Is it even possible to score a Perfect 800 in your SAT English? It might sound like an impossible dream to achieve, but everything is possible with the right guidance and skills. Armed with the right tool kit, everything is possible even if it takes months of preparation and several attempts. Whether you’re a first-timer or a 4th, the pressure is intense and actually increases with SAT fatigue. Fret not, these strategies will help you get a grip and equip you to go forth in your battle to ace the SAT English section.
But, how important is your score and why are we aiming for perfection?
Even though most top-tier colleges will accept you with your 1550 score, getting a 1600 and above naturally improves your chances of getting in. Plus, if it’s possible, your goal should always be to give tasks your 100% and try your very best. SAT English is divided into two sections: Reading and Writing. These strategies we’re sharing work for the reading, as well as the writing section. You may want to grab a Moka pot because this is going to be a long read.
The SAT Reading Test is designed to measure how well you read and interpret different texts that you would come across in college as well as in your career. All the questions are linked to passages from engaging published works. You have 65 minutes to read the passages and answer 52 multiple-choice questions. One passage is derived from a work of fiction, and the remaining are informational, based on topics like freedom, justice, and human dignity. Each passage will tell a story, make an argument, or explain a study/experiment. The passage ranges in complexity from Grade 9 to the first year of college.
The questions on the reading test are of 3 main categories:
- Information and Ideas – Questions focusing on what the passage tells you in a direct/indirect way.
- Rhetoric – Questions that ask you to think about how the author brings forth his/her meaning.
- Synthesis – Questions that ask you to make inferences and line the dots from the content provided.
WRITING AND LANGUAGE
The SAT Writing and Language section tests your skills and knowledge to revise and edit passages. You have 35 minutes to read 4 passages and answer 44 multiple-choice questions.
All the questions are related to the passage and are focused on specific grammar rules, so don’t worry about requiring any external knowledge.
There are two categories of questions:
- Expression of ideas – here you’ll be asked to improve the development of the topic, organization of the information and ideas, and the effectiveness of the language.
- Standard English conventions – Questions of this type ask you to recognize and correct errors in sentence structure, grammar, usage, and punctuation.
Some passages will make use of tables, graphs, or charts. The questions may ask you to use the graphic provided to correct an error in the passage or replace a vague description in the passage with a more precise one. The passages can be more than a page long, so always check before jumping to the questions.
- Read the blurbThe blurb to the passage is often skipped while reading, but we strongly advise that you read it first. Read it and consider it as a freebie. It may even contain the answer itself for a question that asks about the main point of the passage.
For example, look at the picture above. You can get a question like “In what context was the speech delivered by Barbara Jordan?”, to which the answer is directly linked to the introduction provided in this picture.
- The correct passage reading strategy
You’ve been taught different methods of approaching comprehension in school. This is where you may need to begin to unlearn things.
Since you don’t have the time to read in detail, skim reading using the back of your pencil is the way to go! To do this effectively, practice skim-reading newspaper articles. Reading the questions first and then answering is also a tried-and-tested method to score. It saves a lot of time and one can skip lines in the passage that aren’t quizzed upon.
- Showing interest in the passage content
If you are in a position to feel that your life depends on your SAT score, then you need to act like it really does! Be interested in the passage as much as you’d be interested in that double chocolate sundae with sprinkles on your cheat day!
We know the topics might not be riveting or mind-blowing but you don’t have the luxury of enjoying them. So focus your attention and really try to understand what the author is trying to say and what their opinions are – trust us … this is going to help with answering the questions.
- The science of deduction
Sherlock isn’t the only one who holds the patent for the deduction; this strategy applied with reasoned thought will work. All answers may be correct – the questions are designed to confuse you, but SAT will always ask for the Best one. There will only be one absolutely perfect fit when looking for THE answer and this will be evidence-based so that you can’t challenge it. When the options all seem like the right answer, and they might be, cover the answers, think like Sherlock for the evidence, and come to the evidence-based answer. Do not waste time eliminating answers one by one, come up with your answer, ensure you can support it from the text, and then aim and fire with confidence.
- To go faster you must slow down You have 1.25 minutes per question – that is approximately 12.5 minutes per passage. Practice papers under timed conditions so that you know you can comfortably succeed. Do you usually rush through things and end up getting answers wrong? Don’t try to race against the available time. Accept, practice, and master the art of calmly working through the paper: Your speed will automatically improve with every practice test. Make it your goal to finish the test and have extra time left over to review your answers. How do you do that?
- Finish with extra time and double check
- By skim-reading effectively, you should be able to read a long passage within 1 minute.
- Each question shouldn’t take more than 1 minute
- This leaves a comfortable minute or so to revisit those challenging questions
- Never leave any answers unmarked – circle any guesses on the exam paper so you know what you need to go back to.
- Recheck your answers, but only revisit the ones you were unsure about.
- Pro-tip: don’t bubble the answers question by question. This wastes a lot of time as you juggle between the two sheets, ending up distracted. Instead, tick all your answers in the question booklet, and then head over to the answer sheet to bubble. Once again – five at a time.
- Check that you’ve bubbled the answers darkly and you have not left any gaps
- Practice makes perfect
Always practice hard copy papers rather than doing them online. Apply all strategies to figure out what works best for YOU. It may not work for someone else but you do you. Know how you should deal with the passage to save time during the actual test. And that takes practice.
- Paying close attention to your mistakesThis is where most of us lose out on precious points. If you want a perfect/near-to-perfect score, you need to make sure that every single one of your weak points is covered.
- The first thing to do is to simply practice – TONS of practice.
- The second thing to do – the most important thing – is to understand your mistakes. Why did you miss that question? What held you back from answering correctly?
Review all the wrong answers and work on them. If you don’t improve on your mistakes, you’re simply going to repeat them over and over again. It would be frivolous to even practice if you don’t identify the issue.
- Identify your own challenges
Do you find it a chore to manage time? Do you spend hours reading and rereading texts? Before you begin prepping, it will help knowing where you stand and work on those weaknesses.
- The SAT has an element that is US-centric – take time to know the key dates in American history and the tenets of the constitution.
- Only attempt an SAT Practice Test once you have been taught techniques. Practicing blindly is fruitless.
- Only practice on hard copy tests – that best mimics the exam itself
- Practice papers to master strategy – then apply the time pressure. Don’t try to master both skills at the same time.
- Become aware of your strengths and weaknesses and work on them, not necessarily just practicing paper after paper.
10. Keep on moving, don’t stop…
The reading sections are challenging, particularly the double passage. No matter how you feel you are doing, just go forward at a calm and steady pace. Even if you feel you misunderstood a passage or had to guess some answers, don’t let that dishearten you and dampen your hard work. The paper can always be done again … at this moment, do your best, move on and continue with the rest of the passages. This can happen whilst practicing, or even during the real SAT. Life goes on, and the only way is to move ahead.
Preparing for your SATs is an important step on your ladder to university education. Make use of the strategies which have helped perfect 800 scorers – they worked for them and will certainly work for you too!