Tip #23 to Get a Top SAT Critical Reading Score

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Sep 10, 2011

You've now learned the 11 reading Skills that you need for the SAT. The Mantras remind you what to do for each type of question. Let's make sure you've memorized them. Drill them until you are ready to teach them. Then do that. Find a willing friend and give a little SAT course.

Learning the Mantras is like learning martial arts. Practice until they become part of you—until you follow them naturally: When you see a passage, you read for main idea and tone, and when you answer questions, you recognize most questions types and know what to do. This will definitely raise your score. It might even fundamentally change you as a student. After SAT prep many students have better study habits. They read the intros in their history book, they read faster and with better comprehension, they are able to anticipate quiz questions. Homework becomes less intimidating, easier, and more fun. So go to work—your SAT score and probably even your school grades will go up!

Here are the 11 SAT reading Mantras. Check the box next to each Skill when you have mastered it. Reread the Skill sections if you need to.

Skill 12. Always begin a reading passage by reading the italics.

Skill 13. Read the passage, looking for main idea and tone. That helps you stay focused; keep asking yourself, What are the main idea and tone? Don't try to memorize details and don't reread hard lines. If you need them, you'll reread later when you know the question and what to look for.

Skill 14. To answer a "most nearly means" question, reread a few lines before and a few lines after, and remember that the answer is usually not the most common definition.

Skill 15. For a "direct info" question, always read before and after a line and find proof.

Skill 16. For "suggest" questions, look for the answer that is hinted at in the passage; though it might have different language, it should be pretty close to what is actually said.

Skill 17. For an "assumption" question, use the process of elimination.

Skill 18. Answer "attitude" questions based on evidence in the passage; an author's attitude is expressed through choice of words and punctuation.

Skill 19. When there are two passages, read the first passage for main idea and tone and answer those questions. Then read the second passage for main idea and tone, and answer those questions. Finally, answer questions that compare and contrast the two passages.

Skill 20. If you need help with a "main idea" question, reread the italics and the first and last lines of each paragraph.

Skill 21. When quotes around a phrase are not used to literally quote something from another source, they indicate that the phrase is used in an unusual way, such as ironically. And words in parentheses usually function as a side note to the reader.

Skill 22. For a "parallel" question, don't get thrown if the choices are not from the passage. Stay relaxed and focused, and look for the choice that proves or disproves the statement.

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