Many of my students find reading on the SAT to be much harder than reading in their English. They tell me, “ Katya, I don’t get it. It’s the same reading. Why am I doing so well in my English class and get so many questions wrong on the SAT reading?

My usual answer is this:

The reading that you do in your English class is DIFFERENT from the SAT reading.

There are TWO main distinctions between them.

Let’s first discuss the English class reading.

First, as a rule, anything you read with your class you can interpret it however you want. As long as you are not DIRECTLY contradicting the text, your analysis will be deemed as valid. If your interpretation is slightly different from your neighbor’s, it’s not going to be marked as wrong. In fact, it’s labeled as a different point of view or personal inference.

Second, your teachers want to engage you in the reading in any way they can. Therefore, you will always get rewarded (get extra points) for your interpretations and class participation while students who refrain from participating get punished (don’t get extra points).

Because of this educational set up, you get accustomed to freely reflecting on the text you’ve read thinking that any interpretation is appropriate. However, you can’t apply the same strategies on the SAT with impunity (vocabulary word that means without punishment).

Let’s now discuss the SAT reading.

Since it’s a multiple-choice test with only one correct answer, there can NOT be any room for interpretation. NONE!

Think about it: why would the SAT reward a student with one random interpretation over the other student with a different (just as random) interpretation of the text? Remember, the SAT must provide colleges with accurate information about your intellectual ability, and if they fail, colleges will stop using them which will be the end of their multi-million dollar business.

For these reasons, the SAT does not reward interpretation. The SAT only rewards students who answer questions based on the text and not their analysis.

The bottom line is this

STOP analyzing texts and start looking for clear clues in the passage to get a higher score.