Reading Passages
Tackling the Items
The College Board breaks RP items into three categories:
  • Vocabulary-in-Context
  • Literal Comprehension
  • Extended Reasoning
The first two categories are quite discrete. Vocabulary-in-Context (VIC) items ask you to define a particular word based on the context in which it was used in the passage. Literal Comprehension (LC) items essentially require you to find particular data in the passage—a bit like a mini-“research” project. The idea is to test how well (and quickly) you absorb information.
The third category is the kicker. Extended Reasoning includes a huge range of potential items, the major ones being:
  • Recognizing the main idea, purpose, tone, theme, topic, and logic of a passage.
  • Recognizing the use of rhetorical devices and literary techniques.
  • Making inferences based on the passage.
  • Identifying cause and effect and following the logic of arguments.
  • Comparing and contrasting arguments.
And those are just the major ones. Extended Reasoning encompasses pretty much anything that’s not a VIC or a LC item.
We feel that the only reason to break The College Board’s Extended Reasoning category into smaller subcategories is to encourage and enable the kind of pacing strategies you’ll need to maximize your score. If you can identify a limited number of distinct item-stems, you’ll be able to quickly scan all the item-stems in an RP and decide the order in which you’ll attempt the items. We’ll discuss this set-level strategy—called Bombing Runs—in detail in the next section.
With this strategic goal in mind, we’ve broken Extended Reasoning into three smaller, but still broad, categories. Those three added to VIC and LC make five item types in total:
  • VIC
  • LC
  • Tone
  • Purpose/Main Idea
  • Inference
Keep in mind that there are countless other item subtypes that you’ll run into throughout this book and in the practice sets. You’ll be perfectly prepared to handle them as they come up if you do the following three things:
  • Follow the step methods for tackling passages we presented in the preceding section.
  • Follow the step method for tackling items we’ll present in the following section, including Bombing Runs.
  • Practice, practice, practice in order to build up your familiarity with the variety of items you might see.
Bombing Runs
Unlike some other item types on the SAT, RP items are not presented in order of difficulty. However, items that refer to words or lines in a passage are presented in the order in which those words or lines appear in the passage. For example, an item that asks about line 13 will always come before an item that asks about line 23. Items that ask about the passage as a whole, such as Main Idea/Purpose, may appear anywhere in the set.
The cardinal rule of SAT test-taking is to skip around, doing those items that are easiest first and saving the rest for last. Do not simply begin with the first item and work through the set in order. Never forget that every item is worth the same amount of points. So, it makes no sense to struggle with item 1 for five minutes when you could have answered items 2 through 4 correctly in the same amount of time.
The way to avoid this classic error is to fly “Bombing Runs.” To illustrate this method, assume your set has ten items. Begin by reading the first item. Do not read the answers: read the stem only. If it seems easy, complete that item and move on to the next stem. If you encounter a challenging stem, skip that item. (Make sure to circle the entire item in your test booklet if you skip it. Also, enter answers in five-item blocks, omitting whichever you’ve skipped. You don’t want to misgrid your answers.) After you’ve handled all the items that are easy for you, return to those items that you think you could figure out, given a little more time. Make another Bombing Run, skipping all of the really tough ones. Repeat your Bombing Runs until time runs out.
Tackling the Long RP Set
Make sure you attack your long RP sets in the following manner (we’ll discuss the “special cases” later):
Step 1: Tackle the passage.
Step 2: Read all the item stems in the set.
Step 3: Decide which items will need the least investment and tackle those first. Leave others for last.
Tackling Individual Items
The key with all SAT items is to have some idea of the answer before you look at the answer choices. The distractors are there to do just that—distract you. Don’t let that happen. Use the following method every time you attempt an RP item:
Step 1: Cover up the answer choices.
Step 2: Read the stem carefully.
Step 3: If directed to the passage, go back and read the referenced lines.
Step 4: Generate a potential answer without looking at the answer choices.
Step 5: Compare your potential fix or answer to the answer choices and eliminate all that do not match.
Step 6: Take a moment to double-check your selection.
Let’s apply our set step method and item step method in “slow motion” to see how this all works.
Tackling the RP Set in Slow Motion
Let’s work through a typical long RP set.
Step 1: Tackle the Passage.
We’ll use the Vitruvius passage, which you’ve already tackled using our step method. Make sure to refer back to your margin notes and the charts you filled in as you work through this exercise. We’ll reproduce our versions of the charts below for convenience.
First “quarter” Vitr. and Etruscan temples—why no diversity—why did he simplify in his book? 1st reason: traditional; Greek proportionality
Paragraph 3 another reason—more mundane
Paragraph 4 O.A. not for archs—it’s V.’s résumé
Paragraph 5 O.A. originally scrolls, not book
Paragraph 6 résumé + scrolls = another reason for lack of diversity in Et. Temples
Topic V.’s book on architecture/Reasons why V. ignored diversity in Etruscan temples
Main Idea Along with traditional interpretation—V. liked Greek phil.—author adds that purpose of book (to get work for V.) and scroll-nature of book explain lack of diversity.
Purpose To introduce another “mundane” explanation for why V. ignored diversity in Etruscan temples.
Tone respectfully academic; a discussion
Step 2: Read all the item stems in the set.
Here are the stems:
1. As used in line 12, the word “liberal” most nearly means
2. On the whole, the author’s attitude toward the traditional scholarly explanation of Vitruvius’ description of the Etruscan temple style described in lines 10–30 is one of
3. The principal function of the fifth paragraph (lines 48–60) is to show
4. The author would most likely agree that the physical form of ancient books
5. The main purpose of the passage is to
Step 3: Decide which items will need the least investment and tackle those first. Leave others for last.
We don’t want you to spend any time categorizing the exact order in which you’ll tackle all the items in the set. Doing it one by one is fine: pick the easiest item, complete it, pick the easiest item from those that remain, complete that one, and so on until you’re done or time runs out. Keep in mind that it won’t take you very long to read the stems, and the time you’ll save and points you’ll gain tackling questions according to your order of difficulty will more than compensate for the minute or so you’ll invest.
Having said that, in order to give you an idea of the thought processes involved in this step, we’ll categorize all five items at once in the following chart. This categorization is just one way of approaching the five items. When you work through practice sets, you should follow your own order based on your strengths and experience. What we want you to absorb is the importance and efficiency of doing easy items first. In general, however, you’ll find that the VIC and Main Idea/Purpose items tend to require less of an investment than LC or Inference items.
Order Item Reason
1st 1 I’ll do the VIC first. They require the least investment.
2nd 5 I already have a good idea of what the main idea and purpose of the passage are. This requires no further effort to answer.
3rd 2 I know that the traditional scholarly interpretation of Vitruvius’ treatment of Etruscan temples was covered in the first chunk. I have a good idea about what this was, and I also have a sense of the passage’s overall tone. A relatively low investment will likely be needed to get a point.
4th 3 Here’s a Detail question that will require a little research, but which still should be a straightforward “mini-research project.”
5th 4 Here’s an inference question, and it requires me to take on the role of the author. This is a little tricky—but doable. I’ll save it for last to ensure that I lock down the lower-investment items first.
Remember, we categorized all the items at once for instructional purposes only. You’ll decide one-by-one which item to tackle as you move through the set.
Now you’re ready to deal with each item.
Tackling the Items in Slow Motion
Let’s apply the item step method to the items that follow. First we’ll attempt each of the five items we categorized in the order we arrived at above: 1, 5, 2, 3, 4. We’ll work through these five together, noting some typical features of each. Then, we’ll provide you with some more items based on the Vitruvius passage for you to work through on your own. We’ve provided one representative item from each of the five major item types.
Item 1, Vocabulary-in-Context (VIC)
Step 1: Cover up the answer choices.
1. As used in line 12, the word “liberal” most nearly means
We’ve done this for you. Use your hand or an index card to hide the naughty distractors from you.
Step 2: Read the stem carefully.
Pretty much all VICs look like this item.
Step 3: If directed to the passage, go back and read the referenced lines.
The key to VICs is going back to the sentence that’s referenced, and often to either the sentence before, the sentence after, or both. Here it is:

