Welcome to College Confidential!

The leading college-bound community on the web

Sign Up For Free

Join for FREE, and start talking with other members, weighing in on community discussions, and more.

Also, by registering and logging in you'll see fewer ads and pesky welcome messages (like this one!)

As a CC member, you can:

  • Reply to threads, and start your own.
  • Post reviews of your campus visits.
  • Find hundreds of pages of informative articles.
  • Search from over 3 million scholarships.
We've just launched our new college search tool at http://www.collegeconfidential.com/schools. Use this form to provide feedback as we continue to work toward a more robust solution to best meet your needs.

Why is critical reading so hard?

MathTeamExtraProMathTeamExtraPro - Posts: 269 Junior Member
I can't seem to improve on this stinking section no matter how hard i try. My score did go up from a 450 -> 540, but it seems that i can't improve anymore. it just keeps getting stuck in the 550s level. People keep saying that over time you will improve, just practice more, use "devil's advocate" as stated in Noitaperp's CR method guide.

But, however, none of this advice seems to be working at all. I've tried multiple methods, but skimming the passages is definietly not an option for me. I'm a very thorough and comprehensive person. If I don't understand one part of the passage in the beginning, the ambiguity carries on thoroughout the rest of the passage I read.

This is what gets me tied up... Some people just skim the questinos, underline, do the stuff and answer. EASY. piece of cake. But I have an inclination to understand every part of the passage. Even if its just 1 word. people tell me to "skip" it because it won't affect your overview of the passage very much since "It's just a sentence out of 900+ other words."

Even when i'm doing CR sentence completions in my prep homework, and i'm at home using a dictionary, I still have trouble understanding which answer choice is the best even if I looked up every word in the problem. Same goes for the passages, there are so many ambigous parts! My teacher tells me to "interpret and imagine" what the author is saying. break it down into simple details because that's what the questions will ask for, something straightforward, and nothing else.

But i still can't seem to plow through all the junk and soot that the college board throws in my face. I can't comprehend such complex sentences, especially when they're mixed up with some fancy words, which makes it even more difficult, despite the fact that the sentences are ALREADY hard even if they dummy down the vocab.

is there anyone out there that feels the same way as I do? I just feel like CR is just a natural thing, its a "you get it" or "you don't". if there's any way to improve other than the typical advice i can find in prep books... please tell me... i will thank you forever....
Post edited by MathTeamExtraPro on

Replies to: Why is critical reading so hard?

  • marvin100marvin100 Registered User Posts: 9,014 Senior Member
    The main reason it's hard for some people is that they haven't read enough books.
  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 27,993 Senior Member
    It is natural in the sense that lifelong readers often breeze through with no prep and high scores (my kids scored 740 and 800 respectively, and I don't think they did any prep for that section). Except that they read thousands of books between the ages of 4 and 17... I know that isn't helpful to you at this moment. But I think that is the "secret" of most high scorers. They read quickly, have very large vocabularies, have a lot of practice at parsing what an author says directly and what they mean indirectly, and just have a zillion hours of practice at turning words on a page into something concrete in their heads.

    The advice I usually see out here if you need to improve in a shorter period of time is to do what you can to increase your vocabulary via websites/flashcards/books to study vocab. Obviously that is a hit and miss proposition, as there are so many words in the English language and the odds of one popping up on the test aren't great. But when you do hit those "fancy words", the students who don't have to struggle to know what they mean are going to have a better shot at getting a good score.

    And it sounds like you have been doing the other piece of advice I usually see, which is to do a fair number of practice tests and try to really understand why you missed each queston. But I know students struggle with this... if they aren't strong at picking up sarcasm, nuanced writing, analogies, etc., then they don't do as well.

    I think the SAT writers really are looking for students with strong vocabulary and an ability to cut through the "junk and soot" to figure out what is meant and what is important in the passage. Those are also skills that are useful in college, and really useful in the real world (at least in my world).
  • MathTeamExtraProMathTeamExtraPro - Posts: 269 Junior Member
    both marvin and inparent, i agree with both your points. I haven't been a bibliomaniac and I think that's the reason why I'm so weak in CR. my cousin goes to stuyvesant, she read books of all sort when she was younger, and also presently. she reads everyday, its like a hobby for her, but for me, its more like torture. the only time i do read books is with my english class, but obviously that's not enough.

