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SAT Reading Cram

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[edit section] Cram Sheet: SAT* Reading Comprehension

This is a brief sheet full of facts that you should know concerning the SAT Reading Comprehension section. It is organized by task and contains valuable information that should help you to earn a high score. Read carefully and best of luck on the test!



[edit section] SAT* Reading Comprehension: Sentence Completion

Sentence completion questions make up the first eight questions out of the larger comprehension sections, so they constitute a large portion of your overall score on the SAT Reading test. You should recognize a sentence completion question as one of the following form:


‘’’Leaning back and sipping a cup of coffee, he watched ______________ as the manager fired his best friend.’’’


A) Nonchalantly [[Image:|user posted image]] Heterogeneously C) Malleably D) Perpetually E) Malevolently


Now, you see two parts to this question: the given sentence, which will contain one or possibly two blank words, and the answer choices, which are the words that you can choose from in order to fill in the blank in the sentence. In the above example, the answer is A) nonchalantly, which means without difference or objection and characterized by boredom or passiveness.


Sentence completion questions test you in two key areas – your ability to analyze and your knowledge of vocabulary. As you should realize by now, the former is much more important. Even if you know what every word means, you have to know which word is appropriate for the sentence “in context.” So, we will focus more on the analysis component of these questions, giving you a few helpful tips:


[edit section] Word Charge

  • Assign the answer choices charge labels and identify the charge of the missing or blank word(s). This means that you should indicate the charge with a +, -, or N for neutral.
  • Match some of the choices to the missing word. If the charge is incorrect, eliminate the answer choice as a possibility
  • For two-blank questions, first identify the charges of the answer choices and the blanks, and then determine the relationship between the charges of the blanks. That is, one should be positive and the other negative, or vice-versa.
  • Sometimes, identify word charge by degree of charge. If the question calls for a slightly negative word but one of the answer choices is strongly negative, indicate with two “--" signs.


[edit section] Keywords

  • Use keywords to help you identify the relationships between the blank in a sentence and the other words in a sentence
  • For example: “Although I was unhappy with her performance, I nevertheless rated it _____________.” The keyword is “although,” which indicates an opposite relationship between “I was unhappy with her” and “rated [her performance] _______________.” You can then identify that the charge of the blank word will be positive (as the first idea is quite negative)
  • Another example: “Many people think that the chef’s cooking is fabulous, and some even think that his abilities ______________ those of any chef in the world.” The keyword is “and,” which indicates a similar-charge relationship between the idea “chef’s cooking is fabulous” and “his abilities ________________ those of any chef”
  • Here is a short list of opposite-charge keywords with which you should be familiar:
    • Although
    • But
    • Even
    • Yet
    • Still
    • Though
    • Despite
    • In spite of
    • Regardless of
  • Here is a list of similarly-charged keywords you should know:
    • And
    • For
    • So
    • Therefore
    • Thus
    • Because
    • Due to
    • Since


[edit section] Prefixes and Suffixes

  • If you are stumped on what a particular word means, don’t automatically discard it or choose it for that matter. Instead, look to prefixes and suffixes to clue you in
  • Prefixes and suffixes imply a modification of meaning to words. For example, the prefix “a-“ means “not,” like atypical (“not typical”)
  • Likewise, the suffix “-ous” means “full of;” the word “porous” means “full of pores”
  • Here is a brief list of the prefixes and suffixes you should be aware of for the SAT:
  • Prefixes:
    • pre - before (hence pre-fix is a word that comes before)
    • super - very or over (super-impose means to impose over)
    • dis - not (dismembered means not membered or not together)
    • uni - one (unicameral means one house)
    • a - not (atypical means not typical)
    • ex - out (exhale means breathe out)
    • in - in (inhale means breathe in)
    • neo - new (neoconservative means new conservative)
    • post - after (post modernism means after modernism)
    • circum - around (circumvent the world means travel around the world)
    • + ben - good (benevolent, beneficial, benefactor, etc. all carry positive charge)
    • - mal - bad (malevolent, malnutrition, malice)
    • re - again (to review is to view again)
    • gen - birth (genealogy is study of family history)
    • chron - time (chronology is study of time sequence)
    • poly - many (polyunsaturated means many not saturated)
    • intra - within (intra species means within one species)
    • inter - between (interspecies means between different species)
    • ante - before (antebellum means before a war)
    • hypo - too little (hypothermia means too low of body temperature)
    • hyper - too much (hyperactive means too active)
  • Suffixes
    • - ble: able or capable (doable, corruptible, edible)
    • - ous: full of (porous means full of pores, or in other words, easily transpired through)
    • - ant: full of (elegant means full of elegance)
    • - ose: full of (grandiose means full of grandeur, grand-ness)
    • - fy: to make like the prefix (magnify means make larger, terrify means to make scared)
    • - ate: to make like the prefix (procrastinate means to make a longer time)
    • - ile: tending to (puerile means tending to childish-ness)
    • - ism: belief (racism, sexism, nationalism, etc.)
    • - tude: condition of (magnitude means the quantity of magnification)


