Three sections: two sections of 24 questions to be completed in 25 minutes and one section of 19 questions to be completed in 20 minutes. (Note that, occasionally, one section will contain one more question than indicated above and another will contain one fewer question than indicated above.) Each section consists of 5-8 sentence completions followed by passage based reading questions. Sometimes, a test will include a fourth section of Critical Reading questions that does not count toward your score but is used for experimental purposes.
Two sections, each featuring 24 questions to be completed in 25 minutes. One section features 8 sentence completion questions followed by 16 passage based reading questions. The other section features 5 sentence completion questions followed by 19 passage based reading questions.
You have just over one minute per question, so make sure you do not get behind a one minute per problem pace. Ideally, you should work through the sentence completions in less than one minute per question, leaving you with a bit of extra time for the passaged based reading questions.
- The sentence completion questions within each section are arranged from easier to more difficult.
- Read the sentence and come up with your own word for the blank. Then determine which answer choice is closest in meaning to your word. Finally, read the original sentence with your answer choice inserted into the blank to check your work.
- When the word in the blank should be synonymous with a word in the sentence, use that word from the sentence as your word for the blank. When the word in the blank should be the opposite of a word in the sentence, use “opposite of [that word].”
- Pay close attention to words such as “and,” “but,” “so,” “although,” “because,” “since,” “despite,” and “also.”
- If a sentence contains two blanks, take it one blank at a time. After coming up with your own word for each blank, eliminate any answer choices that can’t work for one blank, and then see which of the remaining answer choices could work for the second blank.
- If you do not know a word, you cannot eliminate it.
- Always choose a word you don’t know over a word you know cannot work.
- If you can’t come up with a good word for the blank, try reading each of the answer choices in the sentence to see which one works.
- Watch out for the following two trap answers: words that are the exact opposite of what you are looking for and words that are related in some way to the topic of the sentence but make no sense in the blank.
- Make sure you do not fail to recognize words you actually know. If your first instinct is that you don’t know a word, make sure you are pronouncing it correctly (sound it out) and make sure it isn’t simply a different form of a word you know (for instance, an adjective when you are more familiar with the noun).
- Figure out what words mean. Use prefixes, suffixes, and roots. If you do not know roots, think about words you know (including words in foreign languages) that share a similar spelling. If two words share a similar spelling, they are likely based on the same root and therefore share a similar meaning. At the very least, use your ear to determine whether a word sounds positive or negative.
Passage Based Reading
How to Read
- On short passages, read the questions before reading the passage.
- On long passages, read the passage before looking at the questions.
- On factual passages, focus on the main point and the tone. In the first paragraph, look for a possible thesis statement, and try to make a prediction about the main point of the passage. In each of the other paragraphs, figure out how the paragraph helps the author develop the main point. Look out for topic sentences.
- On fictional passages, focus on characters, plot, and setting.
- On dual passages, read the first passage and answer the questions relating to that passage. Then read the second passage and answer the questions relating to that passage. Finally, answer the questions that compare and contrast the two passages. When reading dual passages, think about what the authors agree upon and what they disagree upon.
- Choose answers with specific textual justification over answers that seem like pretty good interpretations. The correct answer must be impossible to argue with.
- Before choosing an answer that features vague terms, know what specifically the vague terms are referring to.
Addressing the Questions
- Questions are arranged in the order in which their answers appear in the passage (with the exception of general questions that ask about the passage as a whole).
- If you don’t know the answer to a question off the top of your head, sometimes you want to go back to the passage right away and other times you want to read the answer choices first. Reading the answer choices first has the advantage allowing you to use process of elimination before going back, so that you are going back to help you choose between a few known options rather than having to make meaning of the text on your own. Go back to the passage right away on vocabulary in context questions and on questions that ask so specifically about a certain line that they would be undoable without reading the relevant line.
- When going back to the passage, the answer is not always found entirely in the referenced lines. Sometimes you have to look in the context, usually the sentence before or the sentence after the referenced lines.
Not Enough Time: Skim instead of Read
- Your goal is to get an idea of the main point and the tone.
- Read the entire first paragraph unless it is very long, in which case you can skip over some of the sentences in the middle. By the end of this paragraph, you should have actively made a prediction about the main point of the passage.
- In each of the remaining paragraphs, read until you have a very good idea of where it is going and how it helps develop the author’s main point, then move on to the next paragraph. Often, you will only have to read one or two sentences.
- In the final paragraph, read the last sentence in addition to the first sentence or two.
- Do not get bogged down in details.
- Because fictional writing does not contain structural elements like topic sentences and thesis statements, it is tough to predict the most important parts of the passage. Therefore, you should simply read fictional passages normally, while attempting to skip any sections that seem unimportant.
- Pay attention to characters, plot, and setting.