SAT Tutor: Sorting Out The Science Passages

Even though the SAT only has two sections—math and reading/writing—within each of these sections you'll find core academic subjects like history, science, and classic literature. In fact, of the five passages you'll find on the SAT, two of them will figure charts and graphs related to scientific topics. These two articles are often major stumbling blocks for SAT test-takers and even normally strong readers.

Here's how you can sort out these science passages to boost your overall reading/writing score.

Glance Before You Read

Although some SAT test-takers find it helpful to skim the questions related to each passage before they actually read the passage(s), this strategy can be less advantageous when you get to the science-related passages. The added graph or chart, related to the passage, will complicate the questions.

Isolate Trends: visual aids like graphs and charts are designed to efficiently communicate sometimes complex information. Before you read the science-based questions, take a moment to isolate the trend(s) in the graph or chart. Looking for the outlier(s) (the biggest deviation from the mean), underlining the x- and y-axis of the graph, and/or noting how the information in the graphs are categorized can help you understand the text and questions more efficiently.

Read the Footnotes

The science-based questions, although skill-based, can be more complex than the other passages in the reading section. Case in point, the footnote(s) that often accompany the passages and/or graph/chart tend to be easy to overlook.

Insert the Footnote: a footnote clarifies and/or puts into context information delivered in the text. When you see a footnote, it's important to insert it into the text. This means stopping your reading flow to read the footnote. Some SAT test-takers find it helpful to read the sentence before and after the footnote a second time around to make sure they understand the context of the footnote completely.

Show Your Work

You might remember having a math or science teacher who insisted that you "show your work" for test questions requiring basic math. On the SAT reading section, you might be required to do some basic math on the science-based questions. Even though your science or math teacher won't be looking over your shoulder while you're taking your test, you might find their advice helpful. By spending the extra time to write your process down, you'll force yourself to think the problem through more thoroughly. This can help you avoid simple mistakes like adding or subtracting incorrectly.

For more tips, consider doing a SAT prep course from a service like High Performance Tutoring.

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