Certain vocabulary words tend to pop up in the Critical Reading section. This is not because the SAT happens to fancy the sound of these words; it’s because this vocabulary relates to important aspects of communication: how we feel, what we feel; how we think, what we think.
While these words can pop up in the Sentence Completions, think of them in a Critical Reading context—relate them to passages that you’ve recently read, and one’s that you are about to read.
Think back to those first summers of your life. You were probably five or six, and those summer days seemed to last forever—dragonflies hovered over plants in full bloom, as you sipped lemonade under a ceiling fan. Bring back a pleasant memory? Well, that pleasant tingling feeling (oh, summer of yore!) is called nostalgia.
Specifically, nostalgia is a pleasant association with a past event or place.
Mt. Everest is the highest mountain in the world. Barack Obama is the president of the U.S. You are (probably) in high school. All of these are facts or actual state of affairs. A hypothetical is in many ways the opposite. It isn’t a lie or falsehood; it is an alternate reality: “If I were President of the United States”; “Let’s say I climbed the highest mountain in the world”.
So a hypothetical case isn’t one that is true, but one in which you have to imagine into possibility.
Can’t make up your mind on how you feel? Torn, conflicted? Sounds like most of lives. And that’s because it is human nature to feel ambivalent, or to have mixed emotions on something. Indeed, I can’t think of a single person who is gung-ho or anti- everything.
Take school. Almost everyone has both pleasant associations (yeah, I get to see friends—or at least get out of the house) and unpleasant ones (I have to study for back to back final this weekend).
Hey, last night a U.F.O landed on my roof and beamed me up, taking me back to the planet of Zronga, where a team of aliens tried to dissect me. Luckily, I made it back alive to write this post today. Don’t believe me? Good, you probably shouldn’t. That is, you should be skeptical, or doubtful.
Being skeptical isn’t a bad thing, as long as you don’t doubt everything. Many writers in the critical reading passages—especially the dual passages—express skepticism in some subject. They don’t flat out deny it; they try to provide an argument why such-and-such may not be the case.
As a child, I remember Aesop’s fables—interesting stories about animals (kids love animals) that always had a moral at the end of the story. Anyone who intends to teach in such a matter, or any story that attempts to teach in this way, is didactic.
Didactic can also take on a negative connotation. Somebody who is didactic tries to teach in such a way that they talk down to you.
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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 10 million views. You can read Chris's awesome blog posts on the Magoosh GRE blog and High School blog! You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook!
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