SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

The Ultimate Study Guide for SAT Reading: Strategies, Tips, and Practice

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Aug 6, 2015 9:00:00 AM

SAT Reading



We've created the best guide to the SAT Critical Reading section out there.

This is not just us tooting our own horns. By reading many SAT prep books as well as studying the CollegeBoard’s own resources, we've been able to take the best aspects of each and combine them into a magnificent Frankenstein’s monster of a guide. We cover each SAT Reading question type in detail, organized not by how the questions are asked, but by the essential underlying skills the questions are testing. You'll get the best SAT Reading tips and strategies available, as well as information about how to get the most out of your SAT Reading practice and prep.

If you're looking for a comprehensive guide to SAT Reading and how to improve your SAT Reading score, the information provided herein is invaluable. Master all these concepts, use realistic practice questions, and learn how to learn from your mistakes, and you'll be able to increase your SAT Reading score drastically.

This article is organized into three sections. We'll start with understanding SAT Reading section at a high level, followed by going into SAT Reading questions in depth and delineating the skills tested by each question type. Finally, we'll end with study plans and how to maximize your study time for score improvement.

I suggest that you read the articles in order (as listed) on your first time through. In the future, you can use this guide as a reference page to come back to as you progress in your test prep.

feature image credit: Enquire Within Upon Everything by Jeremy Keith, used under CC BY 2.0/Cropped from original.




High Level Guidance for SAT Reading

These guides lay the groundwork for your SAT Reading practice and preparation. Read on to find out how to approach SAT Reading, and what high level strategies to always keep in mind.


SAT Critical Reading Encyclopedia

Start out with our encyclopedia-style article for a good introduction to the SAT Critical Reading section. You'll learn what's in the section and what it tests at a high level.


What's Actually Tested On SAT Reading?

Make sure you understand the format of the SAT Critical Reading section - it might be different from what you expect. Get a detailed overview of what types of questions are on SAT Reading, and what people think is tested but really isn't.


The Fundamental Rule Of SAT Reading (Must Read)

There are many skills you need to excel on SAT Reading, but ultimately there is one rule that should guide your SAT Reading practice and prep. Using this rule, you will be able to understand the SAT Reading section and eliminate answer choices like never before. This should underlie all of your SAT Reading prep from this point on.


The 3 Types Of SAT Reading Passages You Should Know

There are three different types of passages on SAT Reading. You’ll need to know the different quirks of each passage type and the frequency with which each type appears in order to optimize your SAT Reading practice regimen.


The Best Ways To Read The Passage On SAT Reading

There is no one right way to read the passages on SAT Reading. This doesn’t mean, however, that some ways aren’t more effective than others. We show you three ways to read the reading passages and teach you to decide for yourself which way will work best for you.


How Science/Math People Can Do Well On SAT Reading

Do you consistently struggle with your SAT Reading score, even though you do really well on the more concrete Math and Writing sections? Read this article for guidance on how to apply those analytical skills you already have to SAT Reading.


SAT Reading vs. ACT Reading: Which Is Easier?

While SAT Reading and ACT Reading both test some of the same skills, there are some important differences that could affect your score (and might mean you should take one test over the other). Will you do better on the SAT Critical Reading section or on ACT Reading? Find out by investigating the ways in which the two sections differ.


How To Get An 800 On SAT Reading: 10 Strategies From A Perfect Scorer

Our ultimate SAT Reading guide covers motivation, study strategies, and more, based on the experience of our resident perfect scorer (and PrepScholar co-founder) Allen Cheng. Use these strategies in your studying to aim for a top score.


How To Improve Your Low SAT Reading Score

The strategies you’ll need to use if you’re aiming for a 600 on the SAT Critical Reading section are not the same as those needed by perfect scorers. If you have a low SAT Reading score and need help getting up to a 600, this article can help.


