If we’re going to talk about the hardest section of the SAT, we should first address a bigger question: how hard is the SAT in general? It’s not exactly easy. For every 10,000 students, only about 3 get a perfect score. Compare that to your most recent math quiz or English final; you know there was at least someone in the class who got 100%.
One of the reasons that the SAT can be so tough is that it’s so big. It’s hard because it involves all three sections (math, reading, and writing) in the first place. It’s not as if the math section is diabolical and the critical reading section is more reasonable—the test as a whole is tough because you’re expected to do everything. Well-rounded students make the best SAT takers.
Different parts of the SAT are hard for different students
Really, the question as to which section is the hardest misses the point. There is no objectively hardest section. It’s all about what you, personally, are comfortable with. If you want to know what’s tough about the SAT, dive into a full-length practice test and learn what parts cause the most trouble for you.
For many students, it’s the timing of the critical reading section. Getting through all of that reading and answering the questions on it in under 25 minutes can be tough. For others, it’s brainstorming the essay. And of course, the toughest math questions on the test will confuse most students.
If we consider what individual parts of the test most often cause trouble for students, all of the test is “difficult” in roughly equal proportion. There are just as many students who struggle with the verbal as there are who struggle with the math. But I will say this: getting stuck on the reading comprehension seems to be the most frustrating for many students.
I have a few theories about why that is, but the most likely reason is that it’s harder to say an answer here is objectively right. When you get x = 2 in a math question, it’s clear that you’ve arrived at the answer. When you’re considering whether an author’s tone is “humorous” or “nostalgic,” though, it’s a bit harder to be confident in your answer. I definitely don’t think that reading comprehension is harder, exactly, but students’ reactions to it can be a bit stronger.
Prep makes perfect
If you’ve encountered that feeling yourself, the best way to deal with it is through SAT prep. You’ll want to learn more about the test and how it’s written. Learn the best ways to answer reading comprehension questions, the reasons why wrong answers are wrong, and how much of your own personal logic you can bring to answering the questions.
And again, as you prep, pay careful attention to which parts of the test cause trouble for you personally, so you’ll know where to focus your energy. You can’t trust anybody to say that this part or that part of the test is the toughest. Study based on your own experience.