One of the many joyful aspects of this project has been the encouraging emails, some of which ask questions that I always attempt to answer promptly, and with gusto.
(I'm not perfect though, so if I didn't respond to your email with prompt gusto -- I am so sorry. Email me again, ok? I have, on rare and desperate occasions, resorted to email bankruptcy.)
Anyhoo, a primary intention behind this project was always to share what I learned along the way, as much as it was about trying to get the perfect SAT score myself. Hopefully I can spare others some of the wheel-spinning I experienced.
Many of questions I receive are similar, so I'm going to attempt to house them on the FAQ tab of this site (righthand side).
The other place to check on the site for useful information (hopefully), is the Solutions tab (also located on the righthand side), where I attempted to share the lessons I learned along the way (for all three sections).
Ok, FAQ #1 (or some variation of), is the most frequently asked FAQ:
Q. Could you share some tips on how to tackle the reading passages and how to know you're picking the right answers?
A. Read the passage fast(ish), and the Q & A slooooowwwwwly. Make sure you have a good, birds eye view, high level idea of what the passage is about.
When you get to the answer choices, you can often knock out 3 of them, just on the basis that they are silly, stupid, or obviously not right, which then gets you down to two answers to choose from.
If you have time to go back to the passage and clarify, do so. The experts say, "the answer is always in the passage" (I'd add to that, think synonym or "word find"). But, if you're anything like me, racing the clock is a legit challenge (and I'm an avid reader) -- which then lead me to the "educated guesses" department.
If you are taking more than a minute to figure out the answer, skip that question and come back. But, be sure to circle it in your test booklet so you don't forget to come back. I found that the answer would often clarify itself as I answered the other questions (does that make sense?!).
And, if you get back to that question, and time is running out and you still can't figure it out, but you've got it down to two answers, choose the most innocuous one (i.e. the least restrictive). i.e. Imagine that the test makers don't want to have any problems with a definitive answer that might not be definitive.
Steer clear of confining words such as "every," "always," "must," etc. -- and veer more towards words like "sometimes," "usually," and "often." And, usually passages about artists, educators, minorities are sympathetic/positive in tone -- so if they ask a question about tone, consider this SAT propensity.
But, this is a strategy to be used only if you can't find the answer in the passage, and you are down to the wire on time. It's not foolproof, and they could do just the opposite on the very next test. But, I'd call this an "educated guess."
Oh, and here's one more: When you see one of those "what does this word mean in context" questions in the Critical Reading passages section -- replace the word in the passage with the words from the answer choices, one by one.
Just slot them right into the passage and see which one works. I found this made the answer super obvious and only one word seemed to fit each time. This turns this type of question into a 5 second q instead of a 30 second one.
Ok, that's all for now. More FAQs tk. Hopefully tomorrow -- and in the meantime, check out the Solutions page (scroll down) for more Critical Reading advice.
llustrations by Jennifer Orkin Lewis