SAT Test Prep

CHAPTER 4
CRITICAL READING SKILLS

Lesson 6: Finding Alternatives in Attacking the Questions

“Whole-Passage Attack” versus “Paragraph Attack”

Although many students do best by reading the whole passage before attacking the questions, some prefer to attack the questions sooner. This approach, called the “paragraph attack,” takes advantage of the ordering of SAT CR questions. In this mode of attack, you read the first paragraph or two, and then answer the questions that pertain to just those paragraphs (skipping any “big picture” questions for now). When you reach a question that refers to a portion of the passage that you haven’t read, go back and read the next paragraph or two, and so on. Always read and summarize whole paragraphs at a time before going to the questions. Don’t stop in the middle of a paragraph.


Experiment with the “whole-passage attack” and the “paragraph attack” strategies as you practice, and decide which works better for you.


Attacking Paired Passages

Every SAT contains “paired” passages—one pair of long passages and one pair of short passages—that share a common theme but are written by different authors. They are followed by normal CR questions and then questions comparing or contrasting the ideas and tone of the two passages. For these passages, you’ll want to change your attack strategy slightly.


Here’s how to attack paired passages:

• First, read Passage 1 with the key questions in mind, paying particular attention to tone.

• After summarizing, attack the questions that pertain only to Passage 1.

• Next, read Passage 2, again paying attention to tone. Ask, “How do the perspective and tone of this passage differ from those of Passage 1? How are they similar?”

• Then attack the questions that pertain to Passage 2 and the comparison questions.

• Do not read the passages back-to-back because then you will be more likely to confuse the ideas in the passages.


Attacking SAT Passages from Hell

Hopefully, if you’ve practiced the College Hill Method for attacking the SAT CR, you’ve learned that you can attack even tough reading passages about, say, ancient Greek metaphysics. But what if you’re faced with a real SAT passage from hell? What if you just can’t get through the language or concepts in a really tough SAT passage? Don’t panic. Just change your mode of attack.


If a particular passage seems completely incomprehensible, first see if there is another passage to attack on that section, and move on to that one. If not, just go to the questions that require little reading: the “word in context” questions and the “secondary idea” questions. Usually these don’t require you to understand the “big picture,” so they are easier to attack.


The Need for Speed

The SAT isn’t a speed-reading test, so don’t rush through the passages. With practice in the College Hill Method, your reading will become brisker and more efficient on its own. But what if you still struggle to finish the SAT CR sections on time? Here’s our approach:

• Step 1: Don’t panic. Your efficiency will improve as you practice with the College Hill Method, and the problem may well take care of itself. But what if you still struggle with time after weeks of practice?

• Step 2: Use your finger to “push” your eyes more quickly over the words. Move your finger smoothly over the words, and focus your eyes right next to your finger. With just a little practice, you may be amazed at how much faster you can read without losing comprehension. Practice this strategy continuously with everything you read for two weeks—use it when you’re reading the newspaper, your homework assignments, magazines, everything. But what if even this doesn’t work well enough?

• Step 3: Get tested to see if you can take the SAT with extended time. If you have a diagnosable learning disability that slows down your reading, you may well qualify for extra time on the SAT. Talk to your guidance counselor about getting tested, and do it at least a few months before taking the SAT.

Concept Review 6: Finding Alternatives in Attacking the Questions

1. Briefly describe the difference between the “whole-passage attack” and the “paragraph attack.”

2. How should your attack strategy shift when reading paired passages?

3. How should your attack strategy shift when reading an extremely difficult passage?

4. What strategies should you try if you have trouble finishing the CR sections in time?

SAT Practice 6: Finding Alternatives in Attacking the Questions

1. The last sentence of Passage 1 (“For normal man … do not exist,’ lines 19–20) suggests that

(A) certain modern discoveries have hindered our understanding of our bodily senses

(B) biological knowledge has grown rapidly in recent decades

(C) we must work hard to maintain the pace of technological progress

(D) recent studies of proprioception have been misleading

(E) most people do not appreciate the function of certain physical senses

2. According to Passage 2, wrongdoing “does not seem strange” (line 27) when the wrongdoer

(A) applies moral knowledge to the situation

(B) is attacking a person incapable of self-defense

(C) is in full control of his or her faculties of reason

(D) fails to think about what is right and wrong before committing the act

(E) is doing something that he or she believes is right

First passage: Excerpted with permission of Simon and Schuster Adult Publishing Group from The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks. Copyright © 1970, 1981, 1984, 1985 by Oliver Sacks.

