The reading section of the SAT is both the easiest and the hardest part of the test. Why is it the easiest? It is essentially an open book exam. You are given a passage and then asked to answer questions based solely on the reading in front of you. The answers are right there on the page. So why can it be so difficult?
When I ask my students this question, the most common answer I hear is, “The reading is so boring!”. The SAT often contains reading passages that are long and chock full of facts and information that students are not always interested in learning about. What is my response to these students? I tell them to be creative! Use your imagination and make the passage interesting. Here are some ways to turn boring SAT passages into exciting adventures that you want to read about.
- Create Drama: Have you ever watched the documentary Planet Earth or Steve Irwin’s, The Crocodile Hunter? Even if you are not interested in the reptiles Steve Irwin talks about or the creatures studied in Planet Earth, both the show and the documentary can be extremely entertaining. How do they turn basic facts about crocodiles and snakes into thrilling entertainment? Much of the excitement comes from the passion and enthusiasm in the narration. There is drama in Steve Irwin’s voice as he talks about the poisonous snake he is holding in his hand (not to mention the suspenseful music and sound effects that are added). Be Steve Irwin when you read science or nature passages on the SAT. Imagine that you are in the wild with the monkeys or bears in the passage. Pretend that Steve Irwin (Australian accent and all) is reading the passage to you. If you can create drama while you read, suddenly you will find yourself finishing and understanding SAT passages in no time.
- Create a scenario: Another way to make these passages more interesting is to create a scenario for yourself. If the passage is about a girl’s trip to Paris, pretend that you are going to Paris the next day and she is telling you all the great places to visit. Maybe the passage is about the Ancient Mayans. Imagine that you have a time machine that you are going to use to transport back to that time. You need to know all about the Mayan culture if you want to make it back to the present alive.
- Take notes: Write down main ideas for each paragraph to keep yourself focused. You can even make this into a game. The goal of the game is to jot down a main idea for every paragraph. If you succeed, reward yourself with something sweet when you have finished your practice.
- Breathe: If all else fails, pretend that you have your own personal Morgan Freeman sitting next to you reading the passages out loud. There’s a reason why he narrates so many things – he makes everything sound a little more interesting! Take a breath, relax, and find your focus for the passage ahead.
While the SAT reading section may be boring or difficult to comprehend, just remember that the answers are right there in front of you. You can go back and look through the passages if necessary. Find a way to make the passages more interesting to you, and use that to work through this section.
Danielle Kipnis is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in Miami. She is a native New Yorker who then majored in England and Dance at Northwestern University. At Northwestern, she founded the dance company Steam Heat. She now continues to dance, choreograph, and satiate her love for teaching through SAT prep.