Cracking the SAT

Part II

How to Crack the Critical Reading Section

Chapter 7

Reading Comprehension: Wait, There’s More!

In this chapter, we’ll take a look at short and dual passages with an eye toward pointing out minor differences in approach. Also, every now and then, ETS likes to add a question type other than the typical ones discussed in the last chapter. We’ll take a look at those question types here.

Short passages don’t have an intro blurb, so your strategy when attacking these passages involves one less step. Because the passages are so short, you might decide to Work the Passage first, by skimming it to get a sense of what’s there. You might even decide to just go ahead and read the whole thing But even though it’s short, you still don’t want to get bogged down in the details, and remember: You’ve got a lot of test still to go. You might want to just go to the first question, and then read the passage looking for the answer to that question.

When you’re looking for the answer, you should still read several lines of text around the relevant line. If possible, answer the question in your own words before you go to the answer choices. The final step is still the same as it is for all reading questions: POE. Go through each answer choice, looking for reasons to eliminate an answer choice.

Short Passages
Strategy

1. Read the blurb.

2. Work the passage.

3. Select a question.

4. Read only what you
need.

5. Answer the
question.

6. Use POE.

Sometimes the short passages in a section are harder than the long passages. ETS is hoping that you’ll spend so much time on those four measly questions that you don’t have enough time to do the easier questions about the long passage! Remember that reading comprehension questions are never in order of difficulty, and knowing when to guess or skip a question is important to improving your overall score.

Let’s take a look some short passages. We’ll work through the passages on the next page together, using them to examine the minor question types that may also appear as questions to the longer passages discussed in Chapter 6. However, keep in mind that you should still expect to see a lot of the more common question types discussed in Chapter 6 in short passages on your test.

The following questions will be covered in the next couple pages, but for now, go ahead and read the passages and try to eliminate some answer choices.

Questions 6–7 are based on the following passage.

  6. The author’s primary purpose in writing the passage was to

(A)   describe two species of whale

(B)   criticize an incomplete analysis

(C)   survey uses of DNA analysis

(D)   explain a recent discovery

(E)   justify the killing of whales for research

  7. Which of the following would most undermine the researchers’ conclusion that they discovered a new species of whale?

(A)   The nine adult whales were born in the Artic Sea and came to the Indian Ocean as adults.

(B)   The fin whale and the baleen whale are known to feed upon the same species of fish.

(C)   The DNA profile of the nine adult whales is similar to that of a whale species not studied.

(D)   There have been major advances in the technology of DNA profiling since 1970.

(E)   The seven similar species of whale not in the study are found only in the Pacific Ocean.

Questions 8–9 are based on the following passage.

  8. The situation described in lines 8–10 (“If computers are … verify their choices”) is most analogous to

(A)   A couple expecting their first baby reads several books about the different stages of child development, from infancy to adulthood.

(B)   An observer of a family of gorillas takes photographs of the gorillas in addition to writing down observations about their behavior.

(C)   An established computer manufacturer provides free word processing and anti-virus software as part of every new computer sold.

(D)   A car dealership that sells only select models decides to expand its inventory to include additional models with a broader variety of options.

(E)   A politician running for re-election releases an advertisement attacking the challenger for malicious lies without verifying the content of the ad.

  9. All of the following reasons not to adopt an entirely computerized voting system are given in the passage EXCEPT

(A)   both paper ballot and electronic voting systems are by nature insecure

(B)   a machine may make a mistake in recording a person’s intended vote

(C)   even the best election officials may be unable to judge the integrity of software

(D)   physical evidence could aid in discerning a voter’s objective

(E)   tampering or mistakes in the computer program could remain undiscovered until it is too late

Primary purpose questions are similar to the Purpose questions we discussed in the previous chapter, except these are asking about the author’s purpose in writing the passage overall. If you encounter a primary purpose question in a long passage, you should save it for the end, after you’ve read most or all of the passage while answering the other questions. Try question 6, below, following the usual steps.

What’s the Point?

