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Dear Mitch,

Are there any tips or advice you have that would help on the reading comprehension part of the SAT test?

I really need any helpful ideas you can think of because it's my worst section of the test by far.

Hope you do,



Dear Marcy,

As a matter of fact I do have a bunch of advice for anyone who wants to improve their ability (and therefore their score) on the reading section.  This advice, by the way, applies pretty well to the reading sections of many standardized tests, including the SSAT (Secondary School Admission Test) as well as the type of midterms or final exams that are often given in high school English courses (also referred to as "Language Arts"), and many standardized tests that are not specifically thought of as reading tests but require the test-taker to do a lot of reading and rapid interpreting to answer a series of questions following one or more passages.  Okay, now, I said I have a bunch of advice on this subject, so... get ready to practice reading today's portion, which is part I of the theories and patterns I've developed while preparing them for the tests we're referring to above.   BUT, before we go any further, I just would like to point out that my response to this question (although VERY easy to take in and undertstand, is too long for most students to take in in one shot -- so, I have divided the response into three sections.  Below is the first section, tomorrow (give or take) will be the second section, and.... well.... keep checking in with us because we hope to get the entire three-section response within three days or less). It's guaranteed to increase your score if you read every word of all three segments, and, as a guarantee, if do read all three sections and your reading comprehension section's score does not go up, we, the small but dedicated staff of will send you a free gift!

Oh, while we're on the subject of gifts, anyone who reads all three sections of this response (again, to be posted in its entirety within the next two or three days), and DOES raise his/her previous score, and alerts us via email or other legitimate method, will also receive a free gift!  (And it's better than the other, previously mentioned, gift!)


On the SAT and many of the standardized tests (which often seem to be based so heavily on the style of the SAT that one can be left wondering if all these biggies are written by the same small group of people!), the questions fall almost perfectly into 4 1/2 different categories.  These categories are:

1) The "FACT QUESTION".  This question (which is also sometimes called the "detail question") is one of the types of questions that can be answered by information derived (found) in a single line of the passage and may not even be repeated in any form anywhere else in the section .  That line can, of course, be located anywhere in the passage, BUT, 8 out of 10 times the answers to the questions following a passage can be found or figured out in the same order as the sentences go in the passage overall (one exception, though, is the "TONE QUESTION"; another exception is the "inference question").

2)  There is the "WORDS IN CONTEXT" question, otherwise known as the "DEFINITION" question.  These are almost always extremely easy to spot because the line number in which the word (or phrase or quote) appears is given; typically the test-writers will draw your attention to the specific part at issue by italicizing the words, or underlining them -- or by doing something to draw your attention to the exact part they are testing.

Often, if you do not know the answer to such a question using the basic "old-fashioned" ways you may be able to answer it corectly by approaching the problem as though you never even read the passage.  (Some words or phrases have only one meaning, and others with multiple meanings have only one decent meaning among the choices.)

3) Next, there is what's called the "INFERENCE QUESTION".  These are very different from the other types of questions because very often the "correct answer" is NOT a "sure thing" (i.e., there is not a 100% likelihood that the test-maker's suggestion is anything more than an educated guess about how the actual author of the passage would have answered it.)  These inference questions are, however, easy to spot because  the question almost always contains the word "infer" , "imply" or a phrase such as "most likely to" or "least likely to..."  or some version of one of the above.  There are other words and phrases that have similar meanings, and they too are sometimes used on the test.  One such.phrase is this: "From the passage above we can reasonably assume that the author's next paragraph will elaborate on the reasons the Mexicans decided to head West."

4) Next, there is a type of question usually referred to as the "MAIN IDEA" question (which most often takes the following form:  "THE BEST TITLE for this passage would be...").  For this type, you would benefit from imagining that someone handed you a miniature book (not an article, but an entire miniature book on the subject and proceed from there). This trick involves looking at each and every answer choice and pretending that that one that you are reading at the time is the title printed on the cover of the miniature book.  Then, you must think as though you haven't read the actual passage and imagine what a book with that title would have in it.  EXAMPLE: When we read ... ((TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW, so tune in and learn more...!!))

So far, I hope this helps...

Either way, stay tuned, because we will hit each and every type of question they could possibly throw at you on a standardized reading exam, teach you how to recognize the question type, and, based on those building blocks, show you how to use our techniques to arrive at the correct answer, even in many cases where you do not truly understand the passage or the question!!

Until next time,