Posts Tagged ‘SAT’

How to Answer the SAT® Sentence Completion Test Problems

SAT-takers generally think that the SAT sentence completion sections are relatively easy, but many students can be shocked to find out that these sections actually lower overall critical reading scores more than the passage-based sections. Using the TK PMC strategies, will help SAT-takers significantly increase their SAT scores on the sentence completion test problems in the critical reading section.


1. Read the sentence, paying special attention to the TONE of the sentence. The sentence may have a positive or a negative tone and the answer choice must match that tone.

Examples: The happy and _____________ young woman left without complaint.

Feeling _____________ and angry, the teacher rejected his proposal.

2. While reading the SAT sentence completions, circle any KEY words that may affect the meaning of the sentence.


always, all, necessarily, never, none, partially, completely, more than, less than, fewer, best, worse, half, most, almost, completely, minimally


as a result, because, consequently, hence, if, in order to, so, then, therefore


also, and, another, besides, for example, furthermore, in addition, in other words, moreover


but, if, nor, although, nevertheless, despite, even though, in contrast, however, in spite of, instead, on the contrary, on the other hand, rather, still, yet, conversely

3. Read the SAT sentence completions sentence again and PREDICT the word in the blank, using the tone, key words, and surrounding context clues (PS SALE) to inform your prediction. If you can’t think of an answer choice, just say “blank.”

4. Now read the answer choices, and MATCH each of these to your predicted word. Use the process of elimination to remove any answers from consideration that do not match your predicted word.

5. CHECK your answer choice by mouthing the sentence with your answer choice. If it doesn’t “sound” right, consider another choice.

Some additional hints…

Complete the SAT sentence completions first in each Critical Reading section.

For SAT sentence completions with two blank words, follow the TK PMC strategy for only the first blank word. Then read the sentence one more time, predicting the second word and matching that word to the remaining possible answer choices. Finally, make sure to check both answer choices by mouthing the words in the sentence.

The author’s Essential Study Skills is the study skill curriculum that teaches what students need to know to succeed and thrive in schoolOften, the reason why students fail to achieve their academic potential is not because of laziness or lack of effort, but because they have never learned the basic study skills necessary for success. The 56 lessons in Essential Study Skills will teach your students to “work smarter, not harder.” Students who master these skills will spend less time, and accomplish more during homework and study time. Their test study will be more productive and they will get better grades. Reading comprehension and vocabulary will improve. Their writing will make more sense and essays will be easier to plan and complete. They will memorize better and forget less. Their schoolwork will seem easier and will be much more enjoyable. Lastly, students will feel better about themselves as learners and will be more motivated to succeed. em>Essential Study Skills is the ideal curriculum for study skill, life skill, Advocacy/Advisory, Opportunity Program classes. The easy-to-follow lesson format of 1. Personal Assessment 2. Study Skill Tips and 3. Reflection is ideal for self-guided learning and practice. Contact the publisher for affordable site licenses. 128 pages

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How to Answer Passage-Based Reading Test Problems

Passage-based reading sections can produce time management challenges and difficulties for test-takers.

The publisher attempts to use unfamiliar subjects for its reading passages to compensate for outside knowledge and experience, but what you bring to the text in the way of experience and knowledge remains just as important as what they select for the readings.  So if you know the answer apart from the reading, trust your own knowledge and answer accordingly.  The reading passage cannot contradict facts. For medium-length, long, and paired reading passages…

1. Read the short INTRODUCTION to the reading passage first (if provided), reflecting on any prior knowledge or reading that relates to the subject. Try to determine if the passage is expository or narrative from reading the introduction.

2. Read the QUESTION stems that follow the reading passage twice. Previewing the question stems enhances comprehension and begins to access your outside knowledge before you begin to read. While reading the question stem the first time, circle the following KEY words:

  • “according to the author (passage)” Make sure to answer from this point of view.
  • “main idea” This is the most important thought of the passage.
  • “best” Another answer may be acceptable, but this one most closely fits.
  • “mainly” Not completely, but most importantly.
  • “chiefly” Compared to the others, this is above the rest.
  • “except” This identifies something that does not belong with the rest.
  • “some” Not all.
  • “implies (suggests)” The author has hinted at, but not directly stated.
  • “only” This means exclusively that one and no other.
  • “primarily” This means mainly or the chief one, before all others.
  • “most likely” A logical prediction or conclusion.
  • “similar” Asks for a comparison.
  • “differs” Asks for a contrast.
  • “most nearly means” Asks for the definition in context.
  • “assertions” Points to be made.
  • “most directly” Most specifically.
  • “imagery” A mental picture or image.
  • “tone” The manner in which something is said.
  • “organization” How the passage is structured.
  • “developed” How the thesis is proven throughout the passage.

