kitchen table math, the sequel: SAT reading question for all you ktm brainiacs

Monday, November 21, 2011

SAT reading question for all you ktm brainiacs

The author’s attitude toward children appears to be one of:

(A) concern for the development of their moral integrity
(B) idealization of their inexperience and vulnerability
(C) contempt for their inability to accept unpleasant facts
(D) exaggerated sympathy for their problems in daily life
(E) envy of their willingness to learn about morality
What's the answer?

47 comments:

Barry Garelick said...

I'll say "A".

Catherine Johnson said...

ok, that's one!

let's hear from the rest of you all --- !

Catherine Johnson said...

Debbie & I just did a whole page of a reading section in the Oct 2011 SAT together -- 4 questions -- and we got every question right.

Our answers were a bit 'contaminated' by the fact that we both read the passage in October, when we took the test.

On the other hand, neither of us remembered the passage or our answers...

Jo in OKC said...

Very clearly not C or E.

I think not D.

That leaves A or B.

I'll go with A.

Catherine Johnson said...

I just had a revelation.

SAT reading doesn't just test 'reading comprehension' of the passages.

It tests "reading comprehension" of the "implied author" who is the question writer.

I need to break out my copy of Wayne Booth here.

Catherine Johnson said...

2 votes for A!

Catherine Johnson said...

I'm interested in hearing why you guys chose 'A' after people have weighed in ----

ChemProf said...

A seems most likely, although it could be B. (and we're supposed to figure this out without the actual passage, right?)

Catherine Johnson said...

right!

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

Sorry, the game of guessing the answer without reading the passage is not one that appeals to me. It is so much the wrong way to look at SAT questions that I want no part of it, even as a blog game.

Jen said...

Gswp -- have you tried taking a whole SAT in its latest incarnation?

I'd recommend it, take the whole thing, timed, all at once. Then check back and see if you really think it's worthwhile as a stand-alone endeavor.

Personally, I like it as a puzzle, a game, and yes, as a quiz of how well I can suss out the question writer, as well as the author of the actual passage.

Jen said...

On the question, I'd say C and D are out. Contempt would make the passage an unlikely choice for the SAT (though clearly seeing it would rule that in or out pretty instantly). Exaggerated sympathy would likely mean bad writing and/or thinking. Also not a good idea to insult the writer of the passage.

B and E seem unlikely, though for different reasons.

A and B at least seem to be in the same ballpark, with one of them the one that's wrong. I'd guess it's B that's wrong, but that there are several words in the passage that are similar to "inexperience" and "vulnerability" which makes it an appealing choice.

So I'm joining the As sans passage.

kcab said...

LOL, what the heck, I pick E.

Barry Garelick said...

It is so much the wrong way to look at SAT questions that I want no part of it, even as a blog game.

Actually, it is the right way to look at SAT questions. This particular game was written up in a book by David Owen about the SAT, called "None of the Above" written in the early 80's. He talked about how after one is familiar with the ETS "sensibility" of test questions and answers, you can actually answer many of the reading questions correctly without reading the passage.

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

"you can actually answer many of the reading questions correctly without reading the passage."

That may be true, and it may be a symptom of poor test design, but I'm reasonably certain that it would be much faster and easier to read the passage then answer the questions, at least if one is a fast and competent reader. Therefore, I'm fairly certain that this sort of gaming the test is a waste of effort.

I've not taken the SAT in over 40 years, but my son has, so I have only secondhand information about it. Maybe I should take it this year so that I can speak from first-hand knowledge instead.

Barry Garelick said...

I didn't mean to say that the right way to take the reading part of the SAT is to not read the passage. I meant that there is a way of reading the answer choices that helps you decide which ones can be eliminated--and is ultimately a quicker method than searching the passage and re-reading, which can eat up time.

Glen said...

All right, I'll bite, as Grampa used to say.

A) Concern of this sort is an ancient tradition, so this could be it. Development goes with children. Concern, development, moral, integrity fit together easily. And observing that someone is apparently concerned about something is pretty objective.

B) Inexperience and vulnerability aren't things that are idealized.