Sometimes ETS asks for
the Main Point instead of
the Primary Purpose.
Try to figure out the main
idea the author wants
you to know, avoiding
answers that are
too broad or too narrow.

  6. The author’s primary purpose in writing the passage was to

(A)   describe two species of whale

(B)   criticize an incomplete analysis

(C)   survey uses of DNA analysis

(D)   explain a recent discovery

(E)   justify the killing of whales for research

Here’s How to Crack It

Start by coming up with an answer in your own words. The author states that a new species of whale was discovered and describes the evidence supporting the discovery. So it’s a safe bet to say the author’s purpose was to talk about this discovery and the process leading up to it. Answer choice D correctly states this purpose.

Answer choices A and B are too narrow. While A refers to the fact that two whale species were discussed, it lacks any reference to the discovery of a new species. Answer choice B uses recycled words from the last sentence of the passage (remember that those often indicate a trap answer!), but the author’s purpose in writing the passage was not to make that criticism.

Answer choice C is too broad. While the author does explain how DNA analysis was used to support the discovery of a new species, this answer claims that the entire purpose of the passage is to discuss DNA.

Answer choice E is just wrong; the author neither supports nor criticizes that whales were killed for research.

Questions asking you to weaken or strengthen a statement by the author are rare, but they do show up from time to time, so you should know how to tackle them. Be careful and figure out exactly what the author believes, then find the answer choice that most clearly makes that belief either false (for weaken) or true (for strengthen). Try question 7.

  7. Which of the following would most undermine the researchers’ conclusion that they discovered a new species of whale?

(A)   The nine adult whales were born in the Artic Sea and came to the Indian Ocean as adults.

(B)   The fin whale and the baleen whale are known to feed upon the same species of fish.

(C)   The DNA profile of the nine adult whales is similar to that of a whale species not studied.

(D)   There have been major advances in the technology of DNA profiling since 1970.

(E)   The seven similar species of whale not in the study are found only in the Pacific Ocean.

Here’s How to Crack It

This question is asking you to find the answer that undermines (which means weakens) the author’s conclusion that the researchers discovered a new species of whale. So, let’s begin by finding the basis for the author’s conclusion—why does the author believe that researchers have discovered a new species? The author relies principally on DNA analysis: Compared to the similar fin whales, the whales under study have different genetic material. Thus, in order to undermine the conclusion, our answer choice will need to state that the whales under study have different genetic material as compared to some other whale.

Answer choice A relates to the original location of the whales. The author didn’t use location to support the conclusion, so this answer choice provides irrelevant information—it doesn’t strengthen OR weaken the conclusion.

Answer choice B is about the fish the fin whale and potentially new species of whale use for food. Given that these whales have different genetic material, the fact that they happen to have similar diets does not undermine the DNA analysis. Cross it out.

Answer choice C is probably correct. Although it’s not a terribly strong answer choice, it at least calls into question whether the study correctly compared the whales under study to only a single other species of whale. But let’s go through the other two choices to make sure.

Answer choice D relates to advances in DNA technology. This isn’t relevant because the DNA technology was sophisticated enough when the study was conducted to determine that the fin whale and other whale species were different, which is what’s important here. Additionally, neither the author nor the author’s critics address DNA technology advances.

Answer choice E may seem appealing at first because it mentions other similar species of whales. However, rather than focusing on the DNA of these species, the answer choice provides information about the species’ location, which neither supports nor undermines the author’s conclusion. The information is irrelevant, just like in choice A.

Analogy questions can be a bit tricky, so we can be thankful that they don’t show up very often! Unlike just about every other Reading Comprehension question type, the answer choices in analogy questions contain information that is not directly related to the passage. Rather, the information shares some characteristics with something in the passage. Your job is to find the answer that is the tightest fit. Let’s flesh this out with question 8.

  8. The situation described in lines 8–10 (“If computers are … verify their choices”) is most analogous to

(A)   A couple expecting their first baby reads several books about the different stages of child development, from infancy to adulthood.

