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Not only do you have to keep up with school, assignments and co-curriculars, but there’s also the looming SAT – that you have precious little time to study for – that’ll play a big part in your college placement. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Standardized tests are known for amping up student anxiety levels. Now if only there was a magic formula to unlock the answers. Actually, when it comes to the Reading section on the test, there are a few things you can remember that’ll help you get to the right answer nine times out of ten. Instead of pouring over practice after practice, study smart and you may be able to shave months off your prep time.

1. Know your question types

The SAT is a standardized test, and like all standardized tests, question types get repeated – it’s almost as if they’re asking you the same question over and over again, with tweaks for content. The great thing about this is that you can absolutely use it to your advantage: if you master the strategy of approach, you’ll be able to apply it every time to get the right answer.

Think of question types as a framework that you use to approach a question. There are 7 main question types and each has its own strategy. For example, if you come across a ‘main idea’ question, you know you’re looking for the sentence in the passage that contains the author’s claim. Once you are able to isolate that sentence, and differentiate the author’s claim from other voices in the passage, you know you’re looking for a paraphrase of that claim in the answer choices. There is definitely a knack to doing this and it is so infinitely useful that at Prep Zone we’ve devoted an entire class to learning how to get this right.

2. Use a process of elimination

Students tend to choose answers by gut feel. The problem with this is that it makes one less critical – one tends to pick the best answer out of the four even if the chosen answer doesn’t seem 100% correct. Instead, a better approach is to critically eliminate any answer choice that has a flaw, small or otherwise. And in the event that all four answers seem off, that’s your cue to go back to the passage to check what you’ve missed or what’s been misinterpreted. Always remember that a correct answer will be a total fit with the passage. Something that is 1% wrong is still wrong!

3. Steer clear of synonymous pairs

What is a synonymous pair? It is when two answer choices are similar enough such that a reader would not able to differentiate them clearly. Sometimes, the SAT throws in answer choices that are worded differently, but which are essentially saying the same thing. Since both answers can’t be correct, you can safely eliminate them both.

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