Although most students don’t normally start SAT prep until their sophomore or junior years, every so often I get students in 8th grade or 9th grade who are either looking to get a head start or taking the test for some competitive program. They don’t expect to ace the test, of course, but it’s still pretty challenging to teach these younger students because they haven’t been exposed to the vocabulary and math fundamentals needed to really tackle SAT level questions. In fact, I was effectively blocked from teaching reading strategies because vocabulary kept getting in the way of the student’s understanding of the passages. As anybody who has ever taken the test knows, the vocabulary in the passages themselves can be just as sophisticated as the ones in the sentence completions.
Then one day, it hit me: Why not define all the words for them?
I started annotating the passages as well as the questions with vocabulary definitions in the margins.
The results were amazing.
Students who had previously been completely confused started to see things like the main idea, the tone, the purpose of a particular sentence, even the flow and structure of a passage. Not only were they able to internalize certain critical reading skills and strategies that had been vague and out of reach to them before, but they were also picking up the new vocabulary in the process.
The beauty is that you get to practice reading comprehension in isolation AND gain exposure to words and how they’re used at the same time.
It was such a great way to delve into SAT reading that I started using the same annotated passages for the 10th-12th grade students and they have proven to be just as successful.
In the hopes that you will also find them helpful, I have posted my annotated reading sections below for you to download and print. Answers included. The sections themselves come from official exams off The College Board website. I’ve made sure that none are from the Blue Book, as I know those who self study like to conserve that as a fresh resource.
- 2004-2005 Annotated Reading Sections
- 2007-2008 Annotated Reading Sections
- 2013-2014 Annotated Reading Sections
The best way to make use of these annotated passages is to take as much time as you need, referring to the vocabulary in the margins as often as possible. Really hone in on each passage and try to define the main idea, tone, and structure before you go to the questions. Think about the strategies you’ve learned through this blog and elsewhere.
When you get to the questions, really think about why one answer is right and the others are wrong. If you understand every word, you have no excuse. I’ve found that students love to see how they fare on the passages when vocabulary is out of the equation. After all, it’s your raw comprehension abilities vs. the SAT.
So, how well do you really read?