In chapter six, Vitruvius reports that he has had the benefit of a liberal Greek education, which he recommends to all aspiring architects. Without such broad training, Vitruvius argues, no architect can understand proper architectural theory.

What was the main idea of this chunk, anyway? That traditional scholars attributed Vitruvius’ treatment of Etruscan temples to his adherence to Greek philosophical ideas of proportionality.
If you took out liberal, what else would work?

In chapter six, Vitruvius reports that he has had the benefit of a ___ Greek education, which he recommends to all aspiring architects. Without such broad training, Vitruvius argues, no architect can understand proper architectural theory.

Notice that the phrase without such broad training gives you a clue as to what the “missing” word should be.
Step 4: Generate a potential answer without looking at the answer choices.
You want something like “broad.” Note that liberal is one of those words that has several common meanings. Naturally, these are the kinds of words that usually show up in VICs. This item type tests not just vocabulary, but vocabulary in context.
Don’t fret too much about coming up with the perfect prediction. A phrase will do just fine, especially since the correct answer is often a phrase, rather than a specific word.
Step 5: Compare your potential fix or answer to the answer choices and eliminate all that do not match.
Here are the answer choices:
1. As used in line 12, the word “liberal” most nearly means
(A) tolerant
(B) generous
(C) free-thinking
(D) wide-ranging
(E) narrow
Most of the choices are legitimate definitions of liberal. But you’re looking for the correct definition in context. That’s exactly why you want to arm yourself with a prediction before you even look at the choices.
E is exactly the opposite of what you’re looking for. Eliminate it. (You’ll very often see the opposite of what you’re looking for in the answer choices.) A, B, and C also do not match your prediction, “broad.” D works.
Step 6: Take a moment to double-check your selection.
Plug wide-ranging back into the sentence as a check. (You’ll do this in your head, of course.)

In chapter six, Vitruvius reports that he has had the benefit of a wide-ranging Greek education, which he recommends to all aspiring architects. Without such broad training, Vitruvius argues, no architect can understand proper architectural theory.

Don’t skip this step! It takes a second and can save you 1 point (If you catch an error in your thinking at this stage, you’ll gain a point where you might have lost a quarter-point for a 1-point turnaround). That’s a pretty good time investment.
Item 5, Main Idea/Purpose
Step 1: Cover up the answer choices.
5. The main purpose of the passage is to
Step 2: Read the stem carefully.
Main Idea/Purpose items vary a little in form, but they’re easily identifiable. Phrases like “main idea,” “primary purpose,” and “main point” identify this item type.
Step 3: If directed to the passage, go back and read the referenced lines.
Not applicable here. This is a “global” item that asks about the passage as a whole. Most long RP sets contain a Main Idea/Purpose item.
Step 4: Generate a potential answer without looking at the answer choices.
What did we determine the purpose to be?

To introduce another “mundane” explanation for why Vitruvius ignored diversity in Etruscan temples.

By tackling the passage in the manner we suggested, you already have a ready-made potential answer with no extra effort!
Step 5: Compare your potential fix or answer to the answer choices and eliminate all that do not match.
Here are the answer choices:
5. The main purpose of the passage is to
(A) expose Vitruvius’ dishonesty
(B) prove the value of a Greek education
(C) suggest that Vitruvius considered Etruscan temples to be the most important type of temple
(D) discuss the differences between ancient scrolls and modern books
(E) account for the difference between Vitruvius’ written description of Etruscan temples and their archaeological remains
Before we settle on an answer choice, we want you to notice a couple of things. First, notice how the first word in each answer choice is a verb:
(A) expose Vitruvius’ dishonesty
(B) prove the value of a Greek education
(C) suggest that Vitruvius considered Etruscan temples to be the most important type of temple
(D) discuss the differences between ancient scrolls and modern books
(E) account for the difference between Vitruvius’ written description of Etruscan temples and their archaeological remains
Which verb matches the author’s purpose most closely? You can eliminate A right off the bat. It doesn’t match the passage’s tone. (As we noted earlier, tone and purpose bleed into and play off of each other.) Answer choices with extreme language tend to be incorrect (we’ll return to this point later on).
Choice B is a distortion. Since so many distractors boil down to distortions of the text, it’s worth teasing out exactly how this nasty little distractor does its dastardly distorting duty.
One typical distortion technique is to purposely mix up beliefs that the author holds with beliefs held by the people the author discusses. In the passage, the author mentions that Vitruvius valued a Greek education. The author’s opinion is neither stated nor relevant. The reason the author mentions a Greek education is to present the traditional scholarly interpretation of Vitruvius’ treatment of Etruscan temples. If you were pressed for time you might have grabbed for B simply because it “looks familiar.” That’s how RP item distractors seduce you, so be warned!
Choice C is another typical distractor. It states the exact opposite of what the passage states. The author noted that the fact that Vitruvius buried his discussion of Etruscan temples at the end of a book (i.e., scroll) most likely means that Vitruvius didn’t think it very important.
(By the way, whether or not you agree with that judgment isn’t important—what matters is what the author thinks. This is true of all RPs. Not only must you keep the author’s beliefs separate from the beliefs of the people he discusses, but you must also keep your own opinions out of it as well. You’re being tested on how much you can gather from the text, not what you know about the topic.)
Choice D is yet another typical distractor. It’s perfectly true that the author discusses the differences between ancient scrolls and modern books. But is that the main purpose of the passage? What is supporting what here? This distractor tries to pass a supporting notion off as the main purpose of the passage. The SAT wants to make sure you understand the hierarchical nature of written arguments. It’s a key feature of effective nonfiction prose writing.
Well, there’s not much suspense left now, is there? Choice E matches your prediction very nicely. That statement encompasses the entire passage. It includes both the discussion of the traditional explanation and the author’s own complementary explanation.
But notice one thing choices B, C, and D have in common. Each of them puts forward a subordinate or secondary feature of the passage as the main, overarching purpose or point. Since you know that this is a Main Idea/Purpose item, a subordinate feature of the passage can’t be right.
Step 6: Take a moment to double-check your selection.
Silently reading the stem-plus-answer choice as a full sentence is good enough:

