SAT Test Structure
Critical reading questions will compose 51% of the total questions you will see on the verbal SAT. One 30 minute section will contain a passage with up to 13 questions and the other 30 minute section will contain a passage followed by up to 15 more questions. The 15 minute section will consist of a passage and up to 13 questions.
* Unlike the other SAT questions, the critical reading questions are not arranged in order of difficulty. This is actually fortunate as they are arranged in chronological order.
Read the introductory italicized sentence
This sentence will describe the passage and is the only thing you will read that is not directly related to a test question...
Read the questions -- not the rest of the passage
The questions will direct you to the part of the passage that contains the information you need to correctly answer the question. What more could you want than the actual answer itself?!
Note: Should the question not give you a line number, it should be relatively easy to scan the passage for the key word or phrase, ex. Aristotle.
Remember time is of the essence
You will waste too much time if you read the entire passage and then begin the questions. Remember this is a timed test and you are not being graded on your reading form. (Yes, we know this is an ironic way to approach the critical reading section. But trust us that this is a very powerful technique!)
Read a line above and a line below those specified in the question
This will insure that you catch the entire context of the reading relating to the question.
Expect to see incorrect answers that seek to exploit those test takers who do not read these additional lines.
Answer the questions in the order they are asked except...
Because the questions are arranged in chronological order instead of order of difficulty, answering them in order allows you to move right along. However, if you come across a question which relates to the "general summary/general tone" of the passage before the end of the series of questions, you are well advised to skip it until you have answered the other questions. By the time you do answer these questions, you should have a good idea how to answer the question.
If you find yourself still unable to answer the question, read the first sentence of each paragraph. You should not invest the time to read the entire passage for this one question unless it is necessary and you have time left over at the end of the section.
One of the 3 passages you will encounter will be a "dual passage". Quite simply, this section will be 2 short passages that offer different perspectives on the same topic. You should answer all the questions on the first passage first and then answer all the questions about the second passage. The last questions you should answer should be those that refer to both passages.
Where to go from here:
SAT critical reading question types
SAT critical reading practice questions
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