3. Read the question stem a second time and mark each with a “G” if it is a GENERAL question and “S” if it is a SPECIFIC question. A general question stem is one that can be answered without looking back in the passage for specific details. “Best title,” or “the main idea,” or “the tone of the passage” are examples of general question stems on the SAT reading section. Sometimes they will have reading passage line numbers as reference; other times they will not. A specific question stem is one that cannot be answered unless you look back for the details in the passage. The specific question stem will always have a line number as reference.

If the passage is expository or persuasive:

4. PREVIEW the passage by reading the last sentence of the first paragraph. The thesis statement is found here in about 50% of all expository reading. Then read the first sentence in each body paragraph. The topic sentence is found her in about 80% of all expository reading.

5. READ the passage, carrying on a dialogue with the text. Focus on finding the sections that deal with the question stems that you have already read. Mark a CHECK by any answers to questions that you remember from reading the question stems.

If the passage is narrative:

4. PREVIEW the passage by reading the first and last sentence in the SAT reading sections. Frequently, the most important clues to the meaning of a short narrative passage are in these positions.

5. READ the passage, carrying on a dialogue with the text. Focus on finding the sections that deal with the question stems that you have already read. Mark a CHECK by any answers to questions that you remember from reading the question stems.

6. Answer the GENERAL question stems (those marked “G”) first. Guess on any general question stems of which you are not sure. Do not return to the general test problems for re-consideration. Then, go back and answer the SPECIFIC question stems. Take the time to hunt and peck throughout the passage, using the line number references, to find the right answers, if needed.

Some additional hints…

The Passage-based reading test problems are a bit different than other test problems. The passage-based test problems are mixed up in terms of order of difficulty. They do not go from easy to hard. On paired passages, some question stems relate to both passages.

For paired passages, complete the test problems for the first passage before reading the second passage. Mark a “1” after the “G” or “S” after reading the question stem the second time.

The answer to a test problem that has a line reference number will often not be in the specific line cited. Many times the answer is found up or down a few lines from the line reference.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of Essential Study Skills.

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How to Get a 12 on the SAT® Essay

The SAT essay can produce time management challenges and difficulties for SAT-takers. Many students score poorly on this section; however, using the AEC  TP  IT  2B  RCP strategies will help SAT-takers significantly increase their SAT scores on the SAT essay section.

Prewriting (5 minutes)

Spend no more than five minutes on the AEC TP planning. You get no points for planning.

    1. First, read the one-sentence question that begins the Assignment section. This is the critical writing direction for your essay. Ignore reading the rest of the Assignment section.
    2. Next, read the text of the boxed Excerpt above. The excerpt provides some background information on an issue to help you frame your thesis statement. This excerpt appears after the Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below direction. Don’t bother to read the citation, unless you want to quote from it later in the essay.
    3. Read the Assignment again and Circle the subject of the essay.
    4. Write a one-sentence Thesis Statement as a declarative statement at the bottom of the essay directions page. A good thesis statement will mention the subject, will state the key words of the writing prompt, and will directly respond to the writing prompt with a specific point of view. Decide whether the prompt calls for more of an explanatory or argumentative response. Do not write a split (divided) thesis. Do not take an overly-controversial point of view.
    5. Quickly Prewrite the two body paragraphs underneath your thesis statement, using key words for the two topic sentences and the two or three major details for each body paragraph.

DRAFTING (17 minutes)

  1. Turn to the Section 1 Essay Box at the beginning of the answer sheets. You will compose your four paragraph essay on these lines. Indent all paragraphs, beginning with the Introduction. Your Introduction should consist of three-sentences. Select two appropriate Instruction Strategies from the list below as your first two sentences, using connecting transition words.

Introduction Strategies BAD RAP

    1. Background—Sentences that briefly explain the setting or help your reader better understand the thesis statement.
    2. Question to be Answered—A sentence worded as a question that asks either a question needing no answer (rhetorical question) or a question to make the reader think of a question that will be answered in the essay.
    3. Definition— Sentences that explain the meaning of a key word that may be unfamiliar to the reader or help to narrow the focus of the subject.
    4. Reference to Something Known in Common—Sentences that refer to a fact or idea already known by most people, including your reader.
    5. Quote from an Authority—Sentences that quote an authority in the subject of the essay. It must list the name of the authority.
    6. Preview of Topic Sentences—Sentences that list the subjects of each body paragraph topic sentence in the order they appear in the essay.
    7. Write the Thesis Statement after the two Introduction Strategy sentences, revising as needed from the Prewrite. This is the last sentence of your three-sentence introduction.
    8. Referring to the Prewrite, compose the 2 Body Paragraphs, beginning each with a topic sentence. The topic sentence appears in the first position of a body paragraph 80% of the time. Consider the fact that your readers expect your essay to conform to this standard and place the topic sentence as the first sentence of your body paragraphs as is expected. Don’t surprise your reader. Make sure that your topic sentence expresses the main idea of the body paragraph as a declarative statement and is not a subset of any major detail within the paragraph.
    9. Your body paragraphs should include two or three major details, each supported by two or three minor details. These detail sentences must include both evidence and your analysis of the evidence. Skip two lines after each body paragraph to allow for later revision. The subject matter of the prompt will be general enough for you to cite evidence from the following sources:
      -your personal experiences
      -content from middle school and high school classes
      -content from literature
      -current and past events

