Reading Passages
Section-Level Strategies
You’re now familiar with how SAT Reading Passages are constructed. Items come in sets that are associated with a particular passage or passages. You’ve learned separate step methods that govern how to tackle:
  • The passage itself.
  • The set of items associated with that passage (i.e., Bombing Runs).
  • Each individual item in the set.
There’s another “level” to this passage-set-item hierarchy, however. RPs come in test sections. In the case of RPs, the section is called Critical Reading. Any given SAT test will consist of at least two Critical Reading sections. These sections may contain any of the following elements:
  • Some number of Sentence Completions
  • Some number of short RPs, including, possibly, a short paired RP
  • One or more long RPs
  • A paired RP
Furthermore, the passages mentioned may be on any of the following topics:
  • Fiction
  • Humanities
  • Social Science
  • Science
Remember the cardinal rule of standardized test-taking: since all items are worth the same number of points, always do those items you find easiest first. In other words:
Always fly Bombing Runs.
We’re now extending the concept of Bombing Runs to the section level, applying it to passages and item types as well as to individual items within any given passage set.
For example, let’s assume you see a section composed of the following items and sets in the following order:
  • 10 Sentence Completions
  • 2 short RPs, one on a scientific topic, and one on a topic from the humanities
  • 2 long RPs, one social science and one science
Here’s how you’d fly a Bombing Run on this section:
  • Do the Sentence Completions first. They require a far lower time investment than any reading items.
  • Next, tackle the short RPs. They require less of an investment than the long passages. If you’re into science, do that one first. If not, do the humanities one first.
  • Tackle whichever long RP you think will be easier to handle. Length may play a role—long passages can vary from 400 to 800 or more words. Topic may also determine your selection: science heads will likely jump on the science passage set first.
  • If you have time, work on the remaining long RP.
Within each set you attempt, you’ll decide which items you’ll attempt first and which you’ll leave for last.
Making these types of judgments requires a bit of self-knowledge and practice. But that investment pays off many times over. Picture two identical test-takers. They each have exactly the same level of knowledge and skills. They each follow all the strategies presented in this book, with one critical exception. One flies Bombing Runs, jumping around the section in an intelligent fashion and racking up all the “easy” points she can as quickly as possible. The other one just starts with the first item and works his way through the section without skipping around. Which test-taker is going to get a higher score? Which test-taker will be judged less able, despite the fact that both test-takers have identical knowledge and skills?
You want to maximize your score by distributing your knowledge across a section as efficiently as possible. Flying Bombing Runs ensures that this distribution will happen.
Help | Feedback | Make a request | Report an error