[edit section] Words You Must Know

  • The College Board expects you to know certain words on the SAT exam, especially the SAT reading section. These typically do not involve roots, suffixes, and prefixes, so you will just have to memorize these words:
    • absolve - to forgive
    • affected - something feigned or pretended
    • affinity - attraction to or high likelihood to occur
    • aloof - distant or emotionally dis-attached
    • ambivalent - having two (often opposing) feelings on the same issue
    • amiable - friendly or loving
    • apocryphal - having questionable legitimacy or authenticity
    • assuage - to soothe
    • auspicious - favorably momentous (favorable)
    • banal - boring and uninspired
    • benevolent - good or kind
    • bombastic - overly superfluous language
    • castigate - to scold
    • commodious - having house-like qualities; also very roomy
    • complacent - satisfied to the point of ignorance
    • concise - short and blunt
    • condone - to allow
    • copious - abundant
    • dearth - lack
    • diatribe - verbal attack
    • digression - deviation
    • ecstatic - happy
    • elicit - to bring
    • exploit - to take advantage of
    • fetid - foul
    • frugal - cheap
    • germane - relevant to a discussion
    • hyperbole - exaggeration
    • impetuous - property of acting without thought or reason
    • impudent - rude
    • inept - incompetent
    • jocular - humorous
    • lurid - glowing
    • malevolent - evil
    • misanthrope - outcast with dislike of humanity
    • odious - hateful
    • partisan - partial
    • platitude - cliche
    • pragmatic - practical
    • prevaricate - to lie
    • profligate - destitute in morality
    • prudent - cautious and conservative
    • reticent - reserved, held back
    • sanguine - optimistic
    • stalwart - heroic
    • sycophant - "yes man"
    • tacit - clandestine
    • terse - brief and to-the-point
    • transitory - short lasting
    • vapid - un-remarkable
    • voluble – talkative

[edit section] SAT* Reading Comprehension

SAT Reading comprehension questions are based on passages and range in difficulty and complexity. Some questions will seem rather obvious to you while others will be very difficult to answer. It is important that you understand some basic tips for addressing the various types of questions you will come across, so we will include some examples of each:


[edit section] Comprehension

Remember, comprehension questions ask you to directly interpret the passage. So, you should always be able to find direct textual support for this style of question. For example, a comprehension question may ask “According to the passage, why doesn’t Billy like to play with Sally?” You should read the passage and mentally note the textual support that proves why Billy doesn’t like to play with Sally. It could be: lines 3-6. “Billy never… liked playing with Sally… because she played too roughly.” This is just a silly example of course, but it shows that you must have textual support to demonstrate why a comprehension answer is right. As always, if you cannot justify an answer, do not make it your answer.


[edit section] Analysis

As we’ve mentioned in the lesson, many SAT reading comprehension questions are based on analysis of a passage and its text. You may be asked to look at a snippet of text or an entire paragraph, but you will be expected to think. Remember our three-step analysis strategy:


  • Determine what the question is asking
  • Answer the question in your own words
  • Match your own answer to one of the choices that best fits it


There are some more advanced analysis question tips that students looking to break the “700” mark should focus upon:


  • Avoid extreme choices (choices that do not fit in context)
  • Eliminate answer choices that are effective synonyms (for only one answer choice can be correct)
  • Don’t extend or infer beyond the text. Even if an extension or inference seems correct to you based on the attitude of the author, remember this is an analysis question and not an extension question. You are expected to “read between,” not beyond, the lines. Just because an author rails against the death penalty does not mean he does not believe in war. We think you get the point.

[edit section] Vocab-in-Context Questions

Vocab-in-context questions are the “giveaways” of the SAT Reading section; you should always get 100% of these questions correct. Remember that they are worded like: “On line 15, WORD most nearly means” followed by answer choices.


Follow our three-step strategy and you should excel:


  • Read the sentence in which the word is found. Do not just read the given line
  • Identify, in your own words, the definition of the word in context (not in general)
  • Match one of the answer choices below to your synonym for the word


[edit section] Inference and Extension Questions

Your key for success, the most important idea, is to recognize an inference or extension question. IE questions always are worded like “How would the author of PASSAGE most likely respond to the claim that …” and are followed by answer choices. The topic addressed will assuredly not be found in the passage, but you can still follow a simple strategy to make sure you get these questions correct:


  • Identify the sentiment of the author towards the claim or idea
  • Match the sentiment with an answer choice


For example, if an author is vehemently against war, you should infer that he does not believe in violence as well.


[edit section] Two Passages

The key to two-passage questions is to read each passage and understand each passage in its entirety and to be able to sum it up in a sentence or two. For example, you might conclude: Passage 1 means “After the Civil War, many young people looked to business rather than moral values.” Passage 2 means “During the Vietnam War, protesters rebelled against conventional societal values.” Then, you should be able to apply this knowledge of each passage to compare and contrast the passages, which is essentially what most two-passage questions require you to do.

[edit section] Good luck!

We wish you the best of luck on the SAT Reading assessment and we hope you do well! We are sure that you will.

[edit section] See Also

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