Double passages are taxing. Historical texts are challenging When the SAT combines them, students need strategies for success. A-List private tutors have developed tested strategies for SAT Reading that help students earn top SAT scores.


A-List’s Top Strategies for SAT Reading Historical Passages


Tackle one passage at a time: if you are short on time, read the first passage only and then answer its questions – normally, these are the first four questions. If you are very pressed for time, do not read the passage and skip straight to the word-in-context questions and then answer best evidence pair questions.


To decipher meaning, focus on the subject-verb pairs: historical passages include repetitive prepositional phrases and parenthetical phrases. Score these out and find the subject & verb of each sentence – these might be spread far apart! Finding these will give you the primary action of the sentence. Everything else is extra detail that you do not need.


Circle transition words and mention of first-person pronouns: historical passages are often speeches or op-eds written in the first person. Therefore, you will often find their argument or opinion close by any mention of “I”. E.g. “I believe that”. Furthermore, the authors will use transition words such as “However,” “ Nonetheless” and “But” to move from one point to the next: you will find  main ideas quickly if you circle these words.


Focus on ELIMINATION: Three of the four answer choices MUST have something wrong with them.


Be smart about question order: Answer questions in their order of difficulty – start with word-in-context, then best evidence pairs, then questions that direct you to one line only. Once these are correct, move on to inference questions if you have time.


Leave the passage comparison questions: Unless you aim for a perfect Reading score, you can almost certainly maximise your points in this section by leaving the questions that compare both passages (e.g. “Author 1 would likely respond to lines 33-37 of Author 2 with…”). These questions take a very long time to find evidence for and to double check. 


Practice reading historical texts: you will be able to work through these passages with far greater ease if you take time to familiarise yourself with the style. We recommend texts by authors such as Ida Wells, WEB Du Bois, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Edmund Burke, and Thomas Paine. 



Our private tutors are also on hand to provide personalised tips and techniques. Contact our Client Service Team to arrange a meeting with an expert and improve your SAT Reading score!


SAT Reading History Passages: How to Ace Them
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