The main purpose of the passage is to account for the difference between Vitruvius’ written description of Etruscan temples and their archaeological remains.

Sounds good!
Item 2, Tone
Step 1: Cover up the answer choices.
2. On the whole, the author’s attitude toward the traditional scholarly explanation of Vitruvius’ description of the Etruscan temple style described in lines 10–30 is one of
Step 2: Read the stem carefully.
Tone items focus on the author. How does the author feel about his subject or the people or ideas he’s discussing?
Step 3: If directed to the passage, go back and read the referenced lines.
By reading the first line in the third paragraph when you tackled the passage, you learned that the author felt that the traditional explanation is a pretty good one:

Vitruvius’ belief that specific natural proportions should be extended to architectural forms helps to explain why he idealized Etruscan temples.

Step 4: Generate a potential answer without looking at the answer choices.
What’s the author’s general tone? When we tackled the passage, we wrote:

respectfully academic; a discussion

That certainly holds in this specific instance as well. Once again, the information you gathered by reading and skimming the passage provides a good prediction to one of the items with no extra effort required.
Step 5: Compare your potential fix or answer to the answer choices and eliminate all that do not match.
Here are the answer choices:
2. On the whole, the author’s attitude toward the traditional scholarly explanation of Vitruvius’ description of the Etruscan temple style described in lines 10–30 is one of
(A) indifference
(B) respect
(C) frustration
(D) interest
(E) mistrust
In this case, B jumps right out.
Let’s say you hadn’t nailed down the tone as precisely as we did. Let’s say all you knew was that it was “good” rather than “bad.” That’s very useful information! You can eliminate any choice that contains a negative word: A, C, and E. Now you have a 50-50 shot at getting a point. Furthermore, you might notice that interest is not quite specific enough. One could show interest and still take on quite a negative tone.
Step 6: Take a moment to double-check your selection.
In this case, this step is lightning-quick. You know you’ve got the right answer; simply pause for a split second to make sure.
Item 3, LC
Step 1: Cover up the answer choices.
3. The principal function of the fifth paragraph (lines 48–60) is to show
Step 2: Read the stem carefully.
We’ve described LC items as mini-research projects. You’re told where to go in the passage. The combination of your margin notes and a little research will give you the answer.
Step 3: If directed to the passage, go back and read the referenced lines.
In this case, you’re asked why a particular paragraph is included in the passage. As with almost all RP items, knowing the main idea of the passage sets the stage for success. Our margin note for paragraph five was:

O.A. originally scrolls, not book

The scroll-vs.-book point is brought up in support of the author’s “mundane” explanation for Vitruvius’ treatment of Etruscan temples. (The other point was the résumé-like nature of On Architecture as a whole.)
Since this is a paragraph-level detail item, you don’t need to actually go back and read the referenced lines, another benefit of tackling the passage as we suggest.
Step 4: Generate a potential answer without looking at the answer choices.
The scroll-vs.-book point is brought up in support of the author’s “mundane” explanation for Vitruvius’ treatment of Etruscan temples. Specifically, the physical act of reading scrolls shaped how ancient authors organized their writings.
Step 5: Compare your potential fix or answer to the answer choices and eliminate all that do not match.
Here are the answer choices:
3. The principal function of the fifth paragraph (lines 48–60) is to show
(A) that contemporary architects did not find On Architecture helpful to their work
(B) why Vitruvius ended up building so many structures for Augustus
(C) how Vitruvius constructed On Architecture’s ten chapters with his audience’s likely reading habits in mind
(D) that Augustus was as busy as any modern-day executive
(E) how the nature of ancient scrolls discouraged readers
Choice A is one of those nasty distortions. We don’t know that contemporary architects didn’t find Vitruvius’ book helpful. All the author said was that architects weren’t Vitruvius’ primary audience. Furthermore, even if he had said that, it’s beside the point: this paragraph is about scrolls, not intended audience. Choice B is also a distortion: we don’t know whether Vitruvius did or did not end up getting architectural commissions. All we know is that the author maintains that this was what Vitruvius was trying to do.
Choice C looks pretty good. Keep it in mind, but take the time to look at all the answer choices. That keeps you from being tricked by a particularly seductive distractor; it’s worth the extra few seconds.
Choice D is tricky because it’s a perfectly legitimate inference. But this paragraph is not primarily concerned with Augustus. Rather, it’s concerned with Vitruvius. It’s about why Vitruvius constructed his treatise in the way that he did. He did so because he knew that his likely audience would be very busy, but the fact that his audience would be very busy is not the point. It’s a small distinction but a real one. The nastiest distractors make distinctions such as these. By keeping the main idea of the entire passage in mind, you’ll be able to distinguish between the correct answer and very seductive distractors like this one. The worst thing that could happen is you guess between two answer choices, which is not a bad situation to be in.
Choice E is an easier distractor to spot. We don’t know that scrolls discouraged readers. This is an unwarranted inference from the statement that the physical nature of scrolls encouraged ancient authors to construct their books in a particular fashion.
Step 6: Take a moment to double-check your selection.
Combine the stem with choice C by reading the full sentence to yourself:

The principal function of the fifth paragraph is to show how Vitruvius constructed On Architecture’s ten chapters with his audience’s likely reading habits in mind.

