Paying Attention During Passage-Based Reading? Is it possible?

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This tip for improving your SAT score was provided by Reilly Lorastein at Veritas Prep.

There are many strategies out there about how to read actively. In order to become a student who reads actively, you need to become a student who questions every claim, comments on every statement, and anticipates what is going to come next. These guidelines are all well and good, if you’re paying attention.

Have you been diagnosed with ADD? How about ADHD? Do you just have trouble paying attention? If you answered “yes” or “maybe” to one or all of the above, don’t worry: You’re among family in this article. There is nothing wrong with you. You think differently than other people, and that is something to be grateful for. Remember evolution? Remember how each species needs to find a niche in order to survive, or else we’ll all die from a lack of resources?

Since you and I are wired differently from the rest, we have an easier time finding a niche. We do not traverse along the same paths to find the same conclusions to common problems. This means we are innovators. But while we may be innovators and geniuses in our own right, one fact still remains: We have to take the SAT.

Dang! For a minute there I had you guys, didn’t I? Weren’t you ready to pack your bags to an island full of people like us and … hey, look, a squirrel!

FOCUS! SAT. So here we are again, reading an article (even one that’s mildly interesting, especially when compared with the unfortunate dregs of the article world they include on the SAT Reading section), and we are having trouble paying attention.

Well, I’m here to help. Since I’ve already established my rapport with you as a partner indicted with the crime of “not paying attention,” let me tell you how we’re going to rob this test by reading actively.

Active for the general population can be a purely mental exercise consisting of the questioning, commenting, and anticipating talked about above. But for us? Are you kidding? We’ve got to be doing at least three things at once in order to even have the hope of doing the elusive FOCUS dance. So guess what? That’s exactly what we’re going to do. We’re going to take the term “reading actively” to a whole new level.

Next time you find yourself faced with something boring to read (SAT or otherwise), make sure you have a pencil in hand and underline as you go. A student said to me once: “But Reilly, I feel like I underline TOO much when I read. My teacher says that’s a bad thing.” Well, that depends. Do you think it’s a bad thing? Can you honestly not remember the difference between your underlines? For me, sometimes I can underline and it helps me to pay attention, and so I am able to recall which underlines were the most important. Sometimes, I can’t. If you identify with this, let me give you some more of my trade secrets.

Do not only underline. Boring! Change it up when the meaning of something changes up. For instance, box things, star things, use squiggly lines, exclamation points, question marks, smiley faces, hearts—whatever notation makes sense to you. Just be sure that you can subconsciously identify some sort of thought or feeling with each shape.

By changing up the shapes as you underline, physically drawing on your paper, reading the passage, thinking about the SAT, thinking about college, thinking about the atmosphere in the room, wondering about the clock, and looking at the proctor, you will have unlocked just enough levels of operation in order to FOCUS on the passage at hand! Jokes aside, interacting with the passage in a physical way will help you pay attention.

Try out these tricks in conjunction with the excellent Veritas SAT 2400 Passage-Based Reading Strategies and see how they work for you. I have a feeling you won’t go back to reading with your pencil idly sitting on your desk.

Plan on taking the SAT soon? Take advantage of Veritas Prep’s free SAT resources including free SAT video lessons!

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