April 12, 2013

SAT Reading Comprehension Section and College Admissions

I've already covered some differences between the ACT and SAT on the blog, as well as some general things to keep in mind when it comes to standardized testing.

Let’s take some time to get into the specifics. In the coming weeks, we'll go through the SAT reading comprehension, math, and writing sections. Let’s start off with some tips for the SAT’s reading comprehension section. Here are some important guidelines to follow.

1. Vocabulary is king.

When it comes to this section, nothing will be a greater boon to your score than having a large vocabulary. Don’t start reading the dictionary quite yet though. Not only is this a terrible way to expand your vocabulary, it is not targeted in any way. The SAT’s creators know you are in high school and thus will not test you on words that are only familiar to English professors. If you start reading the dictionary you will not likely learn much since the mind learns through repetition. What you do manage to learn will probably be completely esoteric. In an ideal world, vocabulary should be acquired through point 2.

2. Read! Read! Read!

If you are diligent and are getting an early start, making of habit of reading challenging works will be the single best way to do well on this section. However, you must read difficult books. Harry Potter and Twilight will not cut it here. If you can stomach it, read non-fiction. If not, go to the canon; the literary classics that are known worldwide. Make a habit of keeping a dictionary handy at all times that you are reading. In fact, if you know where to look, you can find a lot of classics available for free on places like google books and archive projects. You can access the books for free online and supplement it with an online dictionary. There are even browser add-ons available that let you see the definition of a word just by highlighting it! Alternatively there are several e-book readers such as amazon’s kindle available with a built in dictionary. In addition to significantly improving your vocabulary, getting in the habit of reading will also greatly increase your ability on reading comprehension sections. After you finish a book, spend some time thinking about what the important themes in the book were. Some vocabulary you must be absolutely sure are the definitions of various literary devices such as metaphor, simile, allegory, etc.

3. The SAT Reading Comprehension is difficult to cram.

Out of any part of any standardized test, this is typically most difficult in terms of raising your score quickly. This is primarily due to the vocabulary hurdle. If you are short on time, you will have to get on a more focused program. Begin reading a difficult work and after each chapter, or passage, ask yourself questions like “what was the point of that passage?” Asking yourself questions like this will force you to be focused as you read the words on the questions that the SAT likes to ask. Alongside of this, flashcards must become your best friends. As stated earlier, the human mind learns rote facts through repetition. One can find several banks of commonly tested vocabulary words online. Make flash cards of these and go through them many times. The more times you go through with them, the better your score will get. It is that simple.

1 comment:

  1. I have been a private SAT and ACT tutor for the past ten years. I think that reading "Harry Potter", and more importantly paying attention to the vocabulary and Latin roots in the books, is a great way to prepare for the SAT. So in my book, "Harry Potter" does in fact cut it. I always recommend the books to my students.