Sounds good!
Item 4, Inference
Step 1: Cover up the answer choices.
4. The author would most likely agree that the physical form of ancient books
Step 2: Read the stem carefully.
Inferences require a bit of thought. Since this is a key reading skill, you’ll find a few of them in each RP set. This particular example requires you to “role-play.” In order to answer this item correctly, you need to get inside the head of the author and decide what he or she would “most likely” think, based on what you know from the passage. Again, the author’s main idea and purpose lie behind this particular item. These items require creative and flexible thinking.
This example includes typical phrases you’ll find in Inference items. These phrases include:
  • “The author would most likely . . . ”
  • “The author implies . . . ”
  • “The passage implies . . . ”
  • “The implication of . . . ”
  • “It can be inferred from the passage that . . . ”
  • “The author suggests . . . ”
This isn’t a complete list, of course, but you get the idea.
Step 3: If directed to the passage, go back and read the referenced lines.
Many inference items are “global” and don’t include references. As you’ll see in the next step, though, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go back to the passage.
Step 4: Generate a potential answer without looking at the answer choices.
When you’re dealing with Inference items, this step needs to be understood a little more loosely. It’s difficult to precisely predict what the answer will be. There are many possible ways to complete this stem accurately. This is usually what freaks people out, causing them to skip these items altogether or to immediately dive into the dangerous waters of the answer choices, where nasty distractors are on the lookout for panicky test-takers.
However, these possibilities are limited by the specific function that the scroll-form of ancient books plays in this passage. So, for this step, simply step back and remind yourself of what this function was. In our margin notes we wrote: “O.A. originally scrolls, not book.” In order to flesh this out a bit so that we’re not thrown by distractors, now would be a good time to go back to where scrolls are discussed and read (word-for-word this time) the parts we originally skimmed. We’ll reproduce that paragraph here:

      Moreover, one must also keep in mind that On Architecture, like all ancient books, was originally published as a series of scrolls. Each modern “chapter” most likely corresponds to one ancient scroll. This physical form lent even greater significance to the snappy, pertinent introductions and the concise writing that modern readers also demand. The physical act of reading a scroll made the kind of flipping back and forth that modern paginated books allow significantly more inconvenient. Scrolls strongly encouraged ancient authors to front-load the most important ideas they wanted to convey. The ancient author had to earn each “unrolling” by concentrating that much more on the order in which ideas were presented and the economy with which they were expressed—and how much more so when one’s intended audience is the emperor of Rome?

OK. The main point here is that scrolls made ancient writers more mindful of the organization and presentation of their ideas than modern writers since reading a scroll was a bit more inconvenient than reading a modern book. So our answer choice should somehow reflect this point.
Before we go on, notice that this item requires a bit of reading and thought. And we haven’t even hit the answer choices yet. This is exactly why Bombing Runs are so important. Never, ever forget that each item is worth the same amount. This fact leads to a key inference: you should always answer all the items that require the least investment first.
Step 5: Compare your potential fix or answer to the answer choices and eliminate all that do not match.
Here are the answer choices:
4. The author would most likely agree that the physical form of ancient books
(A) prevented ancient authors from writing as well as modern authors
(B) encouraged the writing of encyclopedic overviews
(C) was responsible for the spread of ancient knowledge
(D) is a unique source of insight into ancient writing largely ignored by traditional scholars
(E) undermined the ability of ancient authors to gain patrons
Choice A is an unwarranted inference. For all we know from this passage, the author might even think that ancient authors were superior to their modern counterparts since scrolls required ancient authors to pay a lot of attention to how they structured their writings. But we simply don’t know what the author thought because he gives no hint of a preference between ancient and modern writers.
Choice B is the exact opposite of what the passage states. Scrolls forced ancient writers to put the most important information at the beginning of their “chapters” and discouraged including unnecessary detail. Notice that the mention of “encyclopedic detail” occurs in the last paragraph. You may or may not have noted this when you tackled the passage. But if you didn’t catch that mention, your knowledge of the main idea of the passage and of this paragraph gives you the information you need to eliminate this choice.
Choice C is what we refer to as a “left-field” choice. You can usually count on at least one choice being so way out in left field that it’s relatively easy to eliminate. Being “out in left field” is another way of saying, “outside the scope of the passage.” Here’s one specific instance in which “scope” comes into play. Once you eliminate even one choice as being wrong, even if you can’t go any further, you should guess from the remaining four. You’ll be ahead of the wrong-answer penalty. Every little piece of test-taking strategy helps. As you practice, you’ll get better and better at knowing instinctively when to pull which “tool” out of your “toolbox.” In fact, that’s the main benefit of practice, as we’ll discuss in a later section.
Choice D looks pretty good. The author presents the scroll-nature of ancient books as a novel source of insight into the content and structure of ancient writing, and specifically Vitruvius’ On Architecture. While the author accepts the validity of the traditional scholarly interpretation, which is based on Vitruvius’ adherence to Greek philosophy, the author’s purpose is to present a new, different, but complementary explanation based on more “mundane” considerations.
Choice E is a typical distortion. You’ve heard the proverb “Don’t compare apples and oranges.” Well, distractors like these do something quite similar: “apples” and “oranges” are combined. Sure, the passage argues that the desire to gain Augustus as a patron drove Vitruvius’ writing (the “apple”). But this point is completely separate from the nature of writing for scrolls, as opposed to modern books (the “orange”). Distractors like these merely associate terms and concepts from the passage in order to lure you into making a mistake.
Step 6: Take a moment to double-check your selection.
Combine the stem with choice D by reading the full sentence to yourself:

The author would most likely agree that the physical form of ancient books is a unique source of insight into ancient writing largely ignored by traditional scholars.

