SSAT Reading Strategies

  • Posted By: Brenna O'Neill
  • February 5, 2020

Find Evidence

The most important rule of reading comprehension is that the passage will always provide all of the information needed to answer the question. This means that reading comprehension is really like a scavenger hunt, and your objective is to get as good as possible at sleuthing, finding the lines that give the answer to the question as quickly as possible.

If any part of an answer choice doesn’t match the information given in the passage, it is incorrect. Even one word can make an answer choice wrong!

Note: There cannot be more than one valid interpretation of the information in the passage.

The correct answer should always have the same meaning as the information in the passage, though it may not use the exact same words.

Think of Your Own Answer First

Whenever possible, after you read a question, come up with an answer in your head before you look at the answer choices. This will help you eliminate wrong answer choices and find the best answer.

Eliminate Extreme Answers

In general, avoid answer choices that are too extreme. SSAT passages are usually moderate in their claims. If you see answer choices with words like “only,” “always,” “never,” “best,” “every,” or other extreme words, these are unlikely to be the correct answer. You should only choose them if you are absolutely sure that this sentiment is in the passage as well.

Main Idea Strategy

After reading the passage, come up with the main idea in your own words. What was the passage all about? Start by eliminating answer choices that are not in line with your main idea. If you’re torn between a couple of answer choices, determine how many lines of the passage talk about each answer choice. The one that covers more of the passage is a better answer.

Tone Strategy

Tone questions ask how an author feels about the information in the passage. Start by determining if the tone is positive, negative, or neutral. To help decide, pay attention to adjectives and other charged or feeling words in the passage. Find the answer that best matches the way the author is talking about the subject.

Note: Neutral tone answer choices may be "informative" or "factual." A persuasive tone is indicated by words like “should,” “ought to,” “must,” and “need.”

Vocabulary in Context Strategy

Treat these questions like sentence completions. Don’t look at the answer choices at first. Instead go to the line in question, read the sentence while covering up the word, and come up with your own word to go in the blank. Then find the closest answer choice. Afterwards, plug your answer into the sentence and make sure that it fits.

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