How to Ace SAT Reading Comprehension Without Reading the Passages

Matt Larriva
Dec 07, 2013
Home » Blog » How to Ace SAT Reading Comprehension Without Reading the Passages

Today I was with a student discussing the idea of Coding Responses—categorizing answers as potentially right, and probably wrong. It seems to me that the SAT is growing more ossified in its distribution of answer choices, and resultantly, it is easier to see the ones that are right or wrong.

To prove the point, the student and I answered 5 questions out of a Dual-Passage section, and we did it without reading the text. To my surprise, but corroborative of my point, I answered all the questions correctly. I posit that this says more about the test’s predictability than my own abilities. But I thought the questions, and my logic, were worth sharing here:

These questions are reproduced from Kaplan’s 12 Practice Tests for the SAT 2014. I do not have ownership of this material.

9. The “plague” (line 1) on both political parties could be best described as their

(A) Reliance on polls to determine the feeling of the voting public

This is a possibility: it sounds non-extreme. But the idea of an entire passage about poling data struck me as odd

(B) Willingness to attack their closest competitors

I have to think this is a bit extreme

(C) Need to appeal to an ill-informed electorate

This is concise and intelligently worded, so I like it

(D) Lack of concern for the views of most voters

I doubt the SAT would provide a passage about the lack of concern for voters—it seems like a liability and like someone could become offended

(E) Refusal to appeal to lower-income families

Same rationale as above—maybe more so

10. The word “acquaintance” in line 4 most nearly means

(A) Polite relationship

This is pretty much the definition of acquaintance, and therefore I know it is not the answer

(B) Superficial familiarity

This seems like a slight variance of the definition, and something that could be used in the political context of the passage (I’m assuming it’s about politics because of the first question)

(C) Fraught discussion

I struggle to think of a context where acquaintance could mean a fraught discussion

(D) Complex dialogue

Same logic as above

(E) Nuanced exchange

Same logic as above

11. The word “spirit” (line 5) most nearly means

(A) Ghost

This is the literal definition of the word; we know that this will never be correct

(B) Mood

This could be

(C) Courage

It’s hard for me to think of a sentence where “spirit” would mean “courage”

(D) Belief

Same problem as above

(E) Creativity

Same problem as above

12. The Phrase “even if this means using a bit of creative license when it comes to the actual words” (lines 6-8) serves to

(A)    Accentuate the contrast between ingenuity and creativity

This is written to sound alluring but is really nonsense. Ingenuity and creativity are close synonyms. What would the contrast be?

(B)    Imply that the spirit of a translation is totally unrelated to the actual words used in that translation

This is ridiculous. Can you imagine translating something and having the end result be COMPLETELY unrelated to the original message?

(C)    Provide a definition of the expression “poetic license”

This could be, but the “even if” in the original sentence is making me think we need an answer that has some sort of counterbalance or pro-and-con.

(D)   Draw a parallel between dry, static translations and translations in which the tone and flow of the original is preserved

This is close to what I’m looking for (containing two contrasting items)

(E)   Acknowledge that preserving the spirit of the original may be incompatible with remaining as faithful as possible to the author’s wording

This is even better because it says, “may be incompatible” which fits well with the “even if this means” in the first sentence. Also the mention of being faithful to original words is similar to what “creative license” is.

13.  The Author of the passage demonstrates which attitude toward the view that translators should be

as faithful as possible to the original poet’s wording

(A)   Respectful disagreement

This is a good and balanced SAT-type answer.

(B)    Puzzled appreciation

This is hard for me to conceptualize. What situation would make one confused and grateful? A magic show?

(C)    Guarded curiosity

This is also strange to me. Outside of Pandora, I cannot picture someone with a “guarded curiosity.”

(D)   Firm concurrence

This is fine, but the SAT tends to stay away from absolutes, and this is pretty concrete.

(E)    Complete disparagement

Same as above.

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