January 2016 SAT — Three SAT Verbal Challenges (And How to Overcome Them)*

December 1, 2015 

*Please note: This post applies to the current SAT test format. Starting in March 2016, a new format for the SAT test will be in place. For more information on these upcoming changes, click here.

SAT_Verbal_WordsThe SAT Verbal sections can be intimidating. Surely you and your student have heard horror stories about the thousands of words he or she needs to memorize before facing the SAT or the purposely tricky reading passages and sentence completion questions. It is true that your child needs to pay close attention when it comes to the SAT Verbal section—but there are ways to combat the challenges it presents. Take a look at the simple tips below. 

Challenge #1: Memorizing Vocabulary

Solution: Some test prep websites recommend learning 2,000 words to prepare for the SAT, but the truth is your student can do well without slaving over thousands of flash cards. In reality, there are only 19 sentence completion questions that test vocabulary. Students often spend too much time trying to learn vocabulary because it feels productive. Try focusing on a few hundred words and commit to learning them. The Waterfall Method is an example of a good way to learn words.  Another good use of time is studying prefixes and roots, which are like “keys” that unlock hundreds of words.

Challenge #2: Racing the Clock

Solution: Time is a factor that impacts the entire SAT, not just the Verbal section. The lengthy reading passages in the SAT Verbal section often cause students stress, but your child can get a feel for what he will be faced with by doing timed practice tests. The College Board provides tips for the Critical Reading section, including answering sentence completion questions first because they tend to take less time than the passage-based reading questions. Also, it’s a good idea to answer the sentence completion questions in order because they are arranged in order of difficulty, with the easier questions coming first. Finally, it helps to be familiar with the types of questions asked and the instructions that go with each section. That way, your child won’t waste time during the test reading instructions that he or she already knows.

Challenge #3: Constructing the EssaySAT-test-verbal

Solution: Writing a well-constructed essay in 25 minutes may seem unrealistic, but your child can prepare for this task by practicing the writing process—which includes reading the prompt, brainstorming, outlining, writing, and proofreading. The outline should include a strong, attention-grabbing introduction, specific examples to support the thesis, and a summarizing conclusion. The Philadelphia Tribune writes, “Doing test-runs of the essay will help familiarize you with this formula, ensuring you don’t waste any time on test day.” They recommend responding to as many practice prompts as possible during SAT preparation. Also, it doesn’t hurt to review how The College Board scores the essay.

The best way to put each of these tips into practice is to create a comprehensive plan at the start of SAT preparation—and stick to it. A private tutor can give you guidance on setting up your child’s plan.

A+ Test Prep &Tutoring’s one-to-one SAT tutors start with a diagnostic assessment that will help determine what your student’s biggest challenges are and point him in the right direction to address each of them. Whether you work with us or not, taking SAT Verbal practice tests in the weeks leading up to test day will help your child face the challenges of the test with more confidence.  


*Reminder: This post applies to the current SAT test format. Starting in March 2016, a new format for the SAT test will be in place. For more information on these upcoming changes, click here.


Photo credit:

1st photo: Deb Stgo 


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