One of the big challenges our students face with the SAT and ACT Reading is that the passages are just so boring! Occasionally you’ll get something marginally interesting, but on average, the passages are about as interesting as reading the phone book or copying terms out of the dictionary. This makes it more difficult to stay focused as you search for the information you need and grasp the main idea of the passage.
When you’re working through several grueling passages in a row, you’ve got to keep up your interest somehow. Sometimes our students hear advice like, “When you have a boring passage, just pretend that you’re interested in it. Pretend that you really want to know what’s going on.” And maybe on some level that works. Perhaps even the most boring passages can have some interesting aspects to them. But here at Brilliant Prep, we don’t work in terms of “sometimes” or “perhaps”.
In the end, we don’t care whether you find the passage interesting or even that you learned something from it. On the SAT and the ACT, all we care about is that you get all the questions right. So, what do we do in order to achieve that goal?
Here is the advice we want to give you to crush those boring reading passages:
Stop focusing on trying to be interested in the passage. It’s an uphill battle, and quite frankly, it’s probably not going to happen. Instead, what you want to be interested in is finding answers to the questions. Turn it into a game, a mission, or a way of life if you must! Tell yourself “Okay, for number 14, I need to find the answer to this question about what the author suggests about both sides of the debate. It’s somewhere between lines 1 to 23, and I am going to find it. That’s my goal. That’s what’s going to keep me focused.” When you focus on the questions, you are giving yourself something to do. You have a goal. You have a mission. Compare this to reading the passage and trying to feign interest in the author’s overall message about this or that, and you will find having a mission yields far better results.
For the SAT, you’re only going to read the passage when you’re looking for the answer to a specific question. Ask yourself “What is my mission? What is my goal? What is that fact?” This makes the process more of a game. It makes it more of an actual task that you can do. That is going to help you stay focused so that you can answer the questions correctly.
For the ACT, you will want to read through the passage before you go to the questions. This is because you are reading for both the main idea and the structure of the passage. You’re looking for what happens when throughout the passage. This can be part of your mission for the ACT, because you are still actively looking for something. Then, of course, you will read the passage again to find the answers to the questions.
So, don’t focus on trying to make a boring passage interesting. It’s just not going to happen a lot of the time. Instead, focus on making the questions interesting. Focus on your task, which is to search through that passage, find those clues, and get your answer. That is your mission.
-The Brilliant Prep Team