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The SAT Has Questions; You Have Answers

You may remember a time when pizza places were advertising a new way to eat their slices. Instead of the traditional method of chowing down on the cheesy tip, the companies said that you could bite straight into the crust first. The unnecessary part of the pizza was interesting: it stored cheese in the middle -- maybe even pepperonis! In other words, the whole way people ate pizza had been reversed.

The SAT and pizza have little in common, but for today, there is one commonality: reversals. Just like how pizza companies wanted you to reverse your approach to eating their delicious food, so too does the SAT reward students who reverse their reading habits. What does this all mean? Well, many people come to the SAT Reading test with the expectations that they need to read the passage first and then answer the questions. This is true, but it is not the only possibility; there are other strategies at work.

Another useful way of solving SAT Reading problems is an approach called "Question First." This method is our reversal; instead of reading the passage and then solving questions, you do the opposite. You look at questions and then read the passage. Better yet, you don't even really read the passage, you just look at it to answer questions.

Many students question the validity of such a method, or they fear that they are cutting corners and by doing so they will get a lower score. These concerns are legitimate; however, they are not quite accurate. Because the SAT Reading requires you to think about passages in ways that are usually different from your standard reading procedure, "Question First" approach helps focus your attention on the elements deemed important by the test.

For the SAT Reading, people often try to apply all the information from the passage to all the questions. This habit is problematic because the tests wants you to focus on the specific areas for most of the questions; you should not synthesize information and make "deep" conclusions. You will not need to combine all the information unless you are solving the main idea or tone, so for all those lovely line-reference questions, you simply look at the specified areas of the passage. In essence, "Question First" eliminates the persistent desire to combine all the passage's information in your head to identify correct answers.

If you are someone who constantly jumbles information in your head, try the sharp focus of "Questions First." It may be weird -- like eating the crust of a pizza first -- but it could do you wonders.


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