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“Two-Part” SAT Reading Questions

Anne B.

Two of the most challenging types of questions on the new SAT Reading section are actually paired together. The first of these questions asks you to draw some broad conclusion based on your understanding of the passage. The second then asks you to choose the “best evidence” from a selection of lines to support your answer to the previous question. Because these “two-part” questions are unique to the new version of the SAT, they require a unique set of strategies to successfully answer them. Here are some tips on how to approach these new types of questions.


  1. Treat Both Questions as if They Are One

Read both questions and their answer choices before you begin to eliminate any wrong answers. The questions function as if they are a single two-part question, so you should treat them as such.


  1. Eliminate Obviously Incorrect Answers to the First Question

Use the same strategies you would for any ACT or SAT Reading question to eliminate answer choices that, according to your understanding of the passage, cannot possibly be correct. Look for choices that commit one of the following errors: misrepresenting the position of the passage, misunderstanding a relationship in the passage, outright contradicting the passage, and providing information that is either irrelevant to or goes beyond what is found in the passage.


  1. Work Backwards

Once you have eliminated one or two of the answer choices for the first question, move to the second question. Apply each selection of lines to your remaining answer choices for the first question. In order for one of the line selections in the second question to be correct, that selection must directly support the correct answer to the first question. Cross out second question answer choices that do not possess a one-to-one correlation with one of your remaining first question answer choices. You should be able to eliminate at least two of the choices for the second question using this method. If an answer choice for the first question doesn’t seem to “sync up” with any of the answer choices for the second question, eliminate that answer choice as well.


  1. Carefully Consider What You Have Left

At this point you should have only one answer choice left for the first question and no more than two choices left for the second question. Double-check that your remaining choice for the first question is consistent with the main idea of the passage, then consider your remaining choices for the second question. Ask yourself if pairing any of those choices with your remaining first question choice would result in one of the common errors discussed in step 2. Eliminate any that would and you should be left with the correct answers to both questions.


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