Avoiding Assumptions is probably the best strategy period on SAT Reading. But it will take a long time before you master this strategy. You will need to practice the art of avoiding assumptions over and over on SAT passages until you perfect it.
Remember that an assumption is an induction that is not based on textual evidence from the passage. So how can you avoid making assumptions on the SAT? Well, you can ask yourself one magic question:
“Does the passage mention?”
Ask yourself this one key question every time you tackle an answer choice, and you will free yourself from making assumptions on the SAT!
Read the following SAT Passage excerpt:
It is a curious thing that so many people only go into a bookshop when they happen to need some particular book. Do they never drop in for a little innocent carouse and refreshment? There are some knightly souls who even go so far as to make their visits to bookshops a kind of chivalrous errantry at large. They go in not because they need any certain volume, but because they feel that there may be some book that needs them. Some wistful, little forgotten sheaf of loveliness, long pining away on an upper shelf—why not ride up, fling her across your charger (or your charge account), and gallop away. Be a little knightly, you book-lovers!
The lack of intelligence with which people use bookshops is, one supposes, no more flagrant than the lack of intelligence with which we use all the rest of the machinery of civilization. In this age, and particularly in this city, we haven’t time to be intelligent.
Now let’s answer the following question together:
The metaphor in lines 5-6 (“Some wistful . . . book-lovers”) serves to :
(A) show that book reading can be just as much fun as horseback riding
(B) highlight the excitement bookstores can create
(C) direct readers to engage in an activity they may not typically choose
(D) offer insight into the reasoning behind book-lovers’ philosophy
(E) compare the difference between book-lovers and casual readers
Start by examining answer choice (A): Does the passage mention “horseback riding”? No. It mentions galloping away, but “horse” is nowhere to be found in the passage. Cross out answer choice (A).
Now let’s look at (B): Ask yourself, does the passage mention that “bookstores “create” excitement? No. There’s some excitement in the passage, but the passage doesn’t state that bookstores create this excitement. So we can eliminate (B).
(C) seems like a viable answer choice. But before we can select it, we must eliminate the other answer choices.
For answer choice (D), does the passage mention “the reasoning behind book-lovers’ philosophy”? No. There is no explanation to booklovers’ philosophy found in the passage. So get rid of answer choice (D).
Finally on (E), ask yourself does the passage mention a comparison “between book-lovers and casual readers”? No. In fact, this passage doesn’t mention “casual readers” at all. Cross out (E).
The passage actually does mention a suggestion to “engage in an activity” readers “may not typically choose”.
The correct answer is (C).
Congratulations! You’ve now learned the magic question that will help you avoid assumptions on the SAT.
Shaan Patel is the Director of SAT Programs at Veritas Prep, the author of McGraw-Hill’s best-selling book SAT 2400 in Just 7 Steps, and the owner of a perfect SAT score.