Using Context: Improve SAT Reading Section


Students often come to me, begging for tips on the reading section of the SAT… here is my advice:

  1. Use Context Clues. The information found in the sentence often gives hints about the meaning, allowing you to form a general idea of what the unfamiliar word, or words, may refer to. 
  2. Look for signal words or phrases such as “like,” “for instance,” “this,” “especially,” and “includes”…
    1. These signal words often give an example regarding what the unfamiliar word refers to.
  3. Read through the sentence again, and again; try to make yourself familiar with locating the signal words that may help
    1. Be cautious not to spend too much time reading however, you are on a time crunch!
  4. Ask how the unfamiliar word acts in the sentence relating to the phrase you located earlier.
  5. Take an even broader approach: read slightly before and after the sentence. Do this to see if any more applicable information lies in the words surrounding the sentence as a whole. 


Here is an example of the application of these steps:

My brother’s social studies presentation is a study of acoustics that includes vibrating tuning forks and violin strings.

1) Identify the unfamiliar word (acoustics)

2) Read through sentence again to see if there is a signal word that helps you like, “includes.”

3) Ask yourself how “vibrating tuning forks” and “violin strings” follow the word “includes.”

4) Relate the words back to “acoustics” to help figure up what the word means.

5) Finally, look up the unfamiliar word and write down the definition in a notebook or in your book if you own it.

Get Started With Total Writing Enrichment Today

Grab your FREE COPY of The Best Tips to Guide Your Teen to Write Amazing College Admission Essays!