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SAT Secret 11: The SAT Reading Test: Rhetoric

SAT Secret 11: The SAT Reading Test: Rhetoric

What is rhetoric?

One definition of the word rhetoric is “the study of writing or speaking.” Rhetoric questions on the Reading Test assess how well you understand the choices that authors make as they structure and develop their texts to convey meaning.A note on the images in this article: all Reading Test items will be associated with a passage, but the passages are not included here. Each question pictured is just one example of how items in that category can look.Some sub-topics within rhetoric:

Analyzing word choice.

Questions will ask you to determine how specific words or phrases or the use of patterns of words and phrases creates meaning and tone in the passage.

One way to approach questions like this is to rephrase the question using How What or Why, and then answer your version of the question in your own words. This question might be rephrased like this: “What do the words “exact,” “specific,” and “complement” DO in the last paragraph?” Then, before looking at the choices, go back to the last paragraph and formulate an answer to your question. Then cross out the choices that don’t match your answer. Trust yourself!

Analyzing text structure.

Questions focus on the overall structure of a text and on analysis of the relationship between a particular part of the text (e.g., a sentence) and the whole text.

When tackling questions like this, it can help to answer the question in your own words before looking at the choices. Rephrase the question so you can take control of it: “How is the passage structured? What is the function of each paragraph?” Then, review the passage (the first and last sentences of each paragraph are usually most important), and answer your question in your own words. Also, look at the choices and note key words that make them different from each other – “traditional practice” is very different from “meaningful encounter,” “series of questions,” and “amusing anecdote.” Only one will accurately reflect what is happening in the passage.

Analyzing point of view.

Questions will ask you to determine the point of view or perspective from which a passage is told, or identify the influence this point of view or perspective has on content and style.

[Top Tip]Your first step on a question like this might be to identify the point of each passage, then say it back to yourself in your own words. If you don’t quite understand the main point or primary purpose, then review the first and last paragraphs to refresh your memory.

Analyzing purpose.

Questions will ask you to determine the main purpose of a text (typically, one or more paragraphs).

Questions that ask about the purpose of a piece of text are best handled by rephrasing the question: “What does the first paragraph DO?” or “What is the purpose of the first paragraph?” Then, review the piece of text and answer your question in your own words. Cross out the choices that don’t match your answer. NOTE: this is a much better, more careful approach than 1) reading the question 2) reading the choices and 3) choosing the one that looks best. This technique is also faster than looking at each choice and trying to figure out whether it works. Know what you want before you start looking!

Analyzing arguments.

Questions will ask you to analyze arguments for their content and structure.

A great way to approach questions like this: Rephrase – “What is the central claim?” Then, answer in your own words. Finally, cross out the choices that don’t match. Avoid reading through the choices until you know what you are looking for, and you won’t waste time giving the choices the benefit of the doubt. You will not need to know these types of questions by name for the test, but this list gives you an idea of some of the question types you will encounter.

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