The final SAT of the 2012 – 2013 school year is just one week away. Even so, this is more than enough time for you to sharpen key test skills. Here are my top 5 skill tips to help you improve you performance on passage-based questions:
1. IDENTIFY CORRECT ANSWERS – Always remember that an answer is an answer because it has support in the passage. This support will take the form of key words, phrases, and examples. Never go outside the passage for an answer. Many students make unnecessary inferences. Only make an inference if the question specifically asks you for one. For practice recognizing paraphrased answers see Chapter 55 in The Essential 500 Words.
2. AVOID WRONG ANSWERS – Sometimes it is necessary to attack a question by using the process of elimination (POE) to delete wrong answers. College Board test writers use a number of predictable wrong answer types. Watch out for wrong answers that go beyond the passage, contain one or more incorrect words, and directly contradict the main idea of the passage.
3. IDENTIFY RHETORICAL DEVICES – Most SATs now contain 1 – 3 questions that ask you to recognize and identify common rhetorical devices. Chapters 3 and 4 in The Essential 500 Words define and illustrate 20 key rhetorical devices. Chapter 56 then gives you an opportunity to apply these concepts to practice examples.
4. RECOGNIZE AN AUTHOR’S ATTITUDE, TONE, AND MOOD – Most SATs now contain 2 – 6 questions that ask you to recognize an author’s attitude, tone, or mood. Chapter 57 gives you an opportunity to apply these words to practice examples.
5. KNOW HOW TO USE THIS QUESTION FORMAT – Be alert for passage-based questions that use the following distinctive format: “In lines 5 – 8 (“I was .. hurt”), the author indicates that his classmates… This format tells you that the key words that will lead you to the answer are between “I was” and “hurt.” This format will be found in about 40 percent of the 48 passage-based questions.

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