Ever get a graded essay back from your English teacher and it’s bleeding red with passive-aggressive questions such as “Examples?” “Support?” “Evidence for this?” “How do you know?” or the backhanded compliment, “Interesting arguments, but they need support”?
Well, this is precisely what the new SAT is trying to test with its category of questions pertaining to “Command of Evidence.” You’ll find Command of Evidence questions throughout the SAT, but on the Reading test, they break down into three categories:
- questions that ask you to determine the best evidence in a passage or a pair for the answer to a previous question
- questions that ask you how the author of an argument uses evidence to support a claim (these are more general than the first category, but the idea is the same)
- questions pertaining to informational graphics
SAT Reading: Best Evidence Questions
The first category should be pretty recognizable to you if you’ve looked at an SAT Reading test: they are the questions that ask you, “Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?” followed by answer choices quoting different lines from the passage.
You have two basic approaches you can employ to answer these questions: 1. If you remember where the support for that answer is in the passage, you can anticipate the answer choice, and find it in your answer choices, but be very careful! Always make sure to check every answer choice to make sure there isn’t a better piece of support that you missed. 2. find each answer choice and mark it in the passage: putting brackets around the selected line numbers is a good way of highlighting the excerpt without scribbling on the passage too much. This way, you can evaluate them all together and make sure you pick the best answer. This second method is preferable for most students, because, well, the SAT is tricky, don’t let it trick you into picking a wrong answer because you haven’t seen them all.
Because there is no incorrect answer penalty on the new SAT, you should always bubble in an answer for these questions, but if you are particularly weak in Reading or if you are not confident in your previous answer choice, you may want to quickly put in a guess and come back to the question if you have time. These ones can be difficult and they are not worth agonizing over.
The upside to this question type is that you might find that an evidence question will help you fix a mistake you made in the previous question, but don’t count on it. The SAT is very good at finding answer choices that will match up with all the previous answer choices, so you may not even notice.
SAT Reading: Informational Graphics
The new SAT is sprinkled all over the place with fun little charts and graphs, including on the Reading and Writing tests. On the Reading test, you will encounter two informational graphics. One on one of the History/Social Studies passages and one on one of the Science passages. Related questions will ask you to use the information presented on the graphics in combination with the information in the text. Maybe the chart will present a bar graph of the number of butterflies captured in specific areas, for example, and a question will ask you which claim provided in the passage could be supported by the graph. It’s often not as scary as it sounds. And you’ll only see a few questions like this on the test, so it’s no big deal if you aren’t a fan, but you should know that they will be there.
We suggest that you don’t worry too much about studying these figures while you are reading; they often include far more information than is required to answer whatever question the test throws at you. So wait until you get to the question and then study the table or graph to find the specific answer the question requires.