    ... i'm starting to think now that you're not just a good test taker or a good "person who answers questions efficiently". i thinks its more like, you can interpret intricate sentences and comprehend complex material. I think that's what makes you a good cr test taker... its passage that you mostly understand and comprehend to a degree where you can really get what the author means... i've had these kind of feelings for some passages because i was really into them, but some are just boring, and i get thrown off track. anways,

    I think i have 2 years about, until my official taking of the SAT, but anways, congrats to your sons, and i do strongly agree, now, that reading helps you improve your reading comprehension skills a lot... too bad i never found an interest in books. :(
  • CTScoutmomCTScoutmom Registered User Posts: 1,318 Senior Member
    Please consider that students who don't do well on the math section feel the same way about it. How do those who score 800 on the Math without preparation do so welll? They constantly use math in their everyday lives - for them math is a hobby, just like reading is often a hobby of those who do well on the CR section, and writing is a hobby for those who do well on the writing (though not necessarily the formulaic essay).
  • InvolvedmomFLInvolvedmomFL Registered User Posts: 414 Member
    My daughter has been using the Direct Hits vols. 1 and 2 for vocab. As she goes through practice tests in the blue book this has really helped with the sentence completions.
  • MathTeamExtraProMathTeamExtraPro - Posts: 269 Junior Member
    well well... scoutmom, i see your logic... i agree with it, but the SAT tests a whole sort of different thing. if you read your regular books in school, its way different from the SAT. its a reasoning test. i was the best one in my class for math in 7th grade, but when i took the math SAT sectoin, i only scored a 530<-- back in 7th grade. in 8th grade it hovered up to a 650, now my math currently, freshmen -> soph, is now a 730 ish, it hovers above teh 700 line.

    even if u know math, u have to use the concepts and use them in a very rationa, logical, and intelligent way, that's how you get through questions on the SAT... or at least that's how i think it is.

    Anyways, from my point of view, i can also conclude that being a heavy reader doesn't mean you will be superb in the CR section. our views contradict but i only want you to see stuff from my perspective :)
  • MathTeamExtraProMathTeamExtraPro - Posts: 269 Junior Member
    @InvolvedmomFL, as I said before, knowing all the vocab sometimes doesn't help.. at least not for me.... I use dictionaries sometimes when I'm frustrated on some sentence completions. i look up all possible definitons of the word, but the question is still ambigious. I sometimes don't even have a sense of what the sentence completion structure is, because its so darn confusing. the sentence is worded so weirdly that even if i looked up all the words and know the definitions, i still have trouble.

    NOW!!!! does everyone see what i'm struggling at?
  • CT1417CT1417 Registered User Posts: 3,998 Senior Member
    Try reading the newspapers if you don't like books. I am not convinced one has to read books to perform well on the CR section. My son read daily until he started HS and now only reads books for school, but he does read a fair bit of the NY Times and Wall St Journal each day and I think that helped his CR score.
  • MathTeamExtraProMathTeamExtraPro - Posts: 269 Junior Member
    i see a lot of SAT words in NY times articles, anyone mind explaining to me what "allegedly" means? i don't get the word at all. it means to state without proof if its used as a verb, but when i looked at the adverb definition, it has a completely different meaning. please help?
  • marvin100marvin100 Registered User Posts: 9,014 Senior Member
    The only "quick" way to get better at CR w/o doing a lot of reading is to master thousands of vocab words. It can be done (that's how we roll in Seoul, after all), but it takes serious discipline and a significant time investment.
  • wimmiettwimmiett Registered User Posts: 367 Member
    "allegedly" would be defined similar to "supposedly". I agree with those who said simply reading the paper could help; that's all I really did, as I never really found the time to sit down and read with school going on and everything.
  • MathTeamExtraProMathTeamExtraPro - Posts: 269 Junior Member
    @marvin, "a significant time investment", is 2 years enough?
    @wimmiett, thanks
  • marvin100marvin100 Registered User Posts: 9,014 Senior Member
    2 years is more than enough. If you spend 15-30 min a day (even 4 days a week, honestly) on Quizlet with good SAT vocab lists you can fully master virtually all the vocab the CB is likely to choose from.
  • MathTeamExtraProMathTeamExtraPro - Posts: 269 Junior Member
    @marvin, lol i actually dealt with my vocab issue a couple of months ago. i compiled my own list from various sources: barrons, PR, quizlet's, larry grieger, ETC. much more. I chose the ones i kept seeing and also because of the credibility of the sources, i picked out quite of few words that they recommended. i took out totally all PR hit parade, barrons high frequency word list. i combined them all. i currently have 1400 words, and i'm planning to master them all before my senior year.

    I guess if anyone wants my word list compilation, i wouldn't mind sharing it, but its gonna be a lot of work. if i ever do post it up here, I'm just gonna call it MathTeamExtraPro's 1400 SAT words. haha :P
  • MathTeamExtraProMathTeamExtraPro - Posts: 269 Junior Member
    @kbrownie, i think that's a great idea. i'll try it. i still have trouble summing up the author's main idea in "one sentence". but i guess, the SAT likes to be broad and general. >_<
This discussion has been closed.