Even just glancing at the math, I can see that they've really worked those problems out. In fact, it probably wouldn't occur to them to do otherwise. There are equations scribbled all over the place. Maybe not for every question, but often enough for it to be clear that they haven't been approaching the SAT like some kind of glorified guessing game but rather solving the problems. They might use their knowledge of a particular rule to eliminate answers quickly, but at no point have they simply decided to abandon working things out in favor of making a guess they hope will be right.
The same, alas, cannot be said for the Reading. Sure, they've probably underlined and circled some things in the passages, maybe written the main point and perhaps the tone, but the spaces next to the questions are totally and completely blank. Even if they've made an attempt to reason their way through the problem, they haven't bothered to write down all the steps. More likely, though, it hasn't really occurred to them that they *can* approach CR in more or less the same way they would approach Math What seems like an obvious way to work through a math problem seems far less obvious when applied to reading -- especially since they've never been asked to think about reading in quite that way before.
What really gets me, though, is that even after I demonstrate -- in some cases, multiple times -- how to work through a CR question step by step like a math problem, writing down each part of the process and moving systematically through the choices when the answer isn't initially obvious, they still refuse to even attempt to replicate the process on their own. (Actually, after I demonstrate the first time, they usually give me a look that says approximately, "Oh s*&^! That's hard. No way, there has to be an easier way to do it." Um, no, there isn't.) It doesn't matter how many times I tell them that this was how I got an 800, and that if they're really serious about wanting one as well, they need to make themselves go through the entire process. They still want the magical shortcut that'll get them a perfect score without having to work quite so hard. Guess what, folks: it doesn't exist. The closest thing to a fail-safe technique I have for getting an 800 on CR is this, take or leave it.
So having said that, I want to work through what is quite possibly the hardest CR question I know of -- one that absolutely demands to be worked out like an equation and that pretty much every student I've ever had, no matter how high they ultimately scored, screwed up on. (True confession, I actually had to look at the answer the first time I saw it. It was only when I went back that I was able to work out the reasoning behind it). It's from the College Board Test 4, section 6, question 20, p. 592.
In case you're wondering, yes, I would actually write all of my reasoning down. Note that I constantly, quasi-obsessively reiterate both what the question is asking and the point of the paragraph. It may seem excessive, but it's necessary. It's the only way to leave no room for error.
What of the following assertions detracts LEAST from the author's argument in the second paragraph (lines 25-42)?
(A) Many people work at night and sleep during the day
(B) Owls, which hunt at night, do not arouse our fear
(C) Most dangerous predators hunt during the day
(D) Some cultures associate bats with positive qualities
(E) Some dream imagery has its source in the dreamer's personal life
Things that live by night live outside the realm of "normal" time. Chauvinistic about our human need to wake by day and sleep by night, we come to associate night dwellers with people up to no good, people who have the jump on the rest of us and are defying nature, defying their circadian rhythms. Also night is when we dream, and so reality is warped. After all, we do not see very well at night, we do not need to. But that makes us nearly defenseless after dark. Although we are accustomed to mastering our world by day , in the night we become vulnerable as prey. Thinking of bats as masters of the night threatens the safety we daily take for granted. Though we are at the top of our food chain, if we had to live alone in the rain forest, say, and protect ourselves against roaming predators, we would live partly in terror, as our ancestors did. Our sense of safety depends on predictability, so anything living outside the usual rules we suspect to be an outlaw - a ghoul.
I. Since the question is phrased in a somewhat convoluted manner, we need to make sure that we are absolutely clear about what is actually being asked before we do anything else. The question is asking us which option detracts LEAST.
That means that four of the options will detract from (go against) the argument and one, the correct one, will not detract from the argument. It does not, however, mean that this option will SUPPORT the argument. Just because an idea does not explicitly go against an argument does not mean that it supports it; there might just be no relationship.
So we are simply looking for something that does not really go against the argument.
II. The next step is to determine what the argument actually is. While the question gives us a lot of lines to read, they can be pretty much summed up AND WRITTEN DOWN as follows:
-Humans sleep @ night & think it's normal, get scared stuff awake @ night b/c = abnormal.
-Bats don't sleep @ night, THUS: B/c bats assoc. w/dark = scary.
Notice that I've crammed down the paragraph into just the essential, disregarding the details entirely.
III. Before we look at the answers, we need to consider very clearly what we are looking for. The question asks us to find the answer that does NOT suggest that bats & stuff @ night = scary. It might not support that idea, but it won't go against it either. So now we consider the answers.