The critical reading section of the SAT makes up a third of every student's total SAT score. The section includes 67 multiple-choice questions about vocabulary, literary comprehension and extended reasoning. Although improving an undesirable score on the critical reading section can be challenging, it is possible with the help of a few important strategies.
Understand the Test
Developing a good study plan requires a deep understanding of the exam. Given the breadth of the passages used on the SAT's critical reading section, studying can seem like an impossibly large project. Despite the variety of passages, however, the test questions only look for a few types of answers. According to College Basics, a website that helps students prepare for college, the test only asks questions about the content, the tone or feeling and the specific details from a passage, as well as questions that ask you compare and contrast information within the passage. To prepare, students need to practice identifying these common features of test questions.
Since there are only a few different types of questions on the exams, students can improve their scores by identifying their weaknesses and focusing their studying on those problematic areas. Students who routinely miss questions about tone, for example, can concentrate on tone questions in their preparation regime. "Bloomberg Businessweek" suggests that questions about tone usually involve odd language in the passage or clues from the italicized header at the top of the passage. By directing most of their energy toward their most problematic subjects, students can make major improvements on their scores with minimal effort.
Skim Questions Before Reading the Passage
A useful strategy for all students is to quickly skim the questions about a particular passage before reading the passage itself. This strategy may seem counterintuitive, but it can save a lot of time by allowing test-takers to skip or skim some portions of the passage. If the test doesn't ask any questions about a particular vocabulary word used in the passage, students can skip the protracted process of figuring out the meaning of words from context clues. Since the critical reading sections last only 20 or 25 minutes, saving time is crucial for boosting scores.
When In Doubt, Eliminate and Guess
All of the questions on the critical reading section are multiple choice. From a scoring perspective, taking an educated guess on a difficult question is much better than skipping a question. Nearly every question on the exam includes two or three "obviously wrong" answer choices, according to "Businessweek." By eliminating three of the five answers, students can improve their chances of guessing a correct answer to 50 percent. Making educated guesses on the hardest problems also allows students to save time for easier questions, helping to improve scores.
Nick Robinson is a writer, instructor and graduate student. Before deciding to pursue an advanced degree, he worked as a teacher and administrator at three different colleges and universities, and as an education coach for Inside Track. Most of Robinson's writing centers on education and travel.