Friday, September 9, 2011
A Summary of My Critical Reading Method
A couple of days ago, the mother of one of my students asked me to give her a list of my SAT Critical Reading tips so that she could help her daughter study at home, and I figured that as long as I was writing them up, I might as well post them here. Enjoy...
-As you read, circle major transitions (and, however, but, therefore, because, on the other hand, etc.), "interesting" punctuation (colons, semicolons, italicization, quotes), and strong language. These are the places where ideas are presented, change, and are emphasized or questioned.
-Once you figure out the point, don't worry about reading the rest of passage in great detail, EXCEPT for the conclusion, which you must always read carefully.
-When you finish the passage, write the tone (positive/negative) and the point in 4-6 words. OR, if you see the point directly stated in the passage, underline it.
-When in doubt about the main point or purpose of a passage, consult 1) the last sentence of the first paragraph, 2) first sentence of the second paragraph, or 3) the last sentence of the passage. For short passages, focus on the last sentence.
-When you read a question, go back to the passage and try to sum up the answer quickly for yourself. If you can't come up with anything within a few seconds, look at the answer choices and cross off everything that absolutely does not make sense. If there is any chance an answer could work, leave it. When you're down to two or three answers, go back to the passage and check them out. Try to pick one specific aspect of each answer to check for (e.g. if the answer says "exploration," see whether that portion of the passage specifically mentions exploration). If it's not there, get rid of that option.
-Just because they give you line numbers doesn't mean that the answer is in them -- it might be a few lines about or below. Always start from the sentence before the one given in the question and read to the sentence after if necessary. The answer to a question about the purpose of a given line (i.e. the point) will usually come in the sentence before OR at the beginning of a paragraph (topic sentence).
-For tone questions, play positive/negative. Extreme answers are unlikely to be correct.
-Pay particular attention to major transitions and strong wording in/around the lines given in the question -- they usually signal the presence of the information necessary to answer the question.
-For vocab in context questions, look for context clues in the line. Very often the word in question will clearly be the synonym for another word in the line (as indicated by the transition "and") or directly opposed to another word.
-Remember: same idea different words. Most correct answer choices will contain synonyms for the words in the passage. Choices that use the same exact wording as the passage are likely to be wrong.
-When you cross off answer choices, cross off the whole thing, not just the letter, but don't let it slow you down. Just a quick line through it.
-If you have no idea and feel like you would have to take a random guess, just skip the question. A couple of skipped questions are better than a couple of questions gotten wrong, and skipping questions can actually have a positive impact on your score.
-For Passage 1/Passage 2 relationship questions, figure out whether the two authors would agree or disagree. before you look at the questions. If they agree, you can get rid of most negative answers; if they disagree, you can get rid of most positive ones. Try define each part of the question (lines given in a particular passage + main point of opposite passage) before you look at the answers.
-Whatever happens, don't just stop and think! That wastes more time than anything else. At all times, you should be actively trying to figure out the answer. The test is set up so that you can reason your way to the answer. If you don't know, get rid of what you can get rid of and then keep flipping between the passage and the question. If you get stuck, leave it and move on.
-Anything you know for sure will take a lot of time (e.g. "all of the following EXCEPT" questions), skip and come back to if you have time.