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Critical reading question can eat up a lot of your time. But you can use some strategies and techniques to move through this portion faster and more efficiently.

Let's start this page with a frequently asked question: Should you read the passage first or the questions first?

  1. Is the subject of the passage interesting to you or something you know about? If the answer is yes, you should probably read the passage carefully and critically before you read the questions. If the answer is no, you might want to read the questions before you read the passage to get a sense of what to look for. Try both methods when you practice at this Web site to find out the most helpful way for you. The bottom line: to save as much time as possible.

  2. If you have trouble following the author's argument, you may want to skip the passage, move on, and come back to it later if you have time. But, once the time allowed for a section has ended, you may not return to that section again.

  3. If you are running out of time, you should skim the passage quickly, then read the questions and refer back to the passage when appropriate.
Your goal, and only goal, is to answer questions -- correctly. The sooner you start to answer questions, the sooner you start to earn points. It'll be useless if you have thoroughly read the passage but have no time answering the questions. All the tips concerning this section are to teach you how to make the most of your time.
  1. Do the easy passage first. If the subject of a passage interests you or is something you well know about, do it first, even if it's last on the test. If you've always experienced success with natural science passages, and you have trouble with fiction, go first to the natural science passage, even if it's last on the test. You should always lead with your strength.

  2. Concentrate on paragraph opening and closing. Since the SAT passages are generally written in standard English prose, the topic sentence is often located near the beginning of the paragraph. Sometimes, too, the final sentence of the paragraph suggests the main point of the paragraph. When reading quickly for the gist of a passage, focus on paragraph openings and closings. Skim the material in between and come back when you need the details to answer certain questions.

  3. Answer general questions before detail questions. General questions usually ask you to identify the author's point of view or the main idea of the passage. A reader with a good understanding of the passage can often answer general questions without rereading a word. On the contrary, when you're asked for a specific fact or for a word or phrase, you may have to return to the passage to find the answer. That takes time. It makes sense to get the easier questions out of the way before tackling the more time-consuming ones.

  4. All the answers come from the passage. Every single answer can be found in or directly inferred from the passage. Don't add things or make up things. Throw away your previous knowledge about the subject.

  5. Mark the passages or make short notes. Mark important sections or words or sentences. This can help you find needed information quickly. But remember, don't overdo it! It'll be a waste of time and helpless marking too many sentences.

  6. An answer choice can be true but be wrong. The correct choice is the one that best answers the question, not any choice that makes a true statement. A choice may express something that is perfectly true and still be a wrong choice.

  7. Eliminating choices. Compare each choice to the passage and find out the definitely wrong choices. Then choose the correct answer from the remaining choices.

  8. Pace yourself. You'll spend a lot of time reading a passage before you're ready to answer the questions. So, answer as many questions as you can before moving on to next passage or section. Jump around within a set of questions to find the ones you can answer quickly, but don't jump from passage to passage. Don't leave a passage until you are sure you have answered all the questions you can. If you return to the passage later, you'll probably have to reread it.

Whenever there's a choice, start from the passage that more interest you. Start from the questions that you find easier to handle. This way, you will be able to answer all the questions you can answer, and earn all the points you deserve. Again, we suggest that you improve your critical reading skill through practicing, practicing and more practicing.

If you want to start practicing now, click here to login "SAT Practice" section. We suggest that you come back to this page and read the content again after you have spent 2 weeks of practicing. You will definitely have a better understanding about the strategies!
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