a great amount of time to prep for the SAT. You can spread out your studying and you'll have ample time to master the concepts tested on the SAT. It can be difficult to know where to start your SAT prep. The key is finding the right resources, staying organized, and sticking to your plan.

Is 1 month enough to study for SAT? ›

Can you prep for the SAT in one month? Absolutely. A lot of students do; most will take between one and six months to prepare. If you're aiming for a top score, however, you have a lot to cover in just one month!


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