C) Contempt for children would be an odd theme on an SAT, made odder by this reason for contempt

D) Without the word "exaggerated" it would be fine, but "exaggerated" makes it purely my subjective judgment of how much sympathy is too much, violating the "just the facts, ma'am" principle

E) These concepts don't fit together. "Learn about morality" as if it were a topic of study? Well, you can study other people's VIEWS on morality, but I'm not sure you can study morality per se (where would you find it?), and a "willingness" to do so is even stranger. Then, envying that willingness, and it's just too weird.

So, A it is for me, too.

Rudbeckia Hirta said...

My gut says A (my 1990 verbal score was 730 with no test prep).

FedUpMom said...

I say "E". It sounds like the exaggerated nostalgic childhood-worshipping that some people think means "deep".

pckeller said...

Let's keep two ideas separate: the fact that this game can be played successfully is relevant if your goal is to challenge the validity of the SAT reading test. But it is NOT relevant if your goal is to help someone prepare to take the test. It is harder to learn his kind of meta-thinking about questions than it is to just read the passage and find the evidence. And most of us have a lifetime of reading experience that a highschool students does not have. Also, this is just one item, perhaps cherry-picked to make the point. A better experiment would be to answser an entire reading section using this method. Do you think you would be happy with your score? Or would there be a half-dozen (or more) items which would make you say "OK, I better read the passage for these"? Once you cave and go back to reading, now you have wasted a bunch of time playing the meta-game.

Rudbeckia Hirta said...

pckeller, I'm not so sure on your comment "now you have wasted a bunch of time playing the meta-game."

Here was my SAT strategy that I used back in 1990:

Step 1: Read the questions and cross out obviously wrong answers (such as C, D, E in this example).

Step 2: Read the passage, with the questions in mind, specifically seeking the answers to the questions.

Step 3: Bubble in the answers.

Since you have to read the question (and the choices) at some point, doesn't it make sense to read it first so you know what you're looking for in the passage? Being able to cross out the wrong answers ahead of time just improves your odds.

(Spring 1990: 760M, 730V, no test prep.)

SteveH said...

Interesting. I love Glen's analysis. Is this a waste of time? I don't think so. Can it lead to wasted test time following a wrong path? Perhaps, but as Barry says, it can save time by eliminating choices or giving you a particular order of search.

However, I don't know how one would develop this sensibility. One could practice answering questions without reading the passage. I will have to give it a try. It's certainly something I will have my son try. Is this a wasted or misdirected exercise? I don't think so. I think all it will take is a little bit of practice.

But, is this a cherry-picked problem? Can this thinking lead you in the wrong direction on other problems? Can you tell the difference between the problems? Does this technique work better after reading the passage? The goal is to reduce time and increase your probability of success. Grokking the test can be a valuable skill and it may take less preparation time than some general admonition about reading a lot.

It would be an interesting practice. Read the questions and select which one you think is correct. Then read the passage. Will it be a self-fulfilling result? For another question, read the passage, and then use the same sort of judgment to decide which answers are most correct. Are you reducing time using this knowledge or not? I don't think it's a wasted effort.

David Owen just sold another book.

SteveH said...

A problem I have about reading the questions first is that if it's a large passage, there are several questions. If I try pre-reading more than 2 questions, nothing sticks. I might as well not pre-read anything. For me, I try to read the passage(s) quickly to get a general sense of tone and to remember key points. Then I read the questions. I'm sure I could easily answer the question in this thread. The choices are obviously different.

It's the more subtle or technical questions that give me problems. As much as I try to concentrate on the reading passage, it doesn't help that much. This lead me to a technique where I read the passages fairly quickly and answer the questions like the one above. Next, I tackle the more difficult ones. I would like to see how this thread's technique can be applied to those problems.

In that sense, One could say that this technique will only work on questions where one would not have any difficulty in the first place.

Catherine Johnson said...

gasstation wrote:
the game of guessing the answer without reading the passage is not one that appeals to me.

It's not a game.

The SAT critical reading sections have an "implied author": the question I have posed asks you to read the implied author, not the passage the implied author is posing questions about.

I suspect that the better you do on critical reading, the better you do answering the questions without reading the passages --- precisely because a good reader can identify and interpret the 'implied author.'

Just to show off - BECAUSE I CAN! HAHA!! - Debbie and I answered 4 questions on one of the reading sections together after discovering the research this question is drawn from.

We both got all 4 correct without looking at the passage.

Catherine Johnson said...

