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Top SAT Reading Tips for 2024

By Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman

Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman is a content editor and writer at Scholarships360. He has managed communications and written content for a diverse array of organizations, including a farmer’s market, a concert venue, a student farm, an environmental NGO, and a PR agency. Gabriel graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in sociology.

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Edited by Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Updated: April 16th, 2024
Top SAT Reading Tips for 2024

Success on the SAT requires a lot of hard work. You’ll have to dedicate a lot of time to studying not only the material being tested, but the format of the test and how to maximize your score. Each section has its own format and the more familiar you are with it, the better you’ll do. In this article, we’ll offer some tips for the reading section on the SAT. 

Familiarize yourself with the format

It’s important to familiarize yourself with the format of the SAT reading section as a first step. This will help you learn what to expect, and get an idea of how to pace yourself during the exam. The best way to do this is to take some practice tests beforehand. You should also learn what the outline of the test is so you know what you’re getting into. Here’s a rundown of the SAT reading section format:

The SAT reading test has undergone some big changes since the implementation of the new digital format of the test. The Reading and Writing section now consists of 54 questions and is broken into two 32-minute sections. Instead of reading long passages and answering multiple questions per passage. You’ll read shorter passages and complete one to two questions per passage. The passages will be from a variety of genres and will be no longer than 150 words. 

The digital SAT is computer adaptive which means that your performance on the first module will determine the level of difficulty for the second module. 

The content of the passages has also changed. The content sections will be:

  • Craft and Structure
    • Around 13-15 questions
  • Information and Ideas
    • Around 12-14 questions
  • Standard English Conventions
    • Around 11-15 questions
  • Expression of Ideas
    • Around 8-12 questions 

Also see: How to reduce test anxiety

Breaking down the format 

Craft and Structure

The craft and structure portion of the SAT Reading section focuses on vocabulary comprehension and the organization of passages. 

Example questions: 

  • Choose a word to complete the text
  • Determine the purpose of the text 
  • Compare two texts 

Information and Ideas

The information and ideas section focuses on using information found in the passage to draw conclusions. 

Example questions: 

  • Use evidence from the text to support or disagree with a claim
  • Use graphs and table to respond to a claim 
  • Draw a reasonable inference

Standard English Conventions

The standard English conventions section focuses on grammar, sentence structure and punctuation. 

Example questions: 

  • Identify proper punctuation
  • Choose the best grammar choice to complete a sentence 

Expression of Ideas

The expression of ideas section asks about logic, cohesion and rhetorically effective language that can improve the effectiveness of the passage. 

Example questions: 

  • Identify the flow and structure 

Our Tips

Okay, now let’s get into some tips! We have a lot of tips; some may be more helpful to you than others. So, give them a read!

Don’t be afraid to skip questions on the first go

Remember – the SAT reading section is a race against the clock. Your challenge is to answer as many questions as well as you can during the time provided to you. So, if you find yourself stuck on a question, don’t be afraid to move on. You can always come back to it, and your time will be best spent if you manage to work your way all the way through the test before coming back for the stumpers.

Learn how to skim sections

The SAT reading section is all about reading comprehension under a time limit. They want to know how quickly and effectively you can extract key information from a passage. So, you probably shouldn’t give these passages the same close read that you might for a homework assignment. You’ll perform best if you get the information you need, and minimize the time spent on any other parts of the passage.

Also see: Everything you need to know about SAT testing accommodations

Consider whether to read questions first or passages first

On the SAT reading section’s multiple choice format, there is key information that you are looking for. The questions will ask for specific information that is contained in the text. As a result, some students prefer to read the questions before the passage, so they know what to look out for as they read it. They might even skim the questions just to look for specific key-words to keep an eye out for.

It should be noted, however, that this strategy might not work for everyone. Reading the questions before you read the passage might be disorienting and cause you to “zone out.” Whichever leads to a better score and a more confident test experience should be the strategy you follow.

Also see: Top SAT math tips

Look for clear answers, don’t add your own opinion

Throughout the SAT reading section, you’ll read a lot of different passages, some of which you may agree with, and some of which you may disagree with. It may be tempting to factor your own personal opinion into your answers. But remember, they are grading your reading comprehension, not your judgment. The questions will address your analysis of the text, not your feelings on the subject matter.

Don’t miss: This year’s SAT test dates

Don’t get tripped up by the hard questions

On every SAT, there are some easier questions, and some harder questions. It’s inevitable that there will be a few questions that you are unsure about the answer to. But remember – each question on the reading section is worth the same number of points. So, it is far preferable to skip through a hard question and answer ten easy ones than it is to get tripped up on the difficult one and not finish your test. Don’t let one hard question make you miss points elsewhere!

Answer every question

There is no penalty for guessing on the SAT – if you answer a question wrong, it will be as if you didn’t answer it at all. As a result, you should be sure to answer every question, even the ones you have no idea about. Since there are only four answers per question, you have a 25% chance of getting it right each time. If it gets to the final minutes of your test and there are still questions you haven’t filled in, you should drop everything and fill in a random answer on each one. It may seem silly, but there is no sense in giving up free points!

Additional SAT resources

In this article, we’ve gone over the basic outline of the SAT reading exam and offered some tips on how to maximize your score. These are all great tips to know, but remember, you can only get so far with tips. The best thing you can do to improve your score is to study early and often. Check out our guide on free SAT study resources, and on how to find the best test prep tutor.

Remember, we are here to help you through every step of the college application and admissions process. That includes deciding how many colleges to apply to, how to make your application the best it can be, and how to answer the Common App essay prompts. Don’t forget to apply for all the scholarships you qualify for while you are eligible!

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Frequently asked questions about SAT reading tips

How do you get a perfect score on the reading SAT?

Getting a perfect score on either section of the SAT is not an easy task. The best way to ensure you get the best possible score is by putting in the time and effort. Reading articles just like this, taking practice tests, and even employing a tutor when possible is all you can do. At the end of the day, all you can do is try your best! 

How can you be a faster reader on the SAT?

Getting faster with reading can take time, but it is possible! The best thing you can do is practice reading short passages and answering questions about those passages. Remember, it’s not just about reading quickly. You must also be able to quickly comprehend the material and respond to the questions.

Should you read the entire SAT passage?

Reading the entire SAT passage might be necessary for some people, but others may find that they can skim the passage or read the questions first so they know what they’re looking for. Take some practice tests using each method to see what works best for you!

Is there a penalty for guessing on the SAT Reading section?

No! There is no penalty for incorrect answers on the SAT, so it is better to guess than leave a question unanswered! 

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