Let’s take a walk out on to the branches

You might be wondering how you know which question is easy and which one is hard. Well, for the most part the SAT has made it pretty easier for you. The higher the number within a given question type, the harder the question. The first Sentence Completion? That’s the fruit you can reach out and grab. The Sentence Completion with SAT vocabulary like pusillanimous, lugubrious, and byzantine? Well, that’s some spidey stuff for you.

The only area in which you don’t know the difficulty of the question based on numbering is in the SAT Reading Comprehension section. So the first question you can get can be a mind-bender, a cakewalk, or anything in between. That said, you can get a sense of the general difficulty by looking at the passage. If it’s long and abstract, well think of it as a thorny tree, one that you should only return to once you’ve clambered up more arboreal-ly friendly terrain.

Tree climbing takes practice

This all sounds great in theory, but to really use this knowledge to your advantage you must apply it. Try a Critical Reading section in which you skip the last two Sentence Completions. Or, if it is the section with two medium passages, one that is notably more difficult than the other, do the easy one first. And remember that you don’t get extra points for finishing the test—so don’t just blitz through the tough passage and then bomb every question. Slow down, skip a couple of tough questions (based on if they seem tough), and do your best on the ones that you feel you can answer correctly.

With enough practice, you should find become better at navigating the sections so that you are picking the low-hanging fruit before scaling up to the higher branches. And even if you try for the fruit at the very top, don’t worry. There’s one more special thing about this tree: you can’t fall off of it.