Vary the types of evidence that you present. No one is convicted for first-degree murder based upon one type of evidence alone, such as fingerprint evidence. Use several types of evidence from the following list to convince the reader of your point of view.

Types of Evidence CeF SCALE

A Comparison means to show how the subject is like something else in a meaningful way.

An experience used as evidence may be a commonly known event or an event of which there is limited knowledge.

A Fact means something actually said or done. Use quotes for direct or indirect quotations.

A Statistic is a numerical figure that represents evidence gained from scientific research.

A Counterpoint states an argument against your thesis statement and then provides evidence against that argument.

An Appeal to authority is a reference from an authority on a certain subject.

Logic means to use deductive (general to specific) or inductive (specific to general) reasoning to prove a point.

An Example is a subset typical of a category or group.

  1. Compose a Thesis Restatement as the first sentence of your conclusion paragraph. In other words, state your thesis statement in a different way that will lead smoothly into your two Conclusion Strategy sentences. Make sure that your thesis restatement covers the whole prompt, not just part. Select two Conclusion Strategies and use transition words to connect, if needed. Leave the readers with a finished, polished feel to your essay. Do not add any additional evidence to your conclusion.

Conclusion Strategies GQ SALES

  1. Generalization—Sentences that make one of your specific points more general in focus.
  2. Question for Further Study—Sentences that mention a related subject or question that is beyond the focus of the essay.
  3. Synthesis of Main Points—Sentences that pull together the points proven in the essay to say something new.
  4. Application—Sentences that apply the proven thesis statement to another idea or issue.
  5. Argument Limitations—Sentences that explain how or why your conclusions are limited.
  6. Emphasis of Key Point—Sentences that mention and add importance to one of the points of your essay.
  7. Statement of Significance—Sentences that discuss the importance and relevance of the proven thesis statement.

Proofread (3 minutes)

11. Save no more than three minutes to Proofread the entire essay. If the body paragraphs need an additional sentence, add it in on the skipped lines. The readers understand that your essay is a rough draft, so using editing marks is certainly appropriate. Squeeze additions in above the line, rather than in the margins. Don’t take risks with spelling and vocabulary words.

Writing Style

  • Write neatly in print or cursive. Don’t write too small or too large.
  • Don’t use big vocabulary. Keep your writing concise and simple.
  • Although the SAT publishers say that the readers will not mark down for use of the first person voice, use only third-person pronouns to emphasize objectivity.
  • Although the SAT publishers say that the readers will not mark down for use of narrative elements, avoid mixing the writing domains and stick with exposition.
  • Don’t try to be unique—no raps or poetry please. Write in formal essay style.
  • Don’t include slang, idioms (figures of speech), contractions, abbreviations, strings of prepositional phrases, or parenthetical remarks.
  • Keep pronoun references close to subjects in long sentences to make them clear. Make sure to keep pronoun references in number agreement.
  • Avoid passive voice.
  • Use specific and concrete nouns. Avoid general and abstract nouns.
  • Don’t split infinitives, end sentences with prepositions, or use intentional fragments.
  • Avoid gender-specific pronoun references by making them plural.
  • Don’t write a concluding statement at the end of body paragraphs.
  • Don’t overuse the “to-be” verbs.  Maintain the same verb tense throughout the essay and limit your use of the “to-be” verbs to no more than two per body paragraph. “To-be” Verbs: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been
  • Don’t rely on adjectives to do the job of solid nouns and verbs.
  • Vary your sentence length and sentence structure.
  • Vary your grammatical structures by including a variety of Sentence Openers. Frequently, writers over-rely on the Subject-Verb-Object (Complement) pattern.

Also, check out Mark Pennington’s articles on writing unity, coherence, and parallelism.

Find 8 complete writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informational-explanatory) with accompanying readings, 42 sequenced writing strategy worksheets, 64 sentence revision lessons, additional remedial worksheets, writing fluency and skill lessons, posters, and editing resources in TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE. Also get the e-comments download of 438 writing comments to improve written response and student revisions.

Pennington Publishing's TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE


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