How to Get an 800 on SAT Reading

When looking to achieve a perfect score on the SAT, you will need hard work and dedication. For those who have a high score above 600 on SAT Reading, you can follow these tips to work your way to the top.

Perhaps you plan on applying to a school with a high average SAT score, struggle with the SAT Math, or wish to major in a humanities area. Having a high reading score can help you stand out, particularly in a competitive school.

A perfect score means you answer 51-52 of the 52 questions correctly on the reading test. The SAT combines the Reading score with your Writing score to give your final result.

Here are some tips to maximize your SAT Reading score.

Start With Vocabulary

Not all SAT books and courses agree on the importance of studying vocabulary. However, it can help you understand the questions and passages better to increase your score.

Start by reviewing the list of 500 SAT words. Break them down into smaller sections of 15-20 and use flashcards to memorize their definitions.

If you do not have a strong foundation in vocabulary, this step is vital. You can improve your reading speed and eliminate incorrect answers faster.

Even those who feel confident in their vocabulary abilities would benefit from reviewing this list. While the SAT has lessened the intensity over the years, you could still encounter an archaic or challenging word.

Complete a Practice Test

Before you can drill in skills, you need to discover your strengths and weaknesses with an untimed dictionary score (UDS).

You find a practice test you have never completed and do the SAT Reading untimed with an open dictionary. That way, you can look up words you do not understand without worrying about going overtime.

Do your best to answer every question correctly and calculate your score. In some years, 51/52 correct will give you a perfect score, but others require a 52/52. Stick on the conservative side to maximize your chances.

If you scored perfectly, you need to drill your vocabulary and take timed practice tests.

Lower scores indicate that you must work harder on your reading comprehension and critical thinking skills. You will also need to focus on vocabulary and timing, but these come after you have perfected your UDS.

Reading Strategies

Start by selecting five SAT practice tests and focus on the reading section. Take one of the tests and see what reading strategy you gravitate towards.

Skim the Passage, Then Read the Questions

In this strategy, you skim the passage to get a gist of the story. Then, look at the questions and see if you can answer any within 30 seconds. Some questions reference line numbers: with these, you can reference the text to answer rapidly.

You will save time, boost your reading efficiency, and get many of the questions out of the way. Once you have answered all the questions you can, go back to the relevant sections and read the passage more thoroughly.

You should practice skimming books, articles, and homework passages to increase your reading speed.

Read Questions, Then Read the Passage

With this technique, you read the questions thoroughly and mark any referenced lines in the passage. You can take notes about what you should look for when reading.

Continue by skimming the passage and slowing down when you encounter something relevant to a question. You should answer it before moving on.

You can save time by skimming over irrelevant passages and get a better grasp of what the test wants from you.

Keep in mind that you will not digest the answer choices with this method, which could cost you time if you take notes on your passage.

Nevertheless, choosing one of these first two options should set you up for success on SAT Reading.

Read the Passage, Then Answer the Questions

This technique has you read the passage thoroughly, take notes on each paragraph’s purpose, and answer the questions. Unfortunately, you will waste time reading too thoroughly and not have an understanding of what you should look for.

However, some people may perform well with this strategy, particularly if you have a lot of experience with SATs.

Try each method out on two passages to see which gives you the highest score. If you need a tiebreaker, choose the strategy that you feel most comfortable using.

Eliminating Incorrect Answers

Once you have brushed up your understanding of passages, you will want to improve your multiple-choice strategies. Expanding your vocabulary will help with comprehending the questions, but you will need to eliminate answers to choose the correct one.

Types of Incorrect Answers

The types of wrong answers include:

  • Overly broad – focuses on the grand scheme, not what the passage discusses
  • Overly specific – narrows in on small details, but not the entire passage
  • Tangential concepts to the passage
  • Reversed answer with the correct words in the wrong order

These choices will trick you. They are all plausible and could even be true in some capacity. However, the correct answer is entirely true. Some wrong answers will only have one word that makes them incorrect, so you need to pay close attention to the phrasing.

Predicting the Right Answer

You can predict the right answer by eliminating the three incorrect ones. At least one should seem glaringly wrong – cross it out first. The right one will:

  • Fall within the passage’s scope and relate to the question
  • Have literary support found within the passage
  • Reflect the main idea of the story
  • Not leave room for interpretation

Once you have narrowed down one or more answer choices, check the portion of the passage that relates to the question. Search for any exact quotes or written intent that supports an answer.

If you feel like two answers are potentially correct, you can write notes on the related lines to work through the author’s meaning. Then, define any words and use deductive reasoning to discover what they mean and which answer relates to it.

Correcting and Understanding Your Mistakes

Since making one mistake can cause you to fall from an 800, you will need to cover every weakness.

When taking practice tests, mark the questions that you feel unsure about and return to them at the end. If you still feel even a little uncertain about your answer, leave the mark and check your answers.

See what questions you got right. If you answered one correctly yet felt unsure about it, you still need to review it. Analyze the text to figure out why the other options were wrong and why yours was right to find gaps in your reasoning. This process also applies to not eliminating the right answer but choosing the wrong one.

For those who eliminated the right answer, figure out why you thought it was wrong. Then, look for context clues in the passage that prove it correct. Ensure you check out the incorrect answers and write down why they were wrong.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Once you have mastered your UDS, you will change up your practices. Instead of analyzing each question thoroughly, you must time yourself to feel the pressures of the actual SAT Reading exam.

If you find that you cannot score highly on timed exams, keep going. Work on speeding up your reading, expanding your vocabulary, and identifying incorrect answers.

Eventually, you will earn a stronger understanding of the SAT’s tricks and better predict what they want.

You can practice with official College Board exams, PSATs, and SAT prep websites and books.

As long as you maintain your vocabulary study and test practices, you should be in excellent shape for the actual SAT.

Was this article helpful? Share it!
Michelle Tsou

Contributor at ExamCave. Michelle graduated with a BA in English from Portland State University. She hopes to one day run her own test-prep organization.