I just received the following email, which I thought I’d share because I hear some variation of this, all the time. It has to do with Critical Reading speed.

Dear Debbie,

My daughter’s taking 45 minutes to complete the 25-minute critical reading sections. She normally gets 2-4 wrong per critical reading section. So I do not think the issue is comprehension; it’s reading speed. (She’s been taking a section a day.)

I came across your website while trying to research ways to improve her reading speed — and listened to your radio interview — priceless.   I like you idea of reading non-fiction articles and reviewing vocabulary she’s missed over the last year. But taking 20 minutes off her time is daunting to me.

Do you have any other suggestions or references for helping to get her reading speed up?

I am wondering if I should postpone the test until she does get her reading speed up and has time to practice full length tests. Her first SAT is only 5 weeks away.

Do you have any suggestions or thoughts?


I do have thoughts. My daughter had the exact same issue.

I’m actually working on a CR program right now — hoping to launch in the next few weeks. One big lesson will be “effective skimming.” Check out my Critical Reading Intensive. Students who have completed it are seeing great improvements in their Critical Reading score.

Kids have so much trouble skimming because they’ve never been taught how to do it.

Basically, you have to know how to find the main point (quickly), read that carefully, then skim the nonessential info. There are textual clues that point to the main point and to information the author thinks is important.

I will go over all of this in the program!

You can sign up here for information about the reading program here: www.perfectscoreproject.com/news

If you’d like to speak before I launch the program, or have me work with your daughter (or work with you to work with her) privately, let me know. I tutor for the reading and writing sections and consult with families who’d like to do test prep on their own.

I would postpone the test, unless she can iron out the critical reading speed issue quickly, which is definitely possible.

Once I gave my daughter “the keys,” she got it.

Then, she had the issue of “test anxiety” to overcome, which was a much bigger problem than critical reading speed, though completely surmountable. I’ll post something soon about how she overcame paralyzing test anxiety. In the end, a few simple strategies helped her overcome the fear and perform on test day.

Keep in touch: [email protected]


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  • Skimming is great – but even skimming first is NOT the best answer for most people. The best thing to do is look at the questions, then find the answers (skim here if you can). The answers are always found in the passage in the order of the questions.

    There is no point in reading the entire passage – there is no reason to “know” what is in it once you’ve finished the questions. It’s not something you’ll use later in life – it’s something you’re being tested on.

    It’s just a test – so don’t worry about retaining the content.

    • satverbaltutor

      And you base that assertion regarding “most people” on…?

      • Hundreds of people I’ve worked with – directly and indirectly – on improving their test-taking skills. And years of professional experience in troubleshooting.

        Skimming only works when you know what to skim for: and you don’t know what you’re looking for unless you look at the questions first.