Jump to a New ChapterIntroductionThe Discipline of DisciplineSAT StrategiesThe SAT Personal TrainerMeet the Writing SectionBeat the EssayBeat Improving SentencesBeat Identifying Sentence ErrorsBeat Improving ParagraphsMeet the Critical Reading sectionBeat Sentence CompletionsReading Passages: The Long and Short of ItThe Long of ItThe Short of ItSAT VocabularyMeet the Math SectionBeat Multiple-Choice and Grid-InsNumbers and OperationsAlgebraGeometryData, Statistics, and Probability
 13.1 Instructions for Reading Passages 13.2 What the Instructions Don’t Tell You 13.3 A Sample Passage and Questions

 13.4 Long RP Strategy 13.5 Challenged to a Dual (Passage) 13.6 The Skinny on RP Content
Long RP Strategy
By now you know that long and short RPs differ only in length—the questions the SAT asks about them test the same skills. Even so, length makes a big difference when it comes to strategy. Following are the steps you should follow to take on long RPs and their questions. Here’s a quick list of all the steps:
1. Force Yourself to Focus
2. Read and Outline the Passage First
Step 1: Force Yourself to Focus
Almost everyone suffers from DLFD on SAT reading passages: Devastating Loss-of-Focus Disease. You know that hippy phrase, “Free your mind and the rest will follow?” That phrase is a lie. On the SAT, you have to lock up your mind, put it in solitary confinement, and then expect high scores to follow. You have to focus exclusively on the passage before you as if it were the only thing in your life. You must trick your mind into being very excited by this prospect. Say to yourself, “I am so excited to read this passage about the history of hot air balloons!”
This seems like a joke, but we’re not joking. If you focus on the passage as you would something you really care about, you’ll understand and remember much more of the passage. Do whatever you can to engage with the passage, even if it’s about sea snails, and try to channel your manufactured passion into better focus and attention to detail. That’s what will get you higher scores on reading passages. No joke.
Step 2: Read and Outline the Passage
Read the passage first, paying no attention to the answers. Looking at the answer first may seem like a good idea, but in practice it’s just not possible to keep a load of questions in your head while also trying to read the passage.
You should never spend more than five minutes reading a long RP. Read the passage quickly, but don’t just skim it. We think strategies like reading only the first and last sentence of each paragraph do more harm than good. Why? Because speed reading the first time around will force you to go back frequently to the passage when you get to the questions, which will cost you time. Instead, read the entire passage and focus intently on the most important parts of every long RP: The introduction, the conclusion, and the first and last sentences of each paragraph. This will ensure that you are not just reading but actively reading.
Don’t get bogged down trying to soak up every single fact and detail. Remember, questions that deal with specifics will give you line numbers, so going back to the passage won’t be a big deal. You don’t have to memorize the passage, you just have to get a solid gist of it.
Read the passage with an awareness of the big-picture questions that RP questions will ask you.
• What is the author’s goal in writing the passage?
• What’s the author’s tone?
• What’s the primary argument that the author makes?
• What literary techniques does the author use to convey his or her ideas?
It’s also a good idea to take a few seconds after each paragraph to summarize for yourself what you just read and jot it down in your test booklet. This will help you retain the content of each passage and trace the overall structure and feel of the passage.
How to Outline a Reading Passage
When it comes time to answer questions about an RP, having a rough outline of the passage will be very helpful. When we say you should write an outline, we don’t mean a thorough kind of outline with bullet points and roman numerals that you’d write for a teacher. We just mean you should keep a rough sketch in the margins of the RP in your test booklet.
When you finish the passage, go straight to the questions. Specific questions refer to particular line numbers or paragraphs in the passage. We suggest you tackle these questions before the more general questions because those typically require more thought, time, and attention than specific questions.
Specific questions refer directly to words or lines in the passage. Before going back to the paragraph, articulate to yourself exactly what the question is asking. Don’t look at the answers (this will help you avoid being caught by SAT traps). Next, go to the specified area in the passage and read just the few lines before and after it to get a sense of the context. Come up with your own answer to the question, then go back and find the answer that best matches yours.