Complete Guide To The New SAT 2016: SAT Reading

If you’re class of 2017 or younger and thinking about taking the new 2016, this is for you. What does the Reading section of the new SAT look like? Find out what’s changing...and what’s not.




SAT Reading Skills

These guides go into detail about every single question type on the current SAT Reading test. Learn about the skills each question type is testing, strategies for dealing with these questions, walkthroughs of actual SAT Reading questions, and practice questions for you to try.


Vocabulary and Fill-in-the-Blank Questions

SAT Reading Strategies: Sentence Completion Questions

Knowing vocab is a large part of being able to successfully answer sentence completion questions, but there are other components. In order to allocate your studying time wisely, you’ll need to understand how many sentence completion questions appear on each SAT Reading section and what strategies you can use to answer questions when you don’t know the vocabulary.


The Best Way To Study Vocabulary for SAT Reading

What if you're fine with sentence completion questions in general - you just really need to learn that vocab? This article covers the best way to learn new vocabulary for the SAT Reading test. Using this method, you'll learn more words in less time by focusing on the words that are hard for you.


How to Study Vocabulary for the New 2016 SAT Reading

The new SAT (coming to testing centers near you in Spring 2016) will not have sentence completion questions, but that doesn't mean that you won't need to know advanced vocabulary. Learn how to prepare with this article.


Reading Comprehension Skills And Strategies

Big Picture Questions

You need to be able to separate details from what’s important to find main point or primary purpose of a paragraph, series of paragraphs, or a passage. This involves being able to read a sizeable amount of text and glean from it what’s important.


Little Picture/Detail Questions

Just as important as being able to understand the big picture in SAT Reading passages is being able to locate specific details. For little picture questions on SAT Reading, you'll need to be able hunt down specific information in a passage, whether you're given a line number or not.


Vocab in Context Questions

SAT Reading doesn’t just test you on vocabulary in sentence completion questions - you’re also asked to be able to explain the meaning of words in context (and come up with words that describe a particular situation) in the passages on SAT Reading. Often, you’re required to figure out the meaning of a word in a particular situation, which is not necessarily one of the listed definitions of the word (if you were to look in a dictionary)


Inference Questions

Being able to draw (supported) inferences is the most important skill to have on SAT Reading. You must be able to make logical deductions, based on information in the passage. This means that you’ll need to be able to separate out what “could be possible, depending on a few things” from what “is likely true, given the information stated in the passage.”


Function Questions

Other questions on SAT Reading ask you to define not just WHAT a phrase, line, or series of lines SAYS, but what it DOES, or what effect something like italics or extra quotation marks has on a sentence. These function questions may seem as if they're asking you to read the author's mind, which is a futile endeavor. Find out how to translate questions that seem to require psychic abilities into ones that you can actually answer!


Author Technique Questions

Everyone should take a look at author technique questions, even if it’s just to get a look at how these questions are asked. For the completionist SAT Reading studier, we’ve included strategies focused on questions that ask about tone and mood


Analogy Questions

You may have thought that analogy question disappeared entirely from SAT reading, but au contraire! They are still there, just sneaky (and rare). If you want to make sure you've covered absolutely everything you need to know about SAT Reading, you'll need to learn how to deal with analogy questions in their current form.


Max can be stealthy by Tomi Tapio K, used under CC BY 2.0/Cropped from original.
Felinopomorphic representation of analogy questions (in their current form) on SAT Reading.


Special Guides

How To Attack Paired Passages On SAT Reading

This is the passage type on the SAT Reading section with some of the trickiest questions (because it includes questions that ask about multiple passages). You’ll need to make sure you have the right tools to get the job (of doing well on paired passage questions) done.


The Vocabulary You Must Know For SAT Reading

The skills you need for SAT Reading are pretty different from those developed in your standard high school English literature class, but there is sometimes a little bit of overlap in terminology. If you aren’t fluent in what words like "metaphor," "anecdote," and "irony" mean, you’ll need to learn a few terms.


Which Question Types Show Up The Most Often On SAT Reading?

