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 Nov 03, 2021
How to Defeat Science Passages (SAT Reading)

The natural science reading passage is no time to experiment!

There’s always at least one natural science passage on the SAT Reading section, and it can cause some trouble if you let yourself divert from your core reading passage strategies. It may be tempting to treat this passage differently than the other reading passages, but your goal is still the same: find the answers to the questions within the text, while ruling out the incorrect answers as you go along. To help you stay on track, we’ve compiled the following tips!

  • This is not a test of science content.

Don’t get hung up on the science buzzwords they are going to throw at you. They will include theories, concepts, and general jargon that you’ve never heard before to throw you off, but you aren’t necessarily meant to take what you’ve learned in Biology or Chemistry and apply it to the questions to get your answers. You only need to understand the concepts and the science as they apply to the questions, which are going to be more in the line of: “Where is the evidence in the passage that defines that term” or “Where in the passage do they connect these ideas together”. Keep looking for those answers, and don’t get lost in the science of it all.

  • You will want to make heavy use of Keywords and Chronology.

When we talk about keywords, we mean specific terms and jargon. If these are in a question and you find them in the text, that’s probably where your answers will be! When we say Chronology, we mean that the position of the question in the set can help you figure out where you should start looking for the answer in the passage. If you have a question about penguin metabolism early in the set, chances are the answer will be in a section talking about penguin metabolism early in the passage.  

  • Don’t reason beyond the text.

You might know the science behind the question, but you don’t want to go beyond what the text is saying. Limit your answers to a conservative reading of the text rather than trying to speculate or read between the lines. Find the questions about penguin metabolism, find where they speak on it in the text, figure out what those lines say, and find which choice most consistently aligns with those lines.

  • The question will often include hints you need to incorporate into your answer search.

If the question says something like “what do the authors set out to prove?”, you don’t need to know what they actually found doing the experiment. The results are not what matter, but rather what they wanted to find matters. Use the question to help you find the answer!

  • Remember the Question, Answer, Passage triad.

There must be some consistency between what the question is asking for, what the passage says in response to the questions, and the answer choices you are given. If something feels disjointed, then that is probably a clue to look for a better answer.

As always, if you’re stuck between answers, reread the question. There might be something you missed the first time and rereading the question can help you move forward in your search!