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ACT and SAT Reading Dual Passages

Madison E.

One of the passages on the ACT and SAT Reading sections is actually a pair of passages. Most of the questions for this type of “passage” refer to only one of the reading selections. However, a handful of questions ask you compare and contrast the two passages. These synthesis questions, combined with the necessity of reading two passages, mean that you should take a slightly different approach to dual passages than to other passage types. Below are some tips for dealing with dual passages and the questions associated with them.


Work on Each Passage Separately

Read the first passage and answer all the questions associated with that passage. Then do the same for the second passage and its questions. Answer questions that refer to both passages last. Do not read both passages first. Doing so only makes it more difficult to remember details from each passage.


Ask Yourself Why the Passages Were Paired With Each Other

ACT and SAT Reading dual passages are paired together for specific reasons. Often the passages will cover the same topic, but the emphasis may be different or the authors may disagree on some key point. You may also see two different but related works from the same author. As you read the second passage, ask yourself how it is similar to and different from the first passage.


Similarities between Passages Are Broad

Questions that ask how the passages are similar are looking for answers that express broad points of agreement. To answer these questions, you should eliminate choices that are overly-specific. The more nuanced answer choices are much less likely to accurately describe both passages.


Differences between Passages Are Specific

Correct answers to questions that ask how the passages differ focus on specific aspects of each passage. To answer these questions, you need to take the opposite approach to the one you would take for “similarities” questions. In other words, you should eliminate choices that are overly-broad. If you still have more than one answer choice left after taking this step, eliminate choices which misrepresent a specific detail (however small) from either of the passages.




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