Updated: Jul 9, 2021
Reading comprehension is the one section of the SAT and ACT that has changed the least. Read a passage, answer questions and demonstrate that you can understand the details of the information presented. It's a skill that is useful for any reading, and most importantly on standardized tests.
Despite the long history of this component of the SAT and ACT, many students still struggle with it. In my experiences as a test prep tutor, I have seen hundreds of students fail to pinpoint the precise detail in a passage that matches to the correct answer.
Which is why I teach my students these three simple games they can play when attacking the answer choices:
1) Flipping Game: Usually, a student tries to find a correct answer by matching the words from the answer choice to the words in a passage. However, in the Flipping Game, students are taught to flip this script and do the reverse. In other words, instead of initially going to the passage to match the words in the answer, students focus on the words in the answer choice first and mentally craft some text that could match that answer. Once the potential text is crafted, then the student attacks the passage to see if that is indeed what is written.
For example, let's consider a question like, "What it the primary purpose of the first paragraph?" with an answer choice like, "To list the characteristics of the main character." In the Flipping Game, I would have students forget the passage for a moment and instead consider the answer choice and craft a "list" of "characteristics" in their heads. Armed with a "list", students then go back to the passage to see if the list they crafted matches the list in the passage find. If they find a similar list, then this is a possible answer choice. If not, eliminate it.
2) Isolation Game: Whenever answer choices have multiple parts, students can play the Isolation Game. This game is all about attacking only one part of the answer. When you attack just one part of the answer at a time, you can eliminate wrong answers more quickly and get to your correct answer more accurately.
For example, consider a question like, "Over the course of the passage, the main focus shifts from a ...." On these questions, every answer will have two parts: a summary of the first part of the passage then a summary of the second part. And each answer choice is separated by a "to" like "...general discussion of the narrator's personality to a story about how that personality changed." In this situation, I teach students to avoid worrying about the whole answer and isolate just one part of the answer. By focusing on only one part of the answer, wrong answers can be identified faster which makes finding the right answer easier.
3) One Word Game: Similar to the Isolation Game, the One Word Game is about attacking pieces of the answer. However, in this game, the strategy is to focus on individual words. The meaning of each individual word is massively important. Students can eliminate wrong answers simply by identifying one or two words in an answer choice that do not match the passage.
For example, let's imagine there is a paired passage in which the task is to read two shorter passages and compare and contrast them. A typical question for this task will be, "The authors of both passages would most likely agree with which of the following statements?" Play the One Word Game by looking at each individual word in an answer choice. And if the answer choice is, "History has proven to be very accurate", then every word must be what the authors would agree on. The word "very" in this answer choices presents a question: do both authors agree that it is "very" accurate? If yes, then this is a possible correct answer. If not, then eliminate. The devil is in the details on this as each singular word is meaningful.
In sum, these three methods are not so much games as they are approaches to answer choices. Play one or all three depending on your questions and answer choices and you can get closer to the correct answer much faster.
Finally, a shout out to York School and their Summer Bridge program for motivating me to write these games down for the CROSSWALK blog. We are in the middle of a great three-week test prep program and I am thankful for those students who inspired me to document what we worked on in class.
If you need test prep help or tutoring for academic subjects, either in person or online, contact CROSSWALK today.