Excellent!
Now that you’ve gotten a taste of each of the five main item types and of the item-specific step method, let’s briefly discuss some helpful “backward strategies.” Then, we’ll let you loose on some more items so you can begin to practice what you’ve learned.
Backward Strategies for RP Items
As you’ve already gathered, RPs are quite complex. The passages require special attention, and the items feature a lot of variety and demand quite a bit of thought and flexibility. It’s impossible to anticipate every potential scenario you might find yourself in. Thankfully, it’s also unnecessary. Along with the essential concepts and strategies we’ve just presented, we also have some powerful backward strategies.
Backward strategies are strategies you can apply when you’re either having trouble applying the standard step method or when you’re running out of time. It’s best to present these strategies, some of which we’ve already alluded to, as “tools” for your “toolbox,” which you can pull out if and when you need them. Add these important tips to your list of essential concepts and strategies, and you will be in an excellent position to maximize your score.
Always keep the main idea and primary purpose of the passage uppermost in your mind.
Even for those items that are not explicitly “global,” knowing the main idea/purpose can help you eliminate distractors in a pinch. Keeping the main idea/purpose in mind can also help you when you’re having trouble formulating a potential correct answer too. So, when in doubt, step back and consider the main idea and purpose.
After all, the SAT is concerned with how well and how quickly you can figure out what’s going on in a passage you’ve never seen before. The test-makers (as well as colleges and universities) know that given enough time you can get all the detailed information you need out of any written material. That’s not really what they’re interested in.
A related tip is to consider the scope of the topic presented. Distractors that are “out in left field”—i.e., outside the scope—are almost always wrong and can be safely eliminated in order to narrow the field of choices for an educated guess.
Choices with “extreme” language are usually wrong.
Look at the following chart:
Time Space or Amount
Never None
Rarely A little/few
Sometimes Some
Often/frequently A lot/most
Always All
The extreme terms are at the top and bottom of this chart; the middle terms are more measured, and therefore more likely to be correct when applied to any statement.
Another key term is only. This doesn’t quite fit into the chart above but realize that it has a very restrictive meaning, and is “extreme” in the sense we’re discussing now. For example, if I say, “The Beatles were the only worthwhile rock group that was active in the 1960s,” well, that’s a pretty extreme statement. All you would need to do to refute that statement is present a halfway-decent argument that any other 1960s rock group was “worthwhile.”
Since we’re discussing words you might find in a stem, we might as well mention EXCEPT and NOT. The SAT always capitalizes these words when they’re in a stem. The test-makers do not want to trick you, but sometimes they do want to throw in a twist to test your ability to reverse the logic in a passage. You may want to leave EXCEPT/NOT items for last, but keep an eye out for them in any event.
For VICs, when in doubt, eliminate the choice that contains the most common meaning of the word in question.
Consider why this should be the case. VICs are not a direct test of vocabulary knowledge. VICs use vocabulary to test your comprehension of the context in which vocabulary is used. They cannot be answered without referring to the passage. So, VIC choices must contain at least two legitimate definitions of the word in question, or else test-takers could simply select the one legitimate definition without referring to the passage at all. Finally, if the most common definition of the word in question were always the correct choice, VICs would not do a very good job of using vocabulary to test your comprehension of the context in which the word appears. The correct choices tend to be less common definitions of the word in question. Therefore, if you’re stumped, eliminate the choice that contains the most common meaning—the meaning that would be listed first in the dictionary, so to speak—and go with one of the other choices.
OK. Your “toolbox” is almost full. It’s time to unleash you on a few items you haven’t seen so you can start practicing what you’ve learned.
Guided and Independent Practice
We provide three more items below based on the Vitruvius passage. We’ve selected the order in which you’ll attempt them. You’ll have ample opportunity to fly Bombing Runs on the passage sets in the back of the book. We guide you through the first two items. You’ll attempt the third on your own.
Each item is preceded by the relevant excerpt from the passage. We present these excerpts only to make clear what each stem refers to. You don’t need to read the entire excerpt. Once you’ve read and understood each stem below, go to the next section, “Guided Practice: Item 6,” and begin.

24

                              . . . . Thus, Vitruvius claimed to “find”

correspondences between proportional measurements of the human

body—that the hand’s length is one-tenth the body’s height, for

27

example—and proportional measurements of the Etruscan temple.

6. In lines 24–27, the author most likely uses quotation marks in order to
(A) imply that Vitruvius purposely invented correspondences between proportional measurements of the human body and proportional measurements of the Etruscan temple that he knew didn’t exist
(B) underscore the unimportance of Greek philosophy in Vitruvius’ treatise
(C) suggest that Vitruvius’ background in Greek philosophy prepared him to notice the types of proportional correspondences between the human body and the Etruscan temple he writes about
(D) show that Vitruvius didn’t mention proportional correspondences between the human body and the Etruscan temple in his treatise
(E) emphasize Vitruvius’ fundamental mistake in his discussion of Etruscan temples

37

      Despite its title, On Architecture was not written primarily for

architects. It was written to convince the emperor Augustus, the most

powerful patron in Rome, to give Vitruvius the opportunity to do large-

40

scale architectural work. Vitruvius knew that if Augustus devoted any

time at all to On Architecture, the emperor would most likely do what

busy executives still do to this day: he would read the introductions to

each of the ten chapters and skip the rest of the book. Reading On

Architecture in this manner—each introduction in sequence—is a

45

revelation. One quickly realizes that the chapter introductions

constitute an ancient résumé designed to convince Augustus to entrust

47

part of his architectural legacy to Vitruvius.

7. Which of the following, if true, would most clearly strengthen the author’s assertion that the introductions to On Architecture constitute an ancient résumé (lines 37–47)?
(A) The chapter introductions in On Architecture mostly discuss technical matters of architecture.
(B) The chapter introductions of other ancient treatises on architecture tend to advertise their author’s qualifications, knowledge, and experience.
(C) The chapter introductions in On Architecture consist of a critique of buildings commissioned by Augustus which have already been completed.
(D) The latter portion of each chapter in On Architecture contains extended discussion of Vitruvius’ various accomplishments and wide-ranging knowledge of architecture.
(E) The chapter introductions in On Architecture feature discussions of Vitruvius’ qualifications, knowledge, and experience.

31

      Vitruvius’ belief that specific natural proportions should be extended

to architectural forms does help to explain why he idealized Etruscan

temples. After all, mathematical models generally don’t allow for much

deviation. However, far more mundane considerations acted in concert

35

with Vitruvius’ allegiance to Greek notions of mathematical harmony to

36

encourage the idealization of the Etruscan temple.

8. Which of the following most accurately describes the organization of the third paragraph (lines 31–36)?
(A) One explanation of a situation is refuted and another is suggested.
(B) An alternative explanation is supported by evidence.
(C) An explanation of a situation is determined to be helpful but incomplete.
(D) An explanation of a situation is used to predict future events.
(E) Two opposing explanations are reconciled with each other.
Guided Practice: Item 6
Try this one on your own.
Step 1: Cover up the answer choices.
Here is the stem by itself:
6. In line 24–27, the author most likely uses quotation marks in order to
Step 2: Read the stem carefully.
What kind of item is this? Circle one of the following, or, alternatively, cross out those options that you know this item doesn’t represent.
VIC
LC
Tone
Purpose/Main Idea
Inference
Step 3: If directed to the passage, go back and read the referenced lines.
Here’s the paragraph that contains the referenced lines:

      Traditionally, scholars answered this question by pointing to Vitruvius’ allegiance to Greek philosophy. In chapter six, Vitruvius reports that he has had the benefit of a liberal Greek education, which he recommends to all aspiring architects. Without such broad training, Vitruvius argues, no architect can understand proper architectural theory. For Vitruvius, architectural theory rested on the principles of mathematical proportion promulgated by such Greek philosophers as Pythagoras. These philosophers believed that the universe was structured according to god-given mathematical laws. They further believed that the harmonious mathematical structure of the universe (the macrocosm) was reflected in the structure of the human body (the microcosm). Vitruvius extended this reflection to architectural forms. Temples, Vitruvius believed, must reflect the mathematical proportionality of the body, just as the body reflects the mathematical proportionality of the universe. Thus, Vitruvius claimed to “find” correspondences between proportional measurements of the human body—that the hand’s length is one-tenth the body’s height, for example—and proportional measurements of the Etruscan temple. Vitruvius Hellenized the Etruscan temple by superimposing Greek notions of mathematical proportionality on his purportedly empirical description of the Etruscan temple style.

