SAT Tip of the Week: Simplify Hard Questions in the Reading Section

SAT Tip of the Week - FullThe Reading Section is often considered the most difficult section of the SAT. Here’s a game-changing tip from a SAT 2400 tutor that’s guaranteed to boost your score.

Often, students find the Reading Section to be the trickiest section of the SAT because of the sheer amount of information they have to remember. In an earlier blog post, I discussed how making targeted summaries can help students process the information in a passage. Although this strategy is a lifesaver for many, questions that reference specific details from the passages can still throw students off. These include questions that ask what the author of one passage would think of a quoted line from the other passage, such as the one below:

You, as the student, need to understand the true meaning of the quote from its context in passage 1, as well as what the author of passage 2 would think of that meaning. Before I break down how to quickly solve this question – as well as an even tougher one – take a look at the introductory paragraphs from each passage in this comparison set, as well as the summaries I wrote after reading each of them.

Summary of Main Ideas:

  • History is guide for people lost in modern times

Summary of Main Ideas:

  • History created by historians
  • People reenact history
Now, let’s take a look at the question again:

We know that the author of passage 2 views history as something that is created, and that the tendency of people to ‘repeat it’ often has disastrous consequences (such as the Germans’ decision to go to war). However, we also need to understand what the “crucial navigational instrument” is in order to know what the author of passage 2 would think of it. So, I’ll take a quick glance at sentence 13, read the quote in context, and then rewrite it in my own words. In this case, my substitute is “an important guide”. Now, I ask myself, How does the author of passage 2 think that history differs from being an important guide? My answer here would be that he thinks it is a dangerous and perhaps false guide. With that in mind, I take a look at the answer choices, and easily select A.

That question was quite easy – let’s take a look at a harder question.

Just like the last question, I’m going to ‘rewrite’ both quotes into my own words before answering the question. Let’s take a look at the paragraph that includes line 61.

Judging from context, the ‘minority’ consists of those people who realize that history is unreliable. I’d suggest writing a shorthand version down on the test booklet, just above the actual quote. Next, let’s take a look at the paragraph that includes line 19.

Judging from context, the ‘sense of continuity’ means the ‘coherence’ or ‘guidance’ people feel through applying knowledge of history to lessons in their own lives. After writing a shorthand version of that down, I take a look at the question, and ask myself, What would the few people who realize that history is unreliable think about those who believe that knowledge of history makes life less confusing/more coherent? Before I look at the answer choices, I answer, ‘that history does not actually make life more coherent’. That answer easily leads me to the correct answer, E.

That’s all there is to it! Next time you’re working on a practice Reading Section, be sure to ‘rewrite’ the difficult quotes within questions. You’ll find that when you are dealing with simpler questions in language that is familiar to you, the correct answer will be much clearer.

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By Rita Pearson