(B)   An observer of a family of gorillas takes photographs of the gorillas in addition to writing down observations about their behavior.

(C)   An established computer manufacturer provides free word processing and anti-virus software as part of every new computer sold.

(D)   A car dealership that sells only select models decides to expand its inventory to include additional models with a broader variety of options.

(E)   A politician running for re-election releases an advertisement attacking the challenger for malicious lies without verifying the content of the ad.

Here’s How to Crack It

Your first task is to read the relevant section of the passage. We’re told that no matter how careful election officials are, computer errors are still possible and that, therefore, it is important to have a paper ballot as a back-up. In considering the answer choices, don’t look for specific information about voting or computers! That’s a trap (and something Joe Bloggs would do). Rather, try to find an answer choice that relates to establishing a back-up in case there are errors—which is the general gist of the passage.

Answer choice B works. By taking photographs of the gorillas in addition to written observations, the observer has created a back-up for later review. Any errors in the observer’s notes can be detected by looking at the photos, just as errors relating to peoples’ votes can be detected by looking at the back-up paper ballot.

None of the other answer choices deals with creating a back-up. Did you notice, though, that both computers and elections are the subject of incorrect answer choices?

In Except/Least/Not questions, you are usually asked to find the one answer choice that is not supported by the passage. Because four of the answer choices are supported, these questions can be tricky and a bit more time-consuming than other questions. Nevertheless, POE still applies. You are looking for four answers that are supported by the actual text of the passage and one that is not.

Also, be careful not to lose track of what the question is asking. Sometimes people forget midway through the answer choices that they are looking for the unsupported answer choice and then pick one of the choices that is supported! For this reason, instead of crossing out answer choices as you find support for them, try using a check mark next to each answer choice that is supported by the passage. Whatever you don’t check is the correct answer.

Take a look at question 9.

  9. All of the following reasons not to adopt an entirely computerized voting system are given in the passage EXCEPT

(A)   both paper ballot and electronic voting systems are by nature insecure

(B)   a machine may make a mistake in recording a person’s intended vote

(C)   even the best election officials may be unable to judge the integrity of software

(D)   physical evidence could aid in discerning a voter’s objective

(E)   tampering or mistakes in the computer program could remain undiscovered until it is too late

Here’s How to Crack It

Because you can’t predict what answer will not be supported, just go through each answer choice and ask yourself whether it is supported by the text of the passage.

Answer choices B through E all find support in the passage. A paraphrase of each answer choice actually appears in the passage as a reason against adopting an entirely computerized voting system. Answer choice A, however, is not entirely supported because nothing in the passage says that paper voting systems are by their nature insecure.

You should expect to see two sets of Dual Passages, one short set and one long set.

The six steps you learned in the last chapter are the same, but Step 3—Select a Question—requires special focus.


When doing dual passages, first do questions about the first passage, then do questions about the second passage, and finally do questions about both passages.


For single passages, chronology counts. The same goes for dual passages and their questions, but there’s a slight twist. The questions for Passage 1 will come before the questions for Passage 2, and the questions for each passage follow the order of the passage, just like single-passage questions. But dual questions—questions about both passages—can pop up anywhere. Skip those questions until you’ve gone through all of the single-passage questions. You might want to write down the question numbers as you skip them and/or mark the question numbers themselves so they catch your eye before you move on.

For short dual passages, it’s not unusual for all four questions to relate to both passages. In that case, you will want to read both passages during the Work the Passage step before going to the questions.

For questions asking to compare or contrast both passages, it’s helpful to use the same strategy you use for two-blank Sentence Completions. First, find the answer for the first passage (or the second passage if that one is easier) and use POE to narrow down the answer choices. Then find the answer in the other passage and use POE to arrive at the correct answer. This will save time and keep you from confusing the two passages when you’re evaluating the answer choices.

Always keep in mind that the same POE criteria apply, no matter how two-passage questions are presented.

·        If a question is about what is supported by both passages, make sure that you find specific support in both passages, and be wary of all the usual trap answers.

