Prime your mind for SAT Reading

Have you been trained to skip introductory material?

At the beginning of many academic texts are introductions, forwards, commentaries. Most people jump past this material to get to Chapter 1. Why?

I used to be surprised by how many student told me that they don’t “waste their time” reading that section. But now I understand how we (teachers) have subconsciously indicated that introductory material is irrelevant. You probably skipped it because no teacher ever told you to read it first. Or you had 48 hours write an essay, and you have no idea who the writer is or why you should care. So now, the tendency is to flash past those pages

But they are there for a reason.

Read the Blurb

In every SAT reading passage there as 2-8 lines of text that are in a different font and provide context for the passage.

Don’t skip it!

Those lines can provide vital information that can set the stage for your understanding of the passage.


One key element is when the passage was written. A fiction passage written in 1910 will have longer sentences and vocabulary used in less familiar ways. Additionally, the customs and behavior of people in the passage may be less familiar. For the History passages, you should not the date because it will give you a clue to what the topic is. Passages written in the late 1700s are primarily about the United States as a new nation and decisions about its governmental structure. Passages from the 1960s are probably related to civil and worker’s rights. Knowing when a passage was written can provide valuable clues to its content.


The introductory material may also tell you the topic the passage will deal with. Whether the passage is about bees or slavery or a marriage proposal, you will understand it better if you know the topic before you start reading. You can prime your mind for SAT reading by just being aware of the topic to come.

Read the introductory elements of an SAT Reading Passage to improve comprehension.

Prime your Mind for SAT Reading

Read the introductory material and pause for a few seconds to allow you brain to consider what information it already has on that topic. This will speed up your reading and improve overall comprehension.

Several studies have been done on the effects of previewing material before reading and its effect on reading comprehension. Overall the understanding is that if you prime your mind , you will improve your overall understanding of the text.

Effects of Previewing Difficult Short Stories

Previewing and EFL Reading Comprehension

Sometimes the answer is in the Blurb

Occasionally, they key to the answer to a question is found in that introductory material. The test makers know that students tend to skip over this material, and so sometimes they hide the answer there. Don’t fall for the trap.


Pay attention to everything related to the passages (including the fine print under infographics). The College Board spends money on every word in the test booklet and so if it wasn’t important, it wouldn’t be there.

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