Preparing for the SAT Critical Reading Section

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Preparing for the SAT Critical Reading Section

The SAT Critical Reading section expects that students should be able to do the following:

  • Read a passage of 200-800 words with comprehension of theme, tone, critical analysis and synthesis of the reading material.
  • Differentiate whether the passage is expository, narrative, persuasive or literary in style and tone.
  • Have the ability to read passages from a variety of genres that include literary fiction, social sciences, humanities and sciences.
  • Be able to answer specific questions relevant to the passage.

Top Five Tips - Preparing to Read and Succeed

1. Know what type of passage you’re reading and highlight major sections that could be transformed into relevant questions.

2. Be an active reader, not a passive observer during the testing. As an active reader, you can answer the passage questions as you’re reading because your mind is totally engaged and present with the reading task at hand.

3. Use the lines in the passages to reread if necessary when answering questions about the passage.

4. Read the questions first before you read the passage if that tactic engages you immediately into the reading passage. Be consistent in whatever tactic you use during the reading section of the exam.

5. Understanding the type of questions: Extended Reasoning Questions require main idea interpretation, identifying the type of reading passage, inference of writing, tone of the passage and specific points that are easy answers. Short answer questions require you to go to a specific section or line of the passage and find the correct answer.

A Sample Reading Passage: Why Take the SAT Anyway?

The SAT exam is necessary for any students wanting to transition into higher education. With the highly competitive nature of applicants vying for a limited number of college and university slots, the SAT becomes the defining tool used by admissions staff in determining who gets in, who is put on the waiting list and who is put into the rejection pile.

So, why take the SAT anyway, one might ask? If the field is too competitive with applicants and the slots are limited, students might decide that taking the SAT is too limiting and is no guarantee of entry into institutes of higher education.The bottom line is that students should take the test anyway and take their chances given that data that shows that students with college degrees earn more than those with high school diplomas.


1. The author’s tone in the passage can best be described as:

a. Exciting and hopeful

b. Pessimistic and deceitful

c. Insightful and informative

d. Deceitful and angry

Answer: C- Insightful and informative because the author is intending to inform the reader on the value of a college education and degree.

2. In line 10, the author states that students with college degrees do what?

a. Earn less money than those without college degrees

b. Earn more money than those without college degrees

c. Earn less money than those with high school diplomas

d. Earn more money than those with high school diplomas

Answer: D – Line 10: The bottom line …..shows that students with college degrees earn more than those with high school diplomas.

So What’s Next?

Once you have established your strategic plan on working efficiently through the SAT Critical Reading Section, you will find that you can apply these same strategies on tests in the classroom and those once-a-year tests that will provide the best critical analysis of your best reading skills.

The next transition is taking those critical reading skills to an undergraduate education, vocational school, intern experience or workplace and making the most out of reading those textbooks, technical manuals, handouts, and employee rights contracts in beginning the next phase of life beyond the SAT and high school.

This post is part of the series: Conquer the SAT or PSAT

These tips and strategies will help you better prepare for, and choose the correct answers when taking the SATs.

  1. Tips for the PSAT/SAT: Strategies to Conquer the Reading Section
  2. Top Five Tips for Preparing for the Critical Reading Section of the SAT Exam
  3. Strategies to Build SAT Vocabulary in the Reading Section