The single most important strategy you can use to get through SAT Critical Reading is to find the main point of every passage you read. Can this be annoying? Of course. You just want to jump to the questions and get them over with. Unfortunately, if you work this way, there’s always a chance that you’ll get thrown off by a distractor answer, no matter how good you are and no matter how well you think you’ll recognize the right answer when you see it.

The SAT rewards those who work through problems — Critical Reading as well as Math — very, very carefully. Most Critical Reading questions ask about the relationship between various details and the author’s overall point, and if you don’t take 15 seconds and define that point explicitly for yourself, sooner or later you will look right past it when it appears.

But where to find it?

The answer, it turns out, is pretty simple. There are three places it’s likely to be:

1) Last sentence, first paragraph (the classic place for a thesis)

2) First sentence, second paragraph

3) The last sentence of the passage

In general, you should automatically underline the last sentence of every passage you read — don’t think, just underline. It’ll usually sum up the point in some fashion, and if you find yourself totally lost, it gives you something specific to look back at.

Furthermore, do not ever, ever fail to circle/underline/notate in some fashion the word “the point.” It shows up far more often than you’d think. If the author is telling you what the point is, it’s the point. Really.