Hiding in Plain Sight: SAT Question Jargon

SAT-style questions tend to repeat a few basic patterns, and if you make friends with those patterns now, you can do better on SAT-day. The following list is a sampler of the SAT's most common jargon, decoded:

  • According to the passage, all of these statements about the mushrooms are true except . . . : You have to determine which one is false.
  • In line 14, graberoo means . . . : Not in the universe you live in, but the definition in line 14.
  • The passage implies that . . . : The passage has no statement giving this idea, but the passage leads you to believe that the idea is true.
  • Which statement is supported by the examples in paragraph two (lines 15–22)?: If you're a trial attorney, what case are you making with the evidence in paragraph two?
  • The anecdote about the bubblegum (lines 45–48) suggests that . . . : Why is the author talking about bubblegum? Probably not because he or she is desperate to chew. Think analogy or symbol.
  • Which statement best describes the relationship between Glog's Theory of Cocktail Stirring and Beldok's Olive Intensity Scale? Compare these two crackpots and find an answer that expresses their similarity or difference.
  • The author's tone can best be described as . . . : Does the author bellyache, praise, sigh, weep, or shout? What mood do the words reflect?
  • The main idea of the passage is . . . : What title would you give this thing?
  • Lines 8–15 chiefly concern . . . : What title would you give to lines 8–15? Or, what's the most important idea in lines 8–15?
  • Lines 8–15 chiefly support the idea that . . . : Why did the author put those lines in, other than to insure a royalty check? What purpose do they serve?
  • The primary purpose of this passage is . . . : No, not to take up space and torment you. Why is the author writing this passage — to convince you of a point of view, to warn you, to explain something, to defend something, to debunk or criticize something? You choose.

SAT jargon sometimes seems like a foreign language. When normal people want to know, say, what fly eyes are like, they ask, "What are fly eyes like?" The SAT-makers aren't normal. They say something like the following:

According to the passage, all of these statements about fly eyes are true EXCEPT:

(A) Fly eyes are exceptionally well suited to flirting.

(B) Fly eyes go nicely with sky blue sweaters.

(C) There are too many eyes on the average fly head.

(D) Mascara is not a good idea.

(E) Most flies are very vain about their eyes and consult a plastic surgeon at the first sign of drooping.

Before you can decide the fly-eye issue, you have to decode some SAT jargon. The SAT-makers are telling you that four statements are true and one is false, and you have to select the false one. Needless to say, regular human interactions seldom ask you to identify lies, unless you're in a singles bar or checking late passes at school detention.

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