When you are taking the SAT reading section you should take advantage of everything that can help you answer questions accurately, no matter how insignificant they seem. In your attempt to move through passages quickly you may easily overlook helpful clues. Passage introductions are one of those clues.
What the Introduction Looks Like
Before each reading passage there is an introduction that explains who wrote the passage, the era during which the passage was written and a short blurb about the passage. This passage introduction comes from the reading section in Practice Test 8, published by the College Board:
This passage is adapted from Rachel Ehrenberg, “Salt Stretches in Nanoworld.” ©2009 by Society for Science & the Public. The “nanoworld” is the world observed on a scale one billionth that of ordinary human experience.
Prior to beginning you can glean important information. You know from the start that this passage is likely to be a science passage. You can be prepared to decipher the passage from a scientific perspective. The clue about the “nanoworld” is also helpful; you can be sure that anything with “nano” in it will be very small.
Look for Clues
These helpful clues can give you pieces of information you need to answer questions that address overall tones or themes, and give you helpful hints to define words and phrases. You may not have even noticed these helpful introductions as you are quickly navigating the reading passages. Look for these quick clues and take the time to read them. They will offer information about time period, author’s intention or perspective, and style of writing. This tiny bit of background information can start you off in the passage on the right foot.
The best way to improve on the reading section is to practice. Download the practice exams from the College Board and practice reading the passages for the reading section. You will learn what information to look for and how to move through the passages quickly enough to answer all of the given questions.