·        If a question is about an issue on which the authors of the two passages disagree, make sure you find support in each passage for the author’s particular opinion.

·        If the question asks how one author would respond to the other passage, find out what was said in that other passage, and then find out exactly what the author you are asked about said on that exact topic.

The bottom line is that if you are organized and remember your basic reading comprehension strategy, you’ll see that two-passage questions are no harder than single-passage questions!

In the drill at the end of this chapter, you’ll have a chance to work on dual passages. But first, let’s talk a little bit about vocabulary that’s important for the Reading Comprehension section.

In addition to knowing the regular vocabulary listed in the next chapter, you should also know the reading comprehension words below. You probably know most of them from school, but be sure to look up any that are unfamiliar.

aesthetic

indifferent

allusion

interpret

ambivalent

ironic

anecdote

justify

assert

metaphor

assess

nostalgia

belied

objective

characterize

partisan

compare

personification

concur

phenomenon

contempt

plausible

contrast

pragmatic

conventional

prove

convey

provoke

debunk

qualified

digression

reconcile

discern

refute

discredit

relevant

disengaged

repudiate

disinterested

resigned

dismissive

reverent

disparage

rhetoric

disparity

satire

dispassionate

scornful

dubious

scrutinize

elicit

simile

endorse

speculate

equivocate

subjective

exemplify

substantiate

hyperbole

undermine

hypothesis

underscore

illustrate

yield

Precise Definitions

You need to really know
the words in this box, not
just sorta know them. ETS
often tests small, subtle
differences in meaning.
For example, what is the
difference between undermine
and underscore?
It matters when you’re
taking the SAT.

Now you’re ready to try a complete set of passages from a Reading Comprehension section! Use your new skills to crack the passages and questions on the following pages. You can check your answers on this page.

Each passage below is followed by questions based on its content. Answer the questions on the basis of what is stated or implied in each passage and in any introductory material that may be provided.

Questions 9–12 are based on the following passages.

Passage 1

Passage 2

  9. Unlike the author of Passage 2, the author of Passage 1 makes significant use of

(A)   historical references

(B)   specific dates

(C)   metaphorical comparisons

(D)   visual description

(E)   artistic analysis

10. Both passages agree that an artist who borrows the artistic styles of earlier eras

(A)   can produce a work of art that is satisfying in its own right

(B)   may borrow from Moorish styles but not Greek styles

(C)   will achieve better results for architecture than sculpture

(D)   might be successful in accurately imitating earlier forms

(E)   should do so only after receiving appropriate training

11. Which of the following aspects of artistic creation is addressed in Passage 2 but not in Passage 1?

(A)   The way in which choices of form can reveal the artist’s vision

(B)   The difficulty artists have in borrowing methods from earlier eras

(C)   The interest of some artists in looking to the past for inspiration

(D)   The creative use by an artist of forms copied from contemporaries

(E)   The principles underlying the artistic conventions of ancient artists

12. The author of Passage 2 would most likely respond to lines 2–5 (“It follows that … lifeless”) in Passage 1 by arguing that

(A)   artistic endeavors are always successful

(B)   old art forms can be used to innovative effects

(C)   Gothic art is more easily borrowed than is Greek art

(D)   sculpture is a particularly difficult art form to master

(E)   the fourteenth century provides a vital exception

Questions 13–24 are based on the following passages.

These passages discuss how people have affected chimpanzees. The first passage is a selection from a book on primates and their habitats. The second passage is a selection from materials distributed by an animal welfare organization.

