What's the Hardest Part of the SAT?

Many students consider Critical Reading section the most challenging aspect of the SAT. Others get stressed out by the time constraints. Read on for a few tips from the test prep experts at Magoosh to help you tackle the part that's hardest for you.

Typically, general questions have very general answers. Ask people where the best restaurant in town is and you will likely get a variety of answers. Yet when it comes to the question in the title of this post, almost everyone answers the Critical Reading section. And that’s not surprising: featuring really tough words that not even many adults know, the verbal section strikes fear into even those who get all A’s in their English classes.

But the point of this post isn’t to make you think that the test is diabolically difficult so you end up hating the SAT even more. It’s to help you learn to tackle the part that’s hardest for you—be it the verbal section or any other part of the test.

The vocabulary

Though it may be tempting, do not think you can ignore SAT vocabulary and merely use strategies to try to game the Critical Reading section. Strategies may help a little, but if you don’t know the meaning of four out of the five answer choices, good luck.

Does that mean that you should memorize 5,000 vocabulary words? No, not at all. In fact, a mere 250 can make a big difference, as long as those 250 are high-frequency words (you can get a lot of those in this SAT eBook from Magoosh). You might also want to pay careful attention to those words that show up repeatedly in the College Board tests (many are in the eBook—but not all). Remember, a little vocab learning can go a long way.

The reading passages

For many, learning vocabulary isn’t super tough—it just takes commitment. What really fills students with dread are the long Critical Reading passages that tend to be specifically chosen for how boring they are (the business role women played in pre-Victorian England?!). One way to combat the overwhelming urge to fall asleep is to pull a trick on yourself: convince yourself that what you are about to read is extremely interesting (oh, wow, this paragraph is talking about how the economic role of women changed in Victorian England!).

You’ll need to practice this technique often and you’ll also have to get good at answering questions. Still, being able to get through the passage without falling asleep is a major accomplishment in and of itself and will give you a better chance at answering the questions correctly.

Something else?

Of course, the Critical Reading section is just that—a section. For some, the hardest part is staying focused for four hours—on a Saturday, no less. So if you are really good at vocabulary (which doesn’t apply to many), or if some other aspect of the test flusters you (guessing penalty), figure out what it is and work at it. For example, wake up a little earlier on a few Saturdays leading up to the SAT, or try taking one practice test without guessing at all (because it makes you sweat profusely) and another in which you guess—just make sure to have a towel handy!

For more advice on SAT prep, check out Magoosh’s SAT blog.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Tags:
sat SAT vocabulary

About Chris Lele

For the last 10 years, Chris has been helping students excel on the SAT, ACT, and GRE. In this time, he’s coached five students to a perfect SAT score. Some of his GRE students have raised their scores by nearly 400 points. He has taken many GMAT students from the doldrums of the 600s to the coveted land of the 700+. Rumor has it he does a secret happy dance when his students get a perfect score. You can read Chris's awesome blog posts on the Magoosh High School Blog and study with his lessons using Magoosh SAT Prep.

 

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
CollegeXpress Logo

$10,000

Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

Jada Bohanon

Jada Bohanon

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me find scholarships for the colleges I applied to. It was very hard for me to find scholarships in the beginning that I was qualified for. My teachers recommended this website to find some, and not only did I find some scholarships but I also got to look into some schools I hadn’t heard of before. I was very happy to have discovered this website, especially with the coronavirus spreading all over as I can’t really go visit many colleges.

Sadie Hartmann

Sadie Hartmann

High School Class of 2021

I'm a senior in high school, and CollegeXpress has helped me in so many ways this year in trying to navigate the process of deciding and committing to a university. The COVID-19 Student Resource Center has helped me many times with the most up-to-date and accurate information, along with financial aid and student life [advice]. During these uncertain times, CollegeXpress has been a great recourse to relieve the stress as a senior. Along with the COVID-19 Student Resource Center, I'm constantly using the extremely helpful tools off the site to aid me during this stressful process. Tools like the lists and rankings of universities have been the most beneficial. I've also used the site to receive expert advice on topics like financial aid. Finally, CollegeXpress has helped me easily apply for several scholarships. I'm thankful to be given the chance to win a scholarship to lessen the burden of my college debt.

Alexandra Adriano

Alexandra Adriano

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2016

I've used CollegeXpress quite a bit as a senior, particularly for colleges and scholarships, so it's been a very big asset in that respect! I would recommend it to anyone looking to pursue a college education, especially seniors! This scholarship will help me achieve my goals in ways I couldn't have before, and I know that there are opportunities like that for everyone on the website and in the magazines!

Maya Ingraham

Maya Ingraham

October 2021 Mini Scholarship Winner, Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has given me more confidence in my college process. With easy-to-access resources and guidance such as the CX Weekly Roundup, I have been able to find the best colleges for me. Most importantly, there’s a surplus of scholarship opportunities for every student to support their education.

Sonny Harris

Sonny Harris

None

For the entire year before college, I spent a lot of time deeply considering what major I wanted to go into and how to fund my higher education. After a lot of research, I came across CollegeXpress, which helped me ultimately find a ton of scholarships for which I could apply—and some of which I received! If it weren’t for CollegeXpress, I may not have found those scholarships as they didn't appear on any other scholarship search forum. Additionally, I learned more about the options I had been considering for my major through CollegeXpress’s resources. In the end, I chose to major in Computer Science, as it seemed best suited to me and the careers in the field seemed enjoyable, and I've never been more excited to move into my future! Ultimately, I want to thank CollegeXpress for offering their services! I received enough financial aid in scholarships to fund my entire freshman year of college and even got some money refunded which I used to purchase a new laptop, and I bought all of the books I needed for the semester!

College Matches