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SAT Subscores: Command of Evidence

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The next few blogs are going to cover some of the subscores introduced by the redesigned March 2016 SAT. The first one we’re going to look at is known as Command of Evidence (CoE). Questions that contribute to the CoE subscore are designed to test understanding of how authors use information and ideas to develop and support their assertions. The CoE subscore is derived from specific types of questions that appear on the Reading and Writing and Language tests

Reading Questions

Three types of Reading questions contribute to the CoE subscore. The first asks students to choose the specific line(s) in the passage that best support an existing conclusion. Sometimes this conclusion is provided for you. Most of the time, however, the preceding question will ask you to choose the correct conclusion. Thus being able to choose the correct snippet of supporting text will depend, in part, on a student’s ability to choose the conclusion that that text will support in the first place. Each passage on the Reading test will have at least a couple of this type of question.

The second type of Reading question that feeds the CoE subscore involves interpreting information presented in charts, graphs, and tables. Appearing on only select passages, this type of question requires students to draw conclusions from a graphic and/or make connections between a graphic and a passage. These graphics are extremely simple: You won’t need to do any math or apply scientific reasoning to interpret them. Any relationships that they express are designed to be fairly obvious, either on their own or in the context of the passage and the question.

The third type of question asks students to consider how an author uses (or fails to make use of) specific pieces of evidence. Like questions involving graphics, this question type doesn’t appear on every passage. It only shows up on passages where the author includes a lot of supporting information—facts, figures, and quotations—in an effort to strengthen the claims that he or she is making.

Writing and Language Questions

Two types of questions that contribute to the CoE subscore show up on the Writing and Language test. As on the Reading test, some of the Writing passages include questions dealing with graphics. Also like the Reading test, the graphics themselves are extremely simple. No math or science skills are required to successfully interpret them. Unlike the Reading test, graphic-related Writing questions often ask students to revise part of a passage based on the information presented in the graphic. The good news is that these questions aren’t really asking students to do anything that the older SAT Writing test hasn’t asked them to do in the past. Some of the information is simply being presented visually instead of textually. Understanding how the question, the graphic, and the passage itself fit together will help guide you to the correct answer.

Most of the writing passages also include CoE questions that ask you to improve a passage’s structure, support, and focus. For these, you’ll need to add or revise facts, figures, quotations, and other information that supports an author’s argument. You’ll also be given the choice to delete portions of the passage. While picking the best revision can sometimes be challenging, realizing when you should delete an underlined section of a passage is considerably easier. In the practice tests that I’ve looked at, information that should be deleted is always broadly related to the topic of the essay but does not directly address its thesis or interrupts/distracts from the point that the author is trying to make at that particular point in the passage.

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