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The SAT Reading Comprehension: Basic Principles

The Real Challenge of the Reading Section Is the Questions and Choices—Not the Passages
You'd think that the difficulty on the reading section comes from not understanding what the passages are about. In fact, most avoidable mistakes arise from not understanding precisely what a question is asking or what a choice is.

That may seem remarkable. After all, how hard can it be to understand a simple question or the short choices compared to understanding a difficult and sometimes lengthy passage? Think of it this way: if you misread or misinterpret an entire sentence in a 900-word passage, your overall understanding of the entire passage probably won't be seriously affected. If you misread even a key word of a brief question or answer choice, however, you'll very likely get the question wrong.

As we discussed briefly in The SAT: How Your Brain Can Get You in Trouble and as you're about to discover firsthand in the following drill, you need to learn to read what a choice is actually saying, instead of what it seems to be saying!

The shorter the passage—and some SAT passages may be fewer than 100 words long—the more carefully you have to read it.

Read Carefully Drill
Part A: To demonstrate just how carefully you have to read individual choices, I've prepared the following single-sentence passage for you. Don't guess here; really try to work out the answer—you'll never see a passage this short again! Take your time, but don't take any chances: use process of elimination to be sure you've found the answer. If more than one choice seems correct, keep working until you find a reason to eliminate every choice but the answer.

    The last supernova in our galaxy visible from
    Earth was observed only five years before the
    telescope was first used for celestial observation in
    1609.
1. Which of the following can be inferred from the passage above?
  1. Telescopes were first used for celestial observation.
  2. Since astronomers began using telescopes, they have observed no supernovas in our galaxy.
  3. The last supernova in our galaxy occurred in 1604.
  4. Supernovas can be seen from Earth by the unaided eye.
  5. The telescope was invented five years before the last visible supernova occurred.
You'll find a discussion of this drill on the next page.

Next: Page 3 >>
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From The RocketReview Revolution: The Ultimate Guide to the New SAT and the PSAT by Adam Robinson. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, click here.


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