The SAT Reading questions are designed to make you lose control of the question. How much gobbledygook is there in an SAT question, especially Reading questions? How often has the following test scenario happened to you?...
You read a passage, then the first question. Then you go back to the passage, looking for the right answer. Then back to the answers, back to the passage, back to the answers…and so on. Do you know what’s happened to you?
You’ve lost control of the question! You probably never had control of the question! If you lose the Question, will you have any idea what to look for in the answers?
If you don't understand the question well enough to answer it, the odds are VERY GOOD that you will cross out the correct answer right from the start.
Here's how to avoid this problem...Do the YOW.

YOW=Your Own Words. Reword the question, always asking: "What does this have to do with the Main Idea?" Quite often, you will reduce the complex question to "Why did the author write these lines?" And, always add the following to your reworded question: "What does it have to do with the Main Idea?" Since the correct answer, most of the time, will be the Main Idea, this YOW step forces you to formulate an answer in your brain BEFORE you consider the answers.

Here's an example from The College Board Official SAT Study Guide, Test 10, pp 962-963. " The author sugests that 'thinking simply' (line 33) works because..." Here's the YOW: Why did he write "thinkly simply", and does it have anything to do with his main idea?

Try this technique yourself, being careful to reread the lines both up and down from Line 33, asking yourself: Why did he write this? Why did he write this? Now sum up in your own words what you think the answer is.
The answer that will pop into your brain will be based on lines 36 and 37: "Before doing anything else, abstract out all irrelevant details!" Get rid of the details. Get rid of the details. Isn't that what the author is saying, in your own words? The entire passage's main idea? Get rid of the details. You now have the answer sitting in your brain. You now have something to match up with the SAT answer. Look at (B)... some problems can be solved if details are ignored. Isn't this the same concept that's in your brain?

Don't look at the answers unless you already have a sense of what to look for. The YOW forces the constant application of the Main Idea. You will also recognize that rare question that is a "detail" question. You will realize that it makes no sense to consider an answer unless you have a clear idea of what that answer SHOULD BE.

One other point:
Occasionally the correct answer will be contrary to the author's POV, but that contrariness will be clearly stated in the question, which will usually reference lines in which the author is discussing an opposing idea. However, that contrariness will still be directly related to the author's Main Idea.

Another point...Occasionally a question will reference an entire paragraph. When you YOW a paragraph question, simply ask yourself what role or function that paragraph plays in the passage as whole, and does it have anything to do with the main idea?

Practice this technique with other reading questions in your BlueBook. If you have questions or comments, please post them here. We promise that you will get an answer.

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    I'm Bob Gilvey, Director of SelectPrep in Caldwell, NJ., a boutique SAT and ACT preparation company providing test preparation services, college admissions consulting, and free SAT practice tests and sample SAT questions. Private 1-on-1 Test Prep in person or on the WEB with SAT live tutoring conferences. We also offer mobile SAT Test Prep on the iPAD and all Android Tablets, including the Kindle Fire. We are strong advocates of e-LEARNING and m-LEARNING.


    June 2012
    May 2012



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