5 SAT Reading Tips

5 Must-Know SAT Reading Tips

Preparing for SAT Reading section of the exam can be challenging. Whether you’ve been studying for months or haven’t touched a book and are taking the test tomorrow, the last minute advice below will help you through the SAT Reading section.

[ Related: Top 5 SAT Math Tips  & Top 5 SAT Writing Tips ]

SAT Reading Tip #1

Don’t spend too much time reading the passage

The SAT Reading Test is 65 minutes long and contains 5 passages with associated questions. This means you need to spend 13 minutes per passage on average. You should plan to read through an SAT passage in about 5 minutes. If you spend longer than 5 minutes reading, you will likely be compromising your time on the questions. If you spend fewer than 5 minutes reading, you risk missing important information. Read the passage through once to get the main idea, then move onto the questions.


College Board has announced that the paper-and-pencil SAT will be no more, as the test will soon switch to the new Digital SAT. Test-takers in the U.S. will first experience the digital test for the October 2023 PSAT before the SAT officially goes digital in the U.S. in 2024.


The main change to the Digital SAT will be the duration, as the test will now only take two hours, instead of three. For many test-takers, the shorter test day will make the SAT less daunting and more approachable.

The Digital SAT will be section-adaptive, meaning that each subject will be divided into two sections. The test-taker’s performance on the first section will inform the difficulty of the second section. The goal of this is to create a more efficient test-taking experience. Despite these changes, the SAT will retain its 1600 scoring scale.

Other changes to the SAT include a calculator being allowed on the entire math section and shorter reading passages with just one question-per-passage.

SAT Reading Tip #2

Begin with the easiest passages

On the SAT, you will encounter passages in US & World Literature, History and Social Studies, and Science. There is no rule that says you must complete the passages in the order that they are presented to you. Take charge and begin with the passage type that is easiest for you.

SAT Reading Tip #3

Answer easier questions first

Every passage will have a range of difficulty in its questions. If you’re stumped on a passage, try finding quick, easy questions to answer. Easier questions might ask about vocab words or have line references that you can quickly locate in the text. Once you answer these, you’ll have a better understanding of the passage and can tackle the harder ones with less pressure.

SAT Reading Tip #4

If you’re zoning out, change the way you’re sitting and try again

Even top scorers will find themselves losing focus at times on test day, but that’s not a reason to panic. If you’ve been reading a passage with upright posture, try slouching a little or leaning to one side as you read. If you’ve been slouching, sit up straight. A simple adjustment like this can help you refocus on the task at hand and finish reading the passage or answering the question.

SAT Reading Tip #5

If you’re going to skip a question to try later, put a guess down anyway

There’s no wrong answer penalty on the SAT, so you should make sure you answer every single question. If you need to skip a question, put a star next to it in your test booklet and enter a temporary guess on your answer grid on the off-chance you don’t have time to come back to it later. You don’t want to be scrambling to put guesses to your skipped questions as time is runing out.

Try some practice SAT questions

Prepare for the SAT Reading section with some reading passages

Follow along with these videos, take notes, and answer each question with an SAT teacher. For more practice like this, check out Kaplan’s SAT® On Demand.