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Reading a Passage

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Reading a Passage

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[edit section] Inside SAT Reading Comprehension Guide

  1. Reading a Passage
  2. Basic Comprehension Questions
  3. Analytical Questions
  4. Vocab-in-Context Questions
  5. Advanced Comprehension Questions
  6. Two Passage Questions
  7. More on Analytical Questions
  8. Extension Questions
  9. Summary and Review

[edit section] Reading A Passage

SAT Reading
The Critical Reading portion of the SAT is comprised of two general types of questions: sentence completion and passage-based questions. The sentence completion questions are relatively simple - they require a small reservoir of vocabulary and a bit of reasoning. The passage-based questions, in contrast, test your ability to comprehend, analyze, and even evaluate small passages of reading. While the reading level of the passages is not particularly high, the questions asked can appear to be vague and ambiguous. For this reason, many students fear the SAT passages.


We're here to tell you that there is nothing to fear with the SAT passages. The passage is your best friend in the Critical Reading section, for only the passage can help you answer the questions. The passage is not ambiguous (whereas questions can seem to be) and the passage is usually quite managable in length. The key to doing well on the Critical Reading section is: the passage answers the questions!


What do we mean by this? Well, since the questions on the critical reading portion of the exam test your ability to comprehend a reading passage, they can only draw on the passage at hand for the information you need to answer a particular question. Even difficult vocabulary is sometimes defined within a passage. Therefore, you can consider the passage a guide to answering questions. Consequently, it is best to work "backwards-forwards" when completing critical reading passage-based questions.


Start by reading the questions. We will review in later lessons the different types of critical reading passage questions, but they all address the passage. They are also in order of the ideas presented in the passage and commonly cite specific line numbers. This means that you are "tipped off" by the questions as to what you should look for in a particular passage, especially if the passage is quite long.


Let's begin with an example: consider the following questions (these are examples, so there is no passage):


1. On line 4, "daring" most nearly means:

A) egging on

user posted image cheering

C) brave

D) insubstantial

E) punctual


2. According to the author, why can't we depend on recycling to solve the waste management crisis?

A) Recycling is limited to those who participate

user posted image Recycling is inefficient and uses more energy than it saves

C) The lower classes of society cannot afford to recycle

D) The amount of waste that is processed everyday exceeds capacity for recycling machines

E) Recycling cannot process hazardous waste products


3. It can be inferred from lines 13 to 15 that:

A) The author is in favor of incinerating solid waste

user posted image The author is a staunch environmentalist

C) Most people are not aware of the waste management crisis

D) Many scientists think that composting is a viable solution to waste management

E) The Earth is facing a serious threat from global warming


Right off the bat, you should be looking to read around line 4 to answer the first question. It happens to be a vocab-in-context question, which means it tests you on your ability to find the correct context of a particular vocabulary word. As you can see, the word is not quite difficult, but the context that the word is used in can severely change its meaning.


For the second question, you would look between lines 4 and 13 because you see that question 3 tests on lines 13-15. You would look for keywords found in both the questions and the responses such as: "recycling," "waste management," "hazardous waste," and "capacity."


And, for the third question, take the College Board's suggestion and use the line numbers given to find the inferred idea.


Although we will cover individual questions in later lessons, the point is that we want you to be able to look through questions and then read the passage. Once you have scanned the questions and the passage, you can begin to sequentially answer the questions. A few tips to remember:


  • As always, skip the questions that you are confused on and answer them later. Don't waste too much time on a single question - the CR portion is a timed test
  • The answer is out there - among the answer choices, one must necessarily be correct. Use strategies like "process of elimination" and identify answer choices that are too similar to remove incorrect responses
  • Always ask yourself if a particular choice is irrelevant (correct, but not answering the question) or extreme (takes a conclusion too far or makes a leap of faith)


That last point is particularly important on the SAT. What if you were asked this question:


Who was the US President in year of 1812?

A) Jefferson

user posted image Hamilton

C) Madison

D) Roosevelt

E) The US Constitution guarantees separation of powers.


Although E is certainly true, it is just as certainly not the correct answer. Don't get caught up using an irrelevant response.


In our next lessons, we will review strategies for different types of questions, but remember: read the questions first, then read the passage, and finally answer the questions! That is your basic formula. For now, complete the SAT Critical Reading Reading Comprehension I quiz.


[edit section] Additional Resources



[edit section] Inside SAT Reading Comprehension Guide

  1. Reading a Passage
  2. Basic Comprehension Questions
  3. Analytical Questions
  4. Vocab-in-Context Questions
  5. Advanced Comprehension Questions
  6. Two Passage Questions
  7. More on Analytical Questions
  8. Extension Questions
  9. Summary and Review

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