The SAT Critical Reading section is one of the three main sections of the SAT that tests your reading comprehension and vocabulary skills. Many students all across the world will go through this section every year in hopes of being accepted by the colleges and universities of their dreams. Some elite students will even hope to get a perfect 2400 on the SAT in order to get into high end colleges such as the Ivy League schools. The Critical Reading section may only be a fraction of the entire test but nevertheless, it counts and you must prepare.
The Critical Reading section is divided into two smaller 25 minute sections and one 20 minute section (it is important to note that the SAT contains a 25 minute variable section that could be in the Critical Reading section but is unknown until the day of the test). Each of these sections have the same question types, just some differing formats. There will 19 sentence completion questions in total and 48 other questions based on passage reading. The sentence completion questions are simple (as in the process, they are still difficult!) and basically involves filling in the blank with multiple choice. These questions have single blanks and double blank questions.
To do well on the sentence completion, a high vocabulary is the most helpful. This can be garnered through long term studying of words from helpful SAT books. There have been many books published that have taken studies over the most common words used in the SAT, making it a lot easier for you to pinpoint your exact study material. The SAT, thought College Board will not say, pretty much has a gigantic word bank. The SAT seems to use the same words over and over again in their tests, with some words appearing very, very often. But knowing these words may not be enough if you plan on getting an exceptional score. Learning word structure will be extremely helpful in inferring the meanings of unknown words. If you know the small list of prefixes, roots, and suffixes, you should be able to dissect nearly any word and discover its relative meaning on the spot.
Having high vocabulary is the key to success in sentence completion but being able to comprehend the sentence is another necessity. The sentences the SAT uses are not even close to simple and contains sometimes confusing structure. This can be troublesome in the double-blank questions as the two words often relate to each other in some way. Looking for key introduction words at the beginning such as “although,” “however,” “despite,” etc and looking for conjunctions like “and,” “but,” “consequently,” etc will be keys to understanding the basic flow of the sentence. So all in all, know lots of words, understand the sentence, and perhaps look at context clues.
Now the next type of question would be passage based questions. The questions are not of all one category but all ask for knowledge gained from reading a passage as a prerequisite. There are also two types of passages the SAT utilizes. The first would be a pair of two short passages (about 100 words each) where they are both about the same idea but usually with different viewpoints. Questions about these passages would be about the specific passage in general, a part of the passage, or asks you to compare and contrast both passages in a way. Then there are the long passages which are usually in between 400-800 words followed by some questions. These questions, once again, are quite difficult to understand for the average person as are the passages. College Board divides the questions into 4 categories. The first would fall under paired passages, which we already discussed. The second would fall under extended reasoning. These questions use phrases such as “it can be inferred” or “probably” and asks for you make inferences on the reading, such as the main idea, tone, or what certain words mean in the certain context (not as easy as it sounds). In fact, the vocabulary-in-context questions are the next section. For instance, words such as “folk” could mean traditional, old, unpopular, country based, etc. Depending on the context, many words could have a wide range of meanings. Then there’s the Literal Comprehension questions which test you on the actual material in the passage and how well you pick it up.
To prepare for passage based questions, I would suggest simply reading a lot. But the reading material is also important. College Board has a great list on their site of the 100 must read classic novels. The New York Times best sellers are also great. Those normal teenage novels are not. Also, magazines are important. Science magazines and National Geographic are great to have because the SAT sometimes uses passages from these.
As you may have noticed, these study methods are quite long-term, implying that you should start early. However, if you are too late and the deadline is approaching, some other methods may be helpful. For one, paying for a SAT study course would be a great way to boost your score. Another would be getting The Official SAT Study Guide by College Board and reading it. This is recommended for absolutely anyone who takes the site, not just those who are short of time. Other SAT study books would also be recommended if you have time, such as ones by Barrons and The Princeton Review. Taking practice tests is extremely helpful and will boost your score (practice makes perfect…).
Overall, study hard and ace the Critical Reading section of the SAT to pursue your dreams.