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New SAT Critical Reading Workbook

New SAT Critical Reading Workbook

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The SAT contains several critical reading sections. On a typical past SAT,
the nonexperimental sections would contain 78 verbal questions. Of these,
typically 19 would be sentence completions, 19 would be verbal analogies,
and 40 would be critical reading questions.

The SAT contains an experimental section.

One of the sections of your SAT will be an experimental section. That is,
the test-writers will be using it to try out new questions for future exams.
The experimental section may contain either critical reading or math ques-
tions. You won’t be told which section is the experimental one, so you will
need to do your best on every section.

Every section of the SAT has a time limit.

You are allowed to work on a section only during the time set aside for that
section. You cannot go back to an earlier section, and you cannot skip ahead
to a later section. Since you only have one chance to answer the questions
in a section, make sure you use your time wisely.

Learn to pace yourself to get your highest score.

Your verbal SAT score is based on a formula that takes into account the
number of questions you answer correctly and the number of questions you
answer incorrectly. The formula is:

Introduction

8

www.petersons.com

Number Correct – (1

4 × Number Incorrect) = Raw Score

Questions left blank do not affect your score. For example, a student
who answers a total of 55 verbal questions correctly and 20 incorrectly
(leaving 5 blank) would have the following raw score:

Correct – (1

4 × Incorrect) = Raw Score

55 – (1

4(20)) = 50

The raw score is then converted to a scaled score (the 200 to 800 scale)
using another formula. To give you some idea of how many answers you
need for a certain score, here is a partial listing of raw score/scaled score
conversions:

Verbal Raw Score

Verbal Scaled Score

(0 to 80)

(200 to 800)

80

800

75

750

60

610

50

540

30

470

Practice under timed conditions to find the best balance
between speed and accuracy.

Since your critical reading score is based on the number of questions you
answer correctly, less an adjustment for questions you answer incorrectly,
you can get your maximum score only if you learn to balance speed with
accuracy. You can’t afford to go so fast that you miss a lot of questions due
to carelessness. On the other hand, you can’t afford to be so careful that
you just don’t get to a lot of questions.

Don’t waste time on specific questions.

Each critical reading question counts exactly one point toward your raw
score. The easiest question on the test counts one point, and the hardest
question counts one point. So don’t waste time working on a question that
you can’t seem to solve. When you reach the point at which you realize
you’re not making progress, leave that question. Come back to it later if
you have time.

Sentence completions are arranged in increasing order of
difficulty.

The questions get harder as you go along. The first question will be one
anyone can answer. By the middle of the section, you will find some ques-
tions that are difficult. By the end of the section, you will encounter some
very difficult questions. Thus, work as quickly as you can through the ear-

About the SAT

9

www.petersons.com

lier questions in a section; you can use the extra time to answer the difficult
questions that come later.

You can vary your order of attack within a section.

Within the time limit, you can attack the questions in the section in any
order you want to. You could do analogies first even though they are not
presented first. Is there any advantage to doing the problems out of order?
Maybe— critical reading questions are based on a selection that may be as
long as 800 words. You can’t answer the critical reading questions until
you’ve done the reading. Wouldn’t it be a shame to read a critical reading
selection and run out of time before you have a chance to answer the ques-
tions? So, if you are having a problem with time, make sure that you an-
swer all of the short questions (analogies and sentence completions) before
you tackle the critical reading. But be careful that you mark your answer
sheet correctly!

Bring a watch to the exam.

Your exam room may not have a clock. To keep track of the passing time,
make sure that you bring your own timepiece. You don’t have to have a
fancy stop watch; a simple watch will do.

If you are able to eliminate one or more answers to a question,
you should guess.

In the scoring system, the guessing penalty is calculated to eliminate the
advantage of random guessing. It should not affect educated guessing. To
prove this to yourself, ask what would happen if you guessed at random on
20 questions. Since there are five answer choices to each question, you
would get one out of every five questions right and miss the rest. Since you
would get four questions right and miss 16, your raw score would be:

Correct – (1

4 × Incorrect) = Raw Score

4 – (1

4(16)) = 0

A completely neutral result. But now think about what would happen if
you make educated guesses. Assume that in each of the 20 questions you
can eliminate even just one answer choice. That would leave four rather
than five choices for each question, so you would expect to get one out of
every four correct. Since you would get five questions right and miss only
15, your raw score would be:

Correct – (1

4 × Incorrect) = Raw Score

5 – (1

4(15)) = 11
4

That number will be rounded off to the nearest integer, so your net gain
would be +1 on the raw score. And that could make you jump 10 points on
the scaled score, e.g., from 510 to 520 or from 630 to 640!

Introduction

10

www.petersons.com

Make sure you mark the answer spaces completely and neatly.

The SAT, for the most part, is a machine-graded exam. You enter your re-
sponses on an answer sheet by darkening ovals. Be careful! The machine
can only read what you’ve put down. If you make a mistake in marking
your answer sheet, even though you know the right answer, the machine
will read a wrong answer.

Mark your answers in groups.

Instead of working a question and marking an answer and working a ques-
tion and marking an answer and so on, work a group of problems in your
test booklet, and then mark your answers. With this system, there is less
chance that you will make a mistake as you enter your answers.

Create a record-keeping system for yourself.

You’ll find that there are some questions you can answer easily, others that
you can’t answer immediately but think you can if you come back later and
do some more work, and still others that you can’t answer at all. You’ll
probably be going back and forth a good deal. To help keep track of what
you have done and what you haven’t done, create for yourself a system of
symbols. For example, circle the answer you think is correct. Or if you
aren’t able to answer a question definitely and intend to come back to it
later, put a question mark by the number of that question and put an “x”
over any choice you have already eliminated.

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