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Improve your SAT score by reading this summer

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When you read the phrase “SAT strategies,” numerous techniques likely come to mind—flashcards, practice tests, tutors, perhaps even frantic last-minute preparation such as cramming. But does reading fall into this category? Reading is both simple and effective, and it can positively impact your SAT score in multiple areas of the exam. Exercise your reading skills this summer (and begin to improve your test results!) and reap the four benefits of this strategy below:

1. Reading improves fluency
Educators often claim that certain types of literature are superior to others. For the purposes of this strategy, any collection of words will do. What is most important is that you develop a consistent habit of reading each day, for a minimum of 30 minutes. For maximum benefit, vary the genre—a newspaper on Monday, a novel on Tuesday, and so on. Daily engagement with the written word encourages increased familiarity with the structure of texts, as well as increased reading speed. Both skills are integral on the Improving Paragraphs and Passage-Based Reading subsections of the SAT. As you read for pleasure, consider the organization of ideas in each text.

2. Reading improves grammar
The Improving Sentences and Identifying Sentence Errors subsections directly rely upon knowledge of English syntax. For quite a few otherwise intelligent students, the term syntax is challenging enough, without addressing its constituent parts (namely, grammar). Syntax is increasingly infrequently taught in American schools, but reading can function as a veritable instructor. Select source material that is professional in nature—such as journals and trade magazines—and, as you read, note the author’s use of punctuation and sentence clauses. Underline sentences that are particularly effective or record them in a notebook that you can frequently review. Compare different texts to determine how purpose influences the grammar structures in use.

3. Reading improves vocabulary
Vocabulary, or the Sentence Completion subsection, is perhaps the most publicly recognized portion of the SAT test. It is also the subsection with one of the most obvious reading-related benefits. Terminology is best learned in context—rote memorization of word lists can only carry students so far. (And, to be frank, reading is certainly a livelier pastime!) To broaden your vocabulary, select material that is both commonplace (blogs, perhaps) and sophisticated (non-fiction, for instance). Highlight unfamiliar terms, then locate their meanings in a dictionary or online. Be certain to draw from a range of texts, as the SAT’s own sources are not solely eighteenth century classical novels.

4. Reading improves essays
How can reading impact an individual’s writing? Though the two may initially appear unrelated, they are closely linked. In fact, even the greatest of authors learn their craft by reading and emulating other artists. While the essay on the SAT is understood to be a draft, not a revised work, students can learn a great deal about structuring and supporting an argument from external sources. For this strategy, select persuasive pieces, or pieces that purposefully intend to convince their audience of a belief or perspective. Examine how the writer introduces his or her points and builds a thesis. Make margin notes for future reference and review.

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