Second passage: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics. Public domain.

3. Unlike Passage 2, Passage 1 is primarily concerned with

(A) the nature of bodily senses

(B) knowledge that helps us to decide between right and wrong

(C) technological innovations in science

(D) the importance of controlling our consciousness

(E) the biological systems involved in emotion

4. The authors of both passages would most likely agree that

(A) it is immoral to ignore knowledge gained from our senses

(B) emotions often interfere with rational thought

(C) certain kinds of ignorance are essential to human survival

(D) people are not always conscious of the information that their minds process

(E) moral knowledge is gained directly through the physical senses

Answer Key 6: Finding Alternatives in Attacking the Questions

Concept Review 6

1. The “whole-passage attack” involves reading the entire passage—but with a focus on just answering the three key questions, not on absorbing every detail—before attacking the questions. Many students prefer this method because they prefer to stay “in the flow” of the passage and to absorb information in large chunks. The “paragraph attack” involves reading the introduction and first paragraph or two and then answering the questions that pertain only to the parts you’ve read, skipping any “big picture” questions for now. Then go on to the next paragraph or two, and answer those questions, and so on. Remember only to read whole paragraphs. Don’t stop in the middle of a paragraph. (And be sure to go back and answer those “big picture” questions.)

2. First read Passage 1, paying particular attention to tone. After Passage 1, attack the questions that pertain only to Passage 1. Next, read Passage 2, again paying attention to tone. Ask, “How do the perspective and tone of this passage differ from those of Passage 1? How are they similar?” Then attack the questions that pertain to Passage 2 and the comparison questions. Do not read the passages back-to-back because then you will be more likely to confuse the ideas in the passages.

3. Hopefully, the SAT “passages from hell” won’t seem so hellish with some practice with the College Hill Method. But if you’ve read through a passage and its language or concepts seem incomprehensible, just (1) move on to an easier passage, if it’s available, or, if not, (2) attack the questions that require relatively little reading, namely, the “word in context” questions and the “secondary idea” questions.

4. First, don’t panic. Most students struggle a bit with the time limit in their first few practice tests. Often, with a bit of patient practice, the problem will resolve itself. If it doesn’t, then practice “eyefinger” coordination, using your finger to sweep through the passage smoothly and at a quicker pace than your eyes are inclined to go. Practice this continually with everything you read for several weeks. As a last resort, talk to your guidance counselor to see if you qualify to take the SAT with extended time.

SAT Practice 6

1. E The central idea of this passage is that “there are other senses [that are] unrecognized and … unconscious [and] automatic” (lines 3–5). Thus, when the final sentence states that for “normal man … they simply do not exist” (lines 19–20), it suggests that most people do not appreciate the functioning of certain physical senses.

2. D The passage states that a wrongdoing “does not seem strange in the former case” (lines 27–28), which is the case in which one knows something but does not reflect on that knowledge. In the case of a wrongdoing, this is a knowledge of right and wrong. The author is suggesting that wrongdoing only makes sense when the wrongdoer either does not know right from wrong or does not reflect on that knowledge.

3. A Passage 1 is primarily concerned with “unconscious” and “automatic” bodily senses, specifically the “awareness of the relative position of trunk and limbs” (lines 7–8) and the “controls by which our bodies are properly aligned and balanced” (lines 10–12). Passage 2 is concerned with moral knowledge but not knowledge that comes directly from the bodily senses. Although Passage 1 does mention “the space age” (line 14) in passing, it is certainly not primarily concerned with technological advances.

4. D Both authors would clearly agree that people are not always conscious of the information their minds process. Passage 1 states that there are “senses [that are] unconscious [and] automatic” (lines 4–5), and Passage 2 states that in certain cases a person “has knowledge and [yet] in another sense he does not, as in sleep or madness or intoxication” (lines 31–33).