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Master the SAT Critical Reading and ACT Reading Tests
By: Gen and Kelly Tanabe

Get Mom and Dad involved.

To help motivate you to follow through on your study plans, offer Mom and Dad the following proposition: If you manage to meet your goal of learning X number of words per week, they reward you with $5 for that week. By the time your exam rolls around, you will not only be ready to ace the reading and writing sections but will have accumulated a sizable nest egg! If your parents won't go for this, consider paying yourself $5 a week to be used for anything you want after you take the test.

Practice timed essay-writing.

While writing practice essays in your spare time may not be your definition of fun, it will help boost your scores. Timed essays are not only a major part of the SAT Writing Test, ACT and AP tests, but also of college mid-terms and finals. To prepare for the essays, gather the essay questions from previous tests and practice writing essays within the given time limit. Here are some tips for timed essay-writing:

  • Have something to say. You can be an incredibly talented writer, but without an idea to express, your essays will flop. And you'd be surprised to learn just how many decent writers bomb the test because they simply don't have an idea to convey. Before you start writing, think about the question and plan out your answer. Make sure your essay has a clearly defined thesis statement.

  • Think of several "canned" introductions that can be applied to a variety of topics. Find a few quotes (ones that are not so well known that they have become clich├ęs) that you could use to start your essay. Also think of some good analogies.

  • Use examples. To illustrate your points, use examples to show your mastery of the material and your writing skills. Add details that support your topical statement.

  • Don't be a perfectionist. The readers know you had a limited amount of time in which to write your essay. Get your thoughts out quickly and don't get stuck trying to make a sentence perfect.

For the reading comprehension section, sneak a peek at the questions before reading the passage.

If you scan the questions quickly before reading the passage, you will have a basic idea of what you are looking for when you do read it. You do need to know that some students have reported that reading the questions first does not help them since it takes too much time. But it is an individual preference. Try practicing both ways before you actually take the test and do what works best for you.

Mark key parts when reading so you can find them easily when answering the questions.

Certain words like "but," "however," and "except for" can completely change the meaning of a sentence. When you encounter these words, mark them in your test booklet. If an answer looks like it comes from one of these sentences, be extra sure that you know what the sentence actually means. Don't be afraid to mark in your test booklet. You are told to avoid making stray marks on the answer page, but not the test booklet.

About the Author

Gen and Kelly Tanabe
Founders of SuperCollege and authors of 13 books on college planning.

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