How the SAT Has Ruined Christmas? 🎄

By Kevin Kwok

(Test Preparation (ACT/SAT/SSAT) tutor at The Edge Learning Center)

The festive season is here! Families are congregating, people are loving/hating their presents, and many Christmas carols are being sung to the merriment of all. Sadly, not content with disrupting the busy schedules of high school juniors, the SAT has even managed to steal Christmas from us by putting it into a practice Reading passage! What horseplay! What tomfoolery! Can I see this passage?

Below are two excerpts from the practice Reading passage in question. It is a narrative passage. At this point, our bibliophile narrator is about to receive a Christmas gift from a friendly bookstore:

One Christmas Sempere gave me the best gift I have ever received. It was an old volume, read and experienced to the full.

“Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens,” I read on the cover. 

(Lines 47-51)

…

That afternoon I took my new friend home, hidden under my clothes so that my father wouldn’t see it. It was a rainy winter, with days as gray as lead, and I read Great Expectations about nine times, partly because I had no other book at hand, partly because I did not think there could be a better one in the whole world and I was beginning to suspect that Mr. Dickens had written it just for me. Soon I was convinced that I didn’t want to do anything else in life but learn to do what Mr. Dickens had done. 

(Lines 59-68)

Let’s now use this Christmas-specific portion of the passage to examine a Detail-Evidence question pair from the passage’s accompanying questions:

Question 5

Question 5 is what we call an Implicit Detail question. The word “inferred” tells us that we are looking for a detail from the passage that is not explicitly written down. However, the answer will be a detail that the reader can arrive at after combining two details that have been explicitly written down. 

First, let’s first recall the moment when the narrator introduces the gift:

One Christmas Sempere gave me the best gift I have ever received. It was an old volume, read and experienced to the full.

“Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens,” I read on the cover. 

(Lines 47-51)

We learn that Great Expectations was the best gift he had ever received. Next, let’s go to the moment where the narrator discusses his experience with Great Expectations:

That afternoon I took my new friend home, hidden under my clothes so that my father wouldn’t see it. It was a rainy winter, with days as gray as lead, and I read Great Expectations about nine times, partly because I had no other book at hand, partly because I did not think there could be a better one in the whole world and I was beginning to suspect that Mr. Dickens had written it just for me. Soon I was convinced that I didn’t want to do anything else in life but learn to do what Mr. Dickens had done. 

(Lines 59-68)

Based on the highlighted portions of the excerpt, we can see that the narrator:

    1. Thinks that there is no way there can be a better book than Great Expectations
    2. Wonders if Charles Dickens had written it just for him
    3. Wanted nothing else in life but to “learn to do what Mr. Dickens had done”

Notice how point 3) is just answer A), but reworded! Plus, if we use our logical reasoning, it’s perfectly reasonable to infer that the fact that Great Expectations is the narrator’s favorite book would be linked to how the book compelled him to want to be a writer (i.e. “learn to do what Mr. Dickens had done”). 

Of course, without the context of the entire passage, it’s valid for us to wonder if some of the other answer choices could also be acceptable. That’s where Q6, an Evidence question, comes in. These questions often follow a Detail question and will ask the test-taker to justify his or her choice for the previous qeustion. 

For this example, notice how Q6’s answer D) corresponds to the last sentence of the paragraph – the same one we used to work out the answer to Q5. Secure in the knowledge that we have found the evidence for Q5 that the test wanted us to find, we can go ahead answer A for Question 5 and D for Question 6.

Merry Christmas! For additional SAT help like this, or for help with the ACT, SSAT, English proficiency tests, or any other standardized tests, why not give us a ring to see how we can help.

 

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