One of the most important things you can do when approaching a Reading Comprehension passage is to identify the passage’s main idea, which, for the purpose of the SAT, will also include the author’s purpose in writing the passage. There will almost always be one or two questions per passage that will ask you to identify the passage’s main idea and/or purpose. Practice articulating a passage’s main idea and purpose in your own words. Students who are struggling with a reading passage may feel overwhelmed by the details of the passage, but it is important to remember that you will not be expected or asked to remember and/or understand every detail in the passage. Of course you will have to know some of the passage’s details, but which ones? The test questions will tell you! The details that you will have to know will be addressed in any question that asks you about a specific detail, and the question will usually refer you to specific lines in the passage where the issue is being addressed. Don’t spend time re-reading confusing parts of the passage until you understand all of the content. If the questions are not asking you about certain details in the passage, you don’t need to know them!
Here are some tips to help you tackle SAT Reading Comprehension passages:
- Always read the passage before answering the questions, including any introductory information in italics. You will waste precious time if you read the questions first and then read the passage. You will have the read the questions again before answering them.
- Read for the passage’s main idea and the author’s purpose in writing the passage. Was it written to persuade, inform, challenge, reaffirm, etc.? Briefly (1 or 2 sentences) summarize the passage’s main idea and purpose in your own words. Write your summary in the margin of your test booklet.
- If a question refers to a specific line number, always go back and re-read that line. You should read a sentence or two above and below the referenced line to give you some context about what is being asked.
- Questions that ask about specific details will still relate to the passage’s main idea. Keep the passage’s main idea in mind as you are answering all of the questions.
- Remember that you are looking for the best possible answer among the given answer choices.