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SAT Passage Reading: General Hints for Answering Questions

SAT passage reading is a part of the Critical Reading section of the SAT worth 800 points. While Critical reading is divided into two parts – Sentence Completion and Passage-Based Reading; the latter is what is more challenging, difficult of the sort. Passage-Based Reading questions need you to think and write about a single passage or a pair of related passages. Passages are between 450-600 words long. Hence, your ability to read and think carefully is judged here.

Passage Reading Flow :-

Example (from the October 1996 test):

American Indians are often thought of as one group, but they do not constitute a single, unified ethnic grouping. There are literally hundreds of cultural and linguistic–that is, ethnic–distinctions: the Navajo of Arizona, for example, have little in common with the Mohawks of New York. The Inuits and the Aleuts of Alaska are categorized as American Indians, but they are ethnically distinct from each other and from the American Indians of the contiguous states as well. It is estimated that from 300 to 550 different American Indian languages were in use in North America before European colonization; about 150 are still spoken today.

For all American Indians, an integrated way of life was irrevocably upset by the arrival of Europeans and their expropriation of the land. The trauma of culture conflict had its origins in the very first contacts between the Europeans, who could not comprehend the American Indians’ attitude toward land as an everlasting resource for common use, and the American Indians, who could not comprehend the notion of land as private property that could be sold and lost forever.

The author indicates that the trauma of cultural conflict initially resulted from the

(A)  migration of American Indians from northeast Asia to the Western Hemisphere

(B)  linguistic and cultural differences between the various American Indian groups

(C)  extreme social and economic discrimination practiced by European Americans

(D)  different attitudes toward land held by Europeans and American Indians

(E)  decline of the American Indian population after the arrival of the Europeans

Here are some broad hints for answering Passage-Based Reading questions.

1)      Read introductions carefully and don’t just skip them.

2)      Read every passage carefully. Browse it once quickly, and then read each passage and any accompanying information in it. Try to understand the author’s reason and be aware of features such as attitudes, assumptions and the tone each paragraph follows.

3)      You may want to make your own notes side by side, but don’t spend too much time in doing it.

4)      After reading the full passage, read each question carefully.

5)      Usually the flow of the question, follows from top to bottom, i.e. the first questions have answers located on the top half of the paragraph.

6)      Don’t be misled by choices that are correct for only one of the two passages. Understand the gist and tone of it while comparing two passages.

7)      Select the choice that you think is the best answers the given question. Do not mark it just because it is a true statement.

8)      Take a couple of Passage Reading Practice tests to understand your style. You may prefer to read the passage first and try to answer the questions or first read the questions to get an idea of what to look for.

Check more of our  Passage Reading tests.

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