05 Jun 2012

How to read actively and score more points!

Love it or hate it, SAT Critical Reading is important. Not only do college admissions officials pay great attention to SAT Critical Reading scores, but studying for SAT Critical Reading can actually help you learn to process & comprehend college-level texts—important skills for success in college and beyond. In this blog entry, I will describe how to use active reading strategies to help you become a better reader. If you practice these strategies regularly, I guarantee your reading level will advance and you will score more points on the SAT.

What is active reading?

Active reading means using strategies to increase one’s comprehension and retention of a text.

Active readers probe the limits of a text. They habitually “read between the lines,” which means they make inferences and uncover meanings buried beneath the literal wording of a text. Active readers ask questions, make connections, and examine an author’s use of language to work through what they don’t immediately understand.

SAT passage-based reading questions require students to make inferences and identify the implied meanings of challenging texts; therefore, becoming an active reader is crucial for SAT success.

How to become an active reader:

1) Define a set of goals for reading.

Defining a set of goals not only helps us stay focused as we read, but it also prepares us to monitor our comprehension. If you know precisely what you aim to get from reading, it will be easier for you to supervise your understanding of a text.

Lucky for you, the SAT hands you a prepackaged set of goals, articulated in the questions asked about each passage. As an active SAT passage reader, your goals are to understand:

— The subject of the passage – What is the author writing about?
— The argument of the passage – What position does the author take on the subject? What is the passage trying to show or describe?
— The structure of the passage – What supporting points does the author use to back up the argument?  How do different parts of the passage relate to each other and contribute to the meaning as a whole?
— The tone of the passage – How does the author feel about the subject he/she is writing about?

Fiction passages, which make up 10% of the passages on each SAT, present a slightly different challenge. In addition to the above-mentioned goals, active readers seek to understand:

— The relationships between characters – What do the different characters think of each other? Do the character’s feelings toward each other change during the story? What devices are used to convey this relationship?
— The use of figurative language in the passage – Why does the author describe things the way he/she does? What impressions do these descriptions create? How do these descriptions reinforce and/or add to the overall meaning of the passage?

2) Take notes as you read

Everyone has fleeting impressions, questions, and thoughts about what they read. Forcing yourself to take notes is a great way to slow down your reading process and give yourself time to fully think through each question or thought. In addition, highlighting, underlining, and annotating texts helps you stay focused as you read. Finally, taking notes is a great way to mark information you may need to look at again in the future.

Good notes concern:

Questions about the text – Mark sections that are confusing, surprising, or that you may want to reflect on later. Also think about and write down a short response to these questions—even if you’re unsure.
— New vocabulary words – It’s a great idea to underline new vocabulary and write definitions in the margins.
— Anything that pertains to your goals for reading –If you’re reading a fiction SAT passage, for instance, you’ll want to mark and reflect on the purpose of figurative language.
— Important points – Always mark sections that state the main idea of a reading.
— Predictions about what will happen next – How do you think the text will end, and what is causing you to think this?
— Connections between the text and things from your daily life – Does a story’s plot remind you of a movie? Does the main character remind you of your mom? Use things from your everyday life to put the text into terms you understand.
— Anything that makes you think! — Any thought, question or idea you have is likely important and worth reflection.

3) Reflect after reading

It is super important to properly digest everything you read. Here are some strategies to help you make sense of texts once you have read them.

— Keep a reading journal – Writing about your impressions will help you think more deeply about what you have read. To begin, just write whatever comes into your head without stopping or thinking about it. Once you’ve arrived at a thought or question you wish to pursue, try to write 2-pages arguing a claim or exploring this question.
— Relate the text to your personal life – Ask yourself: Do the characters in the text remind you of anyone you know? Have you ever been in a situation similar to one described in the book? What does the language of the text reveal about our culture/society, and do you agree with the author’s point of view?
— Discuss texts with teachers, parents, or friends – Discussing books and articles with others allows us to consider points and ideas we wouldn’t have thought of alone. Also, having to defend ideas in a debate/disagreement is a great way to get yourself thinking deeply.

4) Read challenging material, but don’t read too much.

Have you ever sat down to read a challenging text, filled with arcane words and excruciatingly complex sentence structures?  If so, you probably had to work extremely hard to get the basic gist of the text and had little energy left over to think about its themes, implications, and layers of meaning.

Although reading difficult material is necessary to advancing as a reader, you must make sure to read this material actively. Thoroughly reading just one paragraph of an extremely difficult text is more beneficial than reading 100 pages you only superficially understand. To get the most from reading, set goals that take into account the energy required to read actively. In addition, allow yourself to take breaks if you get tired while reading and start to lose focus.

And, to sum it all up…

Getting into the habit of reading actively is super important, but takes practice. If you regularly use the strategies listed above to read difficult texts, I guarantee your comprehension skills and reading level will improve. In turn, you will find it easy to attack the Passage-Based Reading questions on the SAT.

These Key SAT Words are Expertly Identified by Sentia Tutors

Arcane: Obscure information known by a few people

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