You may refer back to your margin notes as well. Also, here are our margin notes and notes on main idea, tone, etc.:
First “quarter” Vitr. And Etruscan temples—why no diversity—why did he simplify in his book? 1st reason: traditional; Greek proportionality
Paragraph 3 Another reason—more mundane
Paragraph 4 O.A. not for archs—it’s V.’s résumé
Paragraph 5 O.A. originally scrolls, not book
Paragraph 6 résumé + scrolls = another reason for lack of diversity in Et. Temples
Topic V’s book on architecture/Reasons why V. ignored diversity in Etruscan temples
Main Idea Along with traditional interpretation—V. liked Greek phil.—author adds that purpose of book (to get work for V.) and scroll-nature of book explain lack of diversity.
Purpose To introduce another “mundane” explanation for why V. ignored diversity in Etruscan temples.
Tone respectfully academic; a discussion
Step 4: Generate a potential answer without looking at the answer choices.
Jot down some notes that quickly explain why the author used quotes around the word find in the space provided below:
Step 5: Compare your potential fix or answer to the answer choices and eliminate all that do not match.
Here are the answer choices:
6. In lines 24–27, the author most likely uses quotation marks in order to
(A) imply that Vitruvius purposely invented correspondences between proportional measurements of the human body and proportional measurements of the Etruscan temple that he knew didn’t exist
(B) underscore the unimportance of Greek philosophy in Vitruvius’ treatise
(C) suggest that Vitruvius’ background in Greek philosophy prepared him to notice the types of proportional correspondences between the human body and the Etruscan temple he writes about
(D) show that Vitruvius didn’t mention proportional correspondences between the human body and the Etruscan temple in his treatise
(E) emphasize Vitruvius’ fundamental mistake in his discussion of Etruscan temples
Step 6: Take a moment to double-check your selection.
Guided Practice Explanation: Item 6
Step 1: Cover up the answer choices.
6. In lines 24–27, the author most likely uses quotation marks in order to
Step 2: Read the stem carefully.
This item asks you to get inside the head of the author and explain why he used a particular rhetorical device. In this case, it isn’t some highfalutin device like irony or foreshadowing. It’s a far more ordinary trope: using quotation marks around a term for a particular rhetorical effect. In our classification, it’s closest to a Tone item.
If you were working through a complete set here, you would only attempt this item after you tackled VIC, Main Idea/Purpose, and any other lower-investment items. Always keep Bombing Runs in the back of your mind!
Step 3: If directed to the passage, go back and read the referenced lines.
It’s a good idea to quickly review what you already know about this part of the passage and about the passage as a whole. First, we know that this paragraph is about the traditional explanation of Vitruvius’ treatment of Etruscan temples. Second, we know that the tone is one of respectful discussion. You’ve already read a big chunk of this paragraph, but, now that you’ve been asked a specific question, it makes sense to go back and read the rest.
Step 4: Generate a potential answer without looking at the answer choices.
It looks to us like the author put find in quotes to let his modern audience know that he, the author, does not share the same Greek philosophical beliefs that he’s ascribing to Vitruvius. It’s not that he thinks Vitruvius was “making it all up” or being dishonest in any way. The author is simply making sure that his modern audience realizes that he, the author, is keeping his critical distance from Vitruvius. Those two little quotation marks are a very efficient way of saying: “Look, audience, I just want you to know that I don’t believe in Pythagorean philosophy. But I do want you to realize that Vitruvius clearly did, and that belief is the source of the traditional explanation for his treatment of Etruscan temples.” We’re in the realm of style now: how authors use written language to convey their ideas.
Would you have to write out a full paragraph like we just did in order to get this idea straight in your head? Of course not—we’re just giving a full explanation. Your jottings might look more like this:

quotes show that V’s beliefs not author’s

As is the case with most tough reading items, this item turns on how well you can keep the author’s beliefs separate from the beliefs of the people the author discusses. In fiction passages, some of the tough items test how well you can keep the narrator’s point of view separate from other characters’ points of view. That’s closely analogous to this kind of common nonfiction item (and it’s also another reason why you shouldn’t let fiction passages throw you too much). The items are very similar; after all, the SAT wants to test how well you comprehend written material, regardless of whether that material is fiction or nonfiction.
Step 5: Compare your potential fix or answer to the answer choices and eliminate all that do not match.
Here are the answer choices:
6. In lines 24–27, the author most likely uses quotation marks in order to
(A) imply that Vitruvius purposely invented correspondences between proportional measurements of the human body and proportional measurements of the Etruscan temple that he knew didn’t exist
(B) underscore the unimportance of Greek philosophy in Vitruvius’ treatise
(C) suggest that Vitruvius’ background in Greek philosophy prepared him to notice the types of proportional correspondences between the human body and the Etruscan temple he writes about
(D) show that Vitruvius didn’t mention proportional correspondences between the human body and the Etruscan temple in his treatise
(E) emphasize Vitruvius’ fundamental mistake in his discussion of Etruscan temples
Look at choice A. That’s some pretty extreme and harsh language. “Extreme” language isn’t just about a few commonly used terms (“all,” “every,” “none,” etc.). It’s also a matter of emotion. Answer choices like A are usually incorrect, because items test finer distinctions of meaning. If the passage had the tone of an “exposé,” then A might be correct. But the tone is “respectfully academic.” If you were stuck on this item, you could safely eliminate A and guess from the rest.
Choice B is the opposite of what you want. We know that the author considers the explanation that Greek philosophy shaped Vitruvius’ views on architecture to be valid, if incomplete. So B can’t be correct. Note again how keeping the main idea and purpose of the entire passage and of this chunk in mind helps you weed out the distractors.
Choice C looks pretty good. It fits nicely with the main idea and purpose of the passage as a whole and particularly of this chunk of the passage, stating that the use of quotes emphasizes Vitruvius’ allegiance to Greek philosophical notions of proportionality while at the same time “announcing” that the author is not claiming some kind of objective truth for these beliefs. All that matters for this argument is that Vitruvius accepted these philosophical beliefs. But don’t bubble in C yet—always read the other choices.
Choice D contradicts the passage. We’re told in some detail that Vitruvius did mention these correspondences. Choice E shows a misunderstanding of the author’s purpose. The author is not out to expose Vitruvius’ errors or stupidity. The author is merely reporting what he thinks Vitruvius believed. Whether Vitruvius was right is beside the point. What matters is that Vitruvius thought he was right, and wrote about Etruscan temples accordingly.
These are the kinds of subtle distinctions and nuances of meaning that the tougher RP items test. That’s why we’ve spent so much time working through every decision and consideration: we want to demonstrate how you’ll need to think. After some practice, this process will all take place much more quickly.
Step 6: Take a moment to double-check your selection.
Silently read the stem-plus-answer choice to yourself as a check:
In lines 24–27, the author most likely uses quotation marks in order to suggest that Vitruvius’ background in Greek philosophy prepared him to notice the types of proportional correspondences between the human body and the Etruscan temple he writes about.
Guided Practice: Item 7
Now try the following item.
Step 1: Cover up the answer choices.
7. Which of the following, if true, would most clearly strengthen the author’s assertion that the introductions to On Architecture constitute an ancient résumé (lines 37–47)?
Step 2: Read the stem carefully.
What kind of item is this? Write your answer in the space below:
Step 3: If directed to the passage, go back and read the referenced lines.
Here’s the paragraph that contains the referenced lines:

