The SAT Prep Black Book


SAT Passage-Based Reading Quick Summary

This is a one-page summary of the major relevant concepts. Use it to evaluate your comprehension or jog your memory. For a more in-depth treatment of these ideas, see the rest of the section.

The Big Secret: The answer to every question comes directly from what’s on the page. No interpretation whatsoever.

The rules for Passage-Based Reading on the SAT are simple; the only challenging thing is making sure you follow them all the time, no matter what. Here they are:

oCorrect answers are always directly supported in the text.

oDon't overlook details. The difference between right and wrong is often just one word.

oRemember there is always exactly one right answer per question.

Here are the most common wrong-answer patterns you'll see:

oAnswer choice contains statements that go beyond what is mentioned in the text.

oAnswer choice mentions concepts from the text but confuses the relationship between them.

oAnswer choice is completely irrelevant to the text.

oAnswer choice says the opposite of what the text says.

oAnswer choice would be a decent interpretation if you were in a literature class.

Here's the general Passage-Based Reading process:

oSkim or read the passage (whichever you’re more comfortable with). Or even skip it altogether.

oRead the question and note any citation.

oRead the relevant portion of the text (the citation if there is one, otherwise the part that has similar concepts to the question).

oFind four wrong-answer choices (look for wrong-answer patterns).

oConfirm remaining answer choice.

oMark the correct answer.

oSave general passage questions for last.

Special notes:

Two consecutive statements in a passage should be treated like synonyms if the College Board asks about them. If they have a negating word like “not” or “never” between them, then they should be treated like antonyms.

The words “metaphor” and “humor” in an answer choice refer to a non-literal phrase in the passage.

The word “irony” refers to a contradiction.

If you think 2 or more answer choices are equally valid, then you’re overlooking some small detail.

See the many example solutions in this Black Book for demonstrations of these principles.