Passage 1

Passage 2

13. It is likely that the authors of Passages 1 and 2 would agree that

(A)   chimps should be valued because of their genetic closeness to humans

(B)   enacting new legislation would effectively protect the chimpanzees

(C)   humans are a substantial contributor to the problems faced by chimpanzees

(D)   chimps can be dangerous and unpredictable and should be treated with caution

(E)   only through heroic and unprecedented measures can the chimp be saved

14. Lines 4–12 (“Studies reveal … human emotions”) suggest that

(A)   chimpanzees and humans share all the same emotions

(B)   chimpanzees are capable of learning sign language

(C)   infant chimpanzees in the wild require their mother’s milk

(D)   male chimpanzees do not help in raising their offspring

(E)   chimpanzees pat each other on the back for moral support

15. The author of Passage 1 mentions the “exploding human population” (line 19) in order to

(A)   explain a consequence

(B)   present a solution

(C)   praise a development

(D)   criticize a policy

(E)   demand a response

16. According to Passage 1, forests in Africa are cleared to allow for all of the following EXCEPT

(A)   agrarian cultivation

(B)   essential employment

(C)   added human domiciles

(D)   increased fuel production

(E)   feeding farm animals

17. The author of Passage 1 would most likely agree with which one of the following?

(A)   New restrictions on logging in Africa should be imposed.

(B)   Poachers pose a greater harm to chimpanzees than do loggers.

(C)   The impact of logging extends well beyond chimpanzees.

(D)   Poachers of chimpanzees have little interest in adult animals.

(E)   Chimpanzees in Africa have no prospect of surviving.

18. The author of Passage 2 would most likely respond to the assertion in Passage 1 that chimpanzees use “human-like interactions such as hugs, kisses, pats on the back, and tickling” (lines 9–10) by pointing out that

(A)   these interactions paradoxically are a reason for chimpanzees’ problems

(B)   without these interactions, chimpanzees would not succeed in the wild

(C)   humans and chimpanzees are able to communicate with each other

(D)   chimpanzees have difficulty communicating after being held captive

(E)   additional resources are required to care for retired chimpanzees

19. The author of Passage 2 mentions the “appealing demeanor” of infant chimpanzees (line 39) in order to

(A)   provide a contrast to their strength at age five

(B)   explain why people might keep them as pets

(C)   clarify the reluctance to impose needed discipline

(D)   underscore their similarity to human infants

(E)   describe their success living freely in forests

20. In Passage 2, the word “check” (line 55) most nearly means

(A)   investigate

(B)   transmit

(C)   impede

(D)   divide

(E)   approve

21. Which of the following, if true, would most undermine the statement in Passage 2 that “there is almost no good fate for captive chimpanzees” (line 58)?

(A)   People are angered by the treatment of the chimpanzees.

(B)   Many well-trained chimpanzees enjoy living in zoos.

(C)   The number of sanctuaries has increased in recent years.

(D)   Only a few chimpanzees live to be older than 70 years.

(E)   Successful chimpanzees in the film industry are well paid.

22. The phrase “given the opportunity” (line 59) suggests that captive chimpanzees

(A)   are prone to free from captive settings

(B)   might see a reduced lifespan in captivity

(C)   are underestimated by their human captors

(D)   should be used for medical research

(E)   can integrate with wild chimpanzees

23. A major difference between the two passages is that Passage 1 is more concerned with

(A)   legal restrictions and penalties, while Passage 2 is concerned with root causes

(B)   actions of humans, while Passage 2 is concerned with actions of chimpanzees

(C)   the lifespan of chimpanzees, while Passage 2 is concerned only with adults

(D)   rebuilding a species, while Passage 2 is concerned with protecting the species

(E)   chimpanzees in the wild, while Passage 2 is concerned with captive chimpanzees

24. As compared to the attitude of the author of Passage 2 toward human treatment of chimpanzees, the attitude of the author of Passage 1 can be described as more

(A)   condescending

(B)   understanding

(C)   indifferent

(D)   complimentary

(E)   exasperated

·        Approach short reading passages the same way you approach long passages.

·        For dual passages, do questions about the first passage first, questions about the second passage second, and dual questions last. Remember that even with dual questions, you must find support in the passages.

·        If the short passages are hard, don’t spend too much time on them. They contain only four out of 24 questions!

·        Some of the minor question types can be harder than the more common questions types. Use POE and guess, or even skip harder questions. Do the best you can, but don’t get bogged down in them!

·        Know your reading comprehension vocabulary.