      Despite its title, On Architecture was not written primarily for architects. It was written to convince the Emperor Augustus, the most powerful patron in Rome, to give Vitruvius the opportunity to do large-scale architectural work. Vitruvius knew that if Augustus devoted any time at all to On Architecture, the emperor would most likely do what busy executives still do to this day: he would read the introductions to each of the ten chapters and skip the rest of the book. Reading On Architecture in this manner—each introduction in sequence—is a revelation. One quickly realizes that the chapter introductions constitute an ancient résumé designed to convince Augustus to entrust part of his architectural legacy to Vitruvius.

You may refer back to your margin notes as well. Also, here are our margin notes and notes on main idea, tone, etc.:
First “quarter” Vitr. and Etruscan temples—why no diversity—why did he simplify in his book? 1st reason: traditional; Greek proportionality
Paragraph 3 another reason—more mundane
Paragraph 4 O.A. not for archs—it’s V.’s résumé
Paragraph 5 O.A. originally scrolls, not book
Paragraph 6 résumé + scrolls = another reason for lack of diversity in Et. Temples
Topic V’s book on architecture/Reasons why V. ignored diversity in Etruscan temples
Main Idea Along with traditional interpretation—V. liked Greek phil.—author adds that purpose of book (to get work for V.) and scroll-nature of book explain lack of diversity.
Purpose To introduce another “mundane” explanation for why V. ignored diversity in Etruscan temples.
Tone respectfully academic; a discussion
Step 4: Generate a potential answer without looking at the answer choices.
Here’s an interesting twist. Is it possible to generate a potential answer to this item? Not really. You know that you need to strengthen the argument, but there are many possible ways to do that.
The key thing to do for items such as this is to make sure you have a clear understanding of what the argument itself is so that you can recognize a strengthener when you see it. So, jot down a restatement of the argument in the space provided below:
Step 5: Compare your potential fix or answer to the answer choices and eliminate all that do not match.
Here are the answer choices:
7. Which of the following, if true, would most clearly strengthen the author’s assertion that the introductions to On Architecture constitute an ancient résumé (lines 37–47)?
(A) The chapter introductions in On Architecture mostly discuss technical matters of architecture.
(B) The chapter introductions of other ancient treatises on architecture tend to advertise their author’s qualifications, knowledge, and experience.
(C) The chapter introductions in On Architecture consist of a critique of buildings commissioned by Augustus which have already been completed.
(D) The latter portion of each chapter in On Architecture contains extended discussion of Vitruvius’ various accomplishments and wide-ranging knowledge of architecture.
(E) The chapter introductions in On Architecture feature discussions of Vitruvius’ qualifications, knowledge, and experience.
Step 6: Take a moment to double-check your selection.
Guided Practice Explanation: Item 7
Step 1: Cover up the answer choices.
7. Which of the following, if true, would most clearly strengthen the author’s assertion that the introductions to On Architecture constitute an ancient résumé (lines 37–47)?
Step 2: Read the stem carefully.
In our classification, this item is an Inference item. This kind of quick-and-dirty categorization is all that’s required. Remember, being able to recognize different types of items is helpful only to the extent that it drives your Bombing-Run decisions.
Specifically, this item tests your understanding of the author’s argument by seeing whether you can recognize a way to strengthen that argument. This item also tests your ability to use evidence as support for an argument.
Step 3: If directed to the passage, go back and read the referenced lines.
You may or may not need to do this. How do you know? Well, if you’re sure you understand the author’s argument, you don’t need to look at the passage. If you’re understanding is shaky, you should definitely reread it.
Step 4: Generate a potential answer without looking at the answer choices.
You will need to look at the choices in this case. So, we’ll just mention a particular way of treating items such as these.
Look at this item like an experiment. The argument that the chapter introductions constitute Vitruvius’ résumé is the hypothesis, and you’re looking for data that will support it. With a firm grip on the hypothesis in mind, you’re ready to distinguish data that will support it from data that goes against it or simply has no effect on it.
Step 5: Compare your potential fix or answer to the answer choices and eliminate all that do not match.
Here are the answer choices:
7. Which of the following, if true, would most clearly strengthen the author’s assertion that the introductions to On Architecture constitute an ancient résumé (lines 37–47)?
(A) The chapter introductions in On Architecture mostly discuss technical matters of architecture.
(B) The chapter introductions of other ancient treatises on architecture tend to advertise their author’s qualifications, knowledge, and experience.
(C) The chapter introductions in On Architecture consist of a critique of buildings commissioned by Augustus which have already been completed.
(D) The latter portion of each chapter in On Architecture contains extended discussion of Vitruvius’ various accomplishments and wide-ranging knowledge of architecture.
(E) The chapter introductions in On Architecture feature discussions of Vitruvius’ qualifications, knowledge, and experience.
Choice A contradicts the hypothesis. If the introductions are a résumé, then you’d expect some résumé-like material to be discussed in the introductions, not technical matters on architecture. Note how the main idea of this paragraph and of the passage as a whole comes into play. The whole point of the résumé argument is that Vitruvius put the most important commission-encouraging information in the introductions because the primary audience was Augustus, not his fellow architects. You would have read this argument when you tackled the passage; it’s the first sentence in paragraph four, the paragraph in question in this item. It’s safe to eliminate this choice.
Choice B is a little tricky. If B is true, the best you can say about it is that it’s circumstantial evidence: if other ancient architects did this, it’s reasonable to infer that Vitruvius did it, too. Does that most clearly strengthen the “hypothesis,” as the stem asks? Let’s read the other choices to find out.
Choice C wouldn’t help Vitruvius much if the hypothesis that his introductions were his résumé is true. It all depends on how Vitruvius critiqued the buildings. If he wrote his critiques in a way that made them the kind of self-advertisement that our hypothesis maintains the introductions were, then fine. But this choice doesn’t actually say that. Not a particularly powerful strengthener, then, is it? It’s not as good as B, which we’re not even all that confident about. So, eliminate C.
Choice D is kind of the mirror-image of choice A. If the introductions are a résumé, then you don’t want to bury your résumé material at the end of your chapters. This choice can safely be eliminated.
Well, it’s either B or E, right? If, say, you’d spent too much time on this item, you might want to take a guess at this point, having safely eliminated three choices. But let’s take a quick peek at E.
Hey, wait a minute! This is exactly the kind of data that would most obviously and clearly support the hypothesis given in the stem. Note how you don’t have to “help” the answer choice at all, as you did with B. This choice does it all by itself, without the need for excessive interpretation.
Step 6: Take a moment to double-check your selection.
In this case, all you need to do is quickly ask yourself, “Do I have all my ducks in a row on this item?” You’re set to move on!
Independent Practice: Item 8
After you complete the following item, look at the following page for the explanation. Feel free to refer to your margin notes on the passage, as well as our version of the margin notes and other key features of the passage.

