Home > School and Learning > By Grade > High School > SATs and Other Tests > The SAT Reading Comprehension: Basic Principles

The SAT Reading Comprehension: Basic Principles

The Real Challenge of the Reading Section Is the Questions and Choices—Not the Passages
You'd think that the difficulty on the reading section comes from not understanding what the passages are about. In fact, most avoidable mistakes arise from not understanding precisely what a question is asking or what a choice is.

That may seem remarkable. After all, how hard can it be to understand a simple question or the short choices compared to understanding a difficult and sometimes lengthy passage? Think of it this way: if you misread or misinterpret an entire sentence in a 900-word passage, your overall understanding of the entire passage probably won't be seriously affected. If you misread even a key word of a brief question or answer choice, however, you'll very likely get the question wrong.

As we discussed briefly in The SAT: How Your Brain Can Get You in Trouble and as you're about to discover firsthand in the following drill, you need to learn to read what a choice is actually saying, instead of what it seems to be saying!

The shorter the passage—and some SAT passages may be fewer than 100 words long—the more carefully you have to read it.

Read Carefully Drill
Part A: To demonstrate just how carefully you have to read individual choices, I've prepared the following single-sentence passage for you. Don't guess here; really try to work out the answer—you'll never see a passage this short again! Take your time, but don't take any chances: use process of elimination to be sure you've found the answer. If more than one choice seems correct, keep working until you find a reason to eliminate every choice but the answer.

    The last supernova in our galaxy visible from
    Earth was observed only five years before the
    telescope was first used for celestial observation in
1. Which of the following can be inferred from the passage above?
  1. Telescopes were first used for celestial observation.
  2. Since astronomers began using telescopes, they have observed no supernovas in our galaxy.
  3. The last supernova in our galaxy occurred in 1604.
  4. Supernovas can be seen from Earth by the unaided eye.
  5. The telescope was invented five years before the last visible supernova occurred.
You'll find a discussion of this drill on the next page.

Next: Page 3 >>

From The RocketReview Revolution: The Ultimate Guide to the New SAT and the PSAT by Adam Robinson. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, click here.

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks

mother’s day cards & crafts

Let your kids
spoil you with



Healthy Smile Checklist for Kids
Have better dental check-ups with this free printable checklist that helps keep your child flossing, brushing, and smiling! Brought to you by Philips Sonicare.

Kindergarten Readiness App
It's kindergarten registration time! Use this interactive kindergarten readiness checklist, complete with fun games and activities, to practice the essential skills your child needs for this next big step. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

Top 10 Earth Day Books for Children
Celebrate the environment by reading some of these great children's books about Earth Day, recycling, planting trees, and all things green!

Prom Dress Trends for 2014
Check out 2014 prom dress trends inspired by celebrities’ red carpet looks, but with a price tag under $100!