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Chris Lele

SAT Reading Comprehension: Specific Line Reference

The next Reading Comprehension question type is also the most common question type. Introducing: Line reference question.

Okay, there is some irony here – there’s no line reference but an xx (no, don’t get the wrong idea). For the blog critical reading passage I didn’t have the nifty little program that allowed me to insert lines a la College Board, the writers of the SAT.

You will get the actual line on the test. The strategies are as follows:

Do NOT just read the line.

Read one sentence before the line reference and, if necessary, one sentence after.

The reason for the “if necessary.” That is if there is enough information in the sentence above the line reference sentence and the line reference sentence itself, then there is no need to read a sentence below.

Often the answer is contained in the line reference sentence – and it is rarely contained in the sentence above the line reference. Nonetheless, do not become slack by not read the preceding sentence. The key here is context. You should always familiarize yourself with the context. And reading the line before the referenced line is the best way to do have a sense of context.

Anyhow, for this post, I will provide the part of the text necessary for you to answer the question.


What happened in between those two photographs is that I experienced, then overcame, what the poet Meena Alexander has called “the shock of arrival.” When I was deposited at the wrought-iron gates of my residential college as a freshman, I felt more like an outsider than I’d thought possible. It wasn’t just that I was a small Chinese boy standing at a grand WASP temple; nor simply that I was a hayseed neophyte puzzled by the refinements of college style. It was both: color and class were all twisted together in a double helix of felt inadequacy


1. The author primarily attributes his “’shock of arrival’” (line xx) to

(A)  unfamiliarity with his surroundings

(B)  awareness of his differences

(C)  difficulty making lasting friendships

(D) unease as to his future direction

(E)  surprise at the imposing architecture


I know this doesn’t make much sense. I know also that college, in the multicultural era, is supposed to be where the deracinated minority youth discovers the “person of color” inside. To a point, I did. I studied Chinese, took an Asian American history course, a seminar on race politics. But ultimately, college was where the unconscious habits of my adolescent assimilation hardened into self-conscious strategy.


2. The “self-conscious strategy” (line xx) primarily describes the author’s attempt to

(A)  reject an element of his past

(B)  posses a greater awareness of a former tendency

(C)  embrace his ethnic identity by taking certain courses

(D) retreat from social activities through academics

(E)  distance himself from those with divergent opinions


Answers and Explanations

1. B

The narrator is shocked because he realizes he is so different, “I felt more like an outsider than I’d thought possible.”


2. B

The narrator used to assimilate unconsciously. Now he realizes “unconscious habits of my adolescent assimilation hardened into self-conscious strategy.


This is definitely a hard question and requires you to take the beginning of the passage into account. The narrator goes from an outsider to one who clearly fits in. This is the assimilation he is referencing above. He wants to intentionally fit in and no longer be this awkward outsider. So he has to be more aware of how he assimilates; if he doesn’t assimilate, then he knows in his time as a “Yalie” he will never belong.

About Chris Lele

Chris Lele is the GRE and SAT Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh Online Test Prep. In his time at Magoosh, he has inspired countless students across the globe, turning what is otherwise a daunting experience into an opportunity for learning, growth, and fun. Some of his students have even gone on to get near perfect scores. Chris is also very popular on the internet. His GRE channel on YouTube has over 8 million views.

You can read Chris's awesome blog posts on the Magoosh GRE blog and High School blog!

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