Reading Passages
Tackling the Paired RP
Paired RPs also require a slightly different passage-reading and set-tackling strategy. The SAT has been kind enough to organize the items in the following manner:
  • Items concerned with the first passage only come first.
  • These are followed by items concerned with the second passage only.
  • Finally, at the end of the set you’ll find a few items that compare or contrast both passages.
A fairly obvious but very powerful strategy follows from this structure:
Step 1: Read the italicized introduction.
Step 2: Read and skim the first passage.
Step 3: Skip immediately to the items concerned with the first passage only.
Step 4: When you’ve finished these, go back and read the second passage.
Step 5: Skip to the items associated with the second passage only.
Step 6: If you have time, attempt the compare-and-contrast items.
Be flexible when you follow this strategy. “The first passage” doesn’t necessarily mean Passage 1. You’ll choose which passage to read first. For example, you can read the first few lines of each passage and choose the one that’s easier for you. Or, you can just start with the shorter passage.
Flexibility and the experience you gain from practice should also guide how you balance reading and skimming. Each paired RP passage is shorter than a long passage, but longer than a short passage. Rather than give you a hard-and-fast rule about whether to read every word or skim, we’ll let your experience and judgment, as well as the subject matter and length of a particular passage, guide you. As a rule of thumb, if you find yourself getting bogged down in details and supporting examples, skim along until you find a signpost word, term, or some indication of a new thought.
Following this method has two major benefits. First, it splits paired RPs into two scaled-down long passages. By treating each one separately, you avoid the usual danger of paired RPs, which is confusing the two passages. Remember, each passage discusses the same topic from a different perspective, so you might easily mix up the two.
As a result, you’ll find yourself constantly turning back to the two passages, which is a waste of precious time. Who needs that extra pressure? The SAT is tough enough as it is.
Second, by saving the compare-and-contrast items for last, you ensure that you get all the points you can on the easier passage-specific items. As you would expect, compare-and-contrast items are tougher than passage-specific items.
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