31

      Vitruvius’ belief that specific natural proportions should be extended

to architectural forms does help to explain why he idealized Etruscan

temples. After all, mathematical models generally don’t allow for much

deviation. However, far more mundane considerations acted in concert

35

with Vitruvius’ allegiance to Greek notions of mathematical harmony to

36

encourage the idealization of the Etruscan temple.

8. Which of the following most accurately describes the organization of the third paragraph (lines 31–36)?
(A) One explanation of a situation is refuted and another is suggested.
(B) An alternative explanation is supported by evidence.
(C) An explanation of a situation is determined to be helpful but incomplete.
(D) An explanation of a situation is used to predict future events.
(E) Two opposing explanations are reconciled with each other.
Independent Practice Explanation: Item 8
Step 1: Cover up the answer choices.
You did this, right? Don’t let those nasty distractors into your head until you’re ready.
Step 2: Read the stem carefully.
Items such as these focus on the structure, rather than the content, of arguments in the passage. It’s another way of testing whether you have “seen through” the specific information presented to determine how the author deployed that information within the structure of his argument. This is an example of one of the many item subtypes you’ll encounter on RPs. We’ll refer to it as an Organization item.
From a Bombing-Run point of view, you might have attempted this sooner than other items if you felt confident that you were provided with enough information on this paragraph. Or, you might have decided, “Hey, this paragraph is only three sentences. That won’t take long to read.” Or, you might have saved it for later, knowing that Organization items are tough for you. The point is to always make judgments on which items will likely be easier for you to handle than others in a given set.
Step 3: If directed to the passage, go back and read the referenced lines.
Here’s the third paragraph again:

31

      Vitruvius’ belief that specific natural proportions should be extended

to architectural forms does help to explain why he idealized Etruscan

temples. After all, mathematical models generally don’t allow for much

deviation. However, far more mundane considerations acted in concert

35

with Vitruvius’ allegiance to Greek notions of mathematical harmony to

36

encourage the idealization of the Etruscan temple.

Step 4: Generate a potential answer without looking at the answer choices.
For this item, you can generate a potential answer. Distill the paragraph above down to its essential structure:
Passage Text Structural Purpose
Vitruvius’ belief that specific natural proportions should be extended to architectural forms does help to explain why he idealized Etruscan temples. Author agrees with traditional explanation.
After all, mathematical models generally don’t allow for much deviation. Support for author’s agreement.
However, far more mundane considerations acted in concert with Vitruvius’ allegiance to Greek notions of mathematical harmony to encourage the idealization of the Etruscan temple. Author announces that another kind of explanation exists that complements the traditional explanation.
Of course, we don’t want you to actually make a chart like this during the exam. We’re just making explicit all of the lightning-quick thoughts and jottings that will go through an experienced test-taker’s mind in dealing with this item.
Note how the signpost word however marked the “hinge” in the passage, the point at which the author switched from a presentation of “conventional wisdom” to his own explanation. Always be on the lookout for signpost words.
Step 5: Compare your potential fix or answer to the answer choices and eliminate all that do not match.
8. Which of the following most accurately describes the organization of the third paragraph (lines 31–36)?
(A) One explanation of a situation is refuted and another is suggested.
(B) An alternative explanation is supported by evidence.
(C) An explanation of a situation is determined to be helpful but incomplete.
(D) An explanation of a situation is used to predict future events.
(E) Two opposing explanations are reconciled with each other.
Choice A is gone: the author does not refute the traditional explanation.
Choice B doesn’t apply to this paragraph. The author announces that another kind of explanation is possible, but it’s more of a complementary explanation than an alternative. What’s more, in this paragraph, the author doesn’t specifically state what his explanation is, let alone present any evidence for it! B’s gone.
Hmmmm . . . C looks pretty good. Let’s check the other two, though, just to be sure.
Choice D is the left-field choice. No prediction is made. Eliminate.
Choice E is a distortion. First, the two explanations are clearly presented as complementary, not mutually exclusive. Second, no attempt is made to reconcile the two positions. The second explanation has yet to be specifically stated, and the author clearly doesn’t see the need for “reconciliation” because the arguments are not in conflict with each other. Eliminate choice E. C it is!
See how having some idea of what the correct answer should be saves time? You can simply run through the choices and eliminate those that are incorrect, rather than constantly jumping between each answer choice and the relevant part of the passage over and over again.
Step 6: Take a moment to double-check your selection.
Again, pause for a split second to make sure your answer choice is correct.
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