Not all question types show up on the SAT Critical Reading section with the same frequency. Find out which are the questions you need to invest the most time in preparing for, and which you might be able to skip preparing for altogether.




SAT Reading Strategies and Tips

Now that you understand the SAT Critical Reading section at a deeper level, the next step is to actually apply your knowledge and work on improving your skills. The guides I've linked to below will help you structure your SAT Reading practice, make sure your studying is on target, and that you're prepping in a way that will be reflected on test day.


The Best Way To Practice SAT Reading

Hey, you're a busy person. You probably have limited time for test prep (unless you can control time, in which case I have some other questions for you), which means you need to make sure you're going about preparing for the SAT Critical Reading section in as efficient a manner as possible. Create your own SAT Reading action plan using the advice in this article.


The Best SAT Reading Practice Tests

If you're not going to use high quality materials for your SAT Reading practice, you're basically just throwing away your time. We've gathered for you a comprehensive list of all the SAT Reading practice tests out there (including links to free resources), which are the best, and which you should avoid at all costs.


Stop Running Out Of Time On SAT Reading

Ever run out of time on SAT Reading? You're definitely not alone. Your ability to read quickly and thoroughly under time pressure is one of those skills that is informally tested by SAT Reading. This article has tips for those whose reading pace does not match the frenetic pace necessitated by the SAT Critical Reading section


PrepScholar's Top 4 SAT Reading Strategies

It's all very well and good to attack SAT Reading head on, but there is also value in strategy. Use this compilation of our best SAT Reading strategies as a reference during your SAT Reading prep. Find the strategies that work best for you, and apply them as needed.


Challenge Yourself With The Hardest SAT Reading Questions

Although the SAT does rank Reading questions by difficulty in answer keys, not all difficult questions are created equal. We’ve done the digging for you and found some of the trickiest SAT Reading questions ever to appear on the test (you’re welcome(?)). Test your skills against these beasts of questions.


10 Essential SAT Reading Tips

In need of some quick fixes you can use to improve your SAT Reading score? This is the article for you. Read through these tips if you're running short on study time and could really use a quick score boost.


The Best Books To Use For SAT Reading Practice

When online resources aren’t always enough, students often turn to books to help with their SAT prep. But which books are the best for SAT Reading? How can you be sure? Be certain you're using the best resources available with our list in hand.


The 200 SAT Vocab Words You Need To Know

If you're going to make the time to study vocab for the SAT, you should absolutely study the most frequently seen words. Use this free resource to guide your SAT Reading practice.


Best SAT Reading Vocab Lists On The Web 

Already powered through our list of 200 vocab words and looking for more? Go through this guide to get more sources for more SAT Reading vocabulary lists.


What’s Next?

Whew. That is a lot of information (if I do say so myself), but then again, there is a lot of information to process about SAT Reading if you want to do well. And of course, it's not enough to just read all these articles - even for SAT Reading, reading does not automatically boost your score. After reading these articles, you have to take the next steps:

If all of this seems daunting, it’s worth checking out our SAT test prep platform


Want to improve your SAT score by 240 points? 

Check out our best-in-class online SAT prep program. We guarantee your money back if you don't improve your SAT score by 240 points or more.

Our program is entirely online, and it customizes what you study to your strengths and weaknesses. If you liked this Reading lesson, you'll love our program. Along with more detailed lessons, you'll get thousands of practice problems organized by individual skills so you learn most effectively. We'll also give you a step-by-step program to follow so you'll never be confused about what to study next.

Check out our 5-day free trial:

SAT Free Signup


Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
Laura Staffaroni
About the Author

Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and earned a Master's degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel in high school.

Get Free Guides to Boost Your SAT/ACT
100% Privacy. No spam ever.

You should definitely follow us on social media. You'll get updates on our latest articles right on your feed. Follow us on all 3 of our social networks:

Twitter and Google+

Ask a Question Below

Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!