I should add that I know virtually nothing about rhetoric, so if there's a rhetorical concept that is the equivalent of the 'implied author,' let me know.

Catherine Johnson said...

Jen wrote: Gswp -- have you tried taking a whole SAT in its latest incarnation?

I'd recommend it, take the whole thing, timed, all at once. Then check back and see if you really think it's worthwhile as a stand-alone endeavor.


I challenge gasstation to a duel!

THAT'S A JOKE!

Catherine Johnson said...

Rudbeckia Hirta wrote: My gut says A (my 1990 verbal score was 730 with no test prep).

Interesting.

Catherine Johnson said...

Phillip wrote: It is harder to learn his kind of meta-thinking about questions than it is to just read the passage and find the evidence.

I agree with this, BUT I have a question.

First of all, I think Phillip is right: I suspect that the ability to answer SAT reading questions **without** reading the passage is probably an extremely advanced form of reading -- AND is predicated on having taken at least a few practice reading sections prior to taking the test.

I think I took maybe....3 or 4 practice reading sections 2 summers ago... and it looks like I can answer SAT reading questions pretty well without reading the passage beforehand.

I developed a 'feel' for the entity I'm calling the SAT's "implied author."

That's part 1.

Part 2 - and this is really a question - is this something that can be taught to kids prepping for the test?

More specifically, if you taught kids to see the SAT as having an 'author,' might that help?

I'll add that Chris, who is an extremely strong reader, absolutely saw the SAT as having an implied author. He never put it that way, and I never put it that way, but during the year he prepared for the test off & on (way more off than on, unfortunately), he always spoke of the SAT reading section in personal terms, as if it were a written work with an author: an author who had an identifiable personality and set of values.

He did that naturally, and I saw it as a natural thing to do --- and now I'm thinking: maybe not.

In fact, 'reading' the 'implied author' inside a standardized test is probably a fairly advanced skill--- ?

Anyway, my general question is: if you specifically taught kids to attend to the language in the questions, would that help?

Catherine Johnson said...

Rudbeckia Hirta wrote: Step 3: Bubble in the answers.

I wish you'd explained that to me back in October.

Catherine Johnson said...

Step 1: Read the questions and cross out obviously wrong answers (such as C, D, E in this example).

Step 2: Read the passage, with the questions in mind, specifically seeking the answers to the questions.


Wow!

That is interesting.

That approach never occurred to me ---- and I can't remember what the good tutors say ....

ALWAYS, though, I rip through the multiple choice questions crossing out the obvious wrong ones.

That seems to be the key to the SAT: they always have two choices that are plausible. You need to eliminate the other 3 quickly so you can obsess over the remaining two.

Catherine Johnson said...

SteveH wrote: However, I don't know how one would develop this sensibility.

That's my question!

Forgot to mention: all the tutors give you **some** sense of the SAT's implied author, and I found their advice terrifically helpful.

SAT tutors tell you that the SAT Writer Person is a genteel sort who doesn't like strong words or strong emotions.

That piece of advice is dead on: you never, ever, pick the alternative that expresses strong sentiment.

I now think C. was right in his analysis of the writing items. He told me several times that if a sentence item was about blacks or Indians, then the sentence had "No Error": it was grammatically correct as well as politically correct.

After I went through a couple of sections with him, I think that's a good rule to teach kids.

Specifically: if you're completely stumped on a sentence item that is about blacks or Indians, choose "No Error."

The SAT Writer Person has delicate sensibilities.

Catherine Johnson said...

Jen wrote: I like it as a puzzle, a game, and yes, as a quiz of how well I can suss out the question writer, as well as the author of the actual passage.

Jen beat me to it!

Right.

There are two authors in every section: the author of the passage and the author of the questions.

It's that simple.

I'm pretty certain that a good reader is going to identify the fact that there are two authors -- and is going to read each author on his own terms.

Catherine Johnson said...

is this a cherry-picked problem?

NO!!

This passage was included in a study of SAT reading (will get the link up) -- but Debbie and I sat down and did 4 questions on the first page we turned to and got them all right!

Catherine Johnson said...

The hardest questions to answer just by reading the questions are questions comparing two passages.

I think your percent correct would get down to chance levels.

Catherine Johnson said...

oh wow ---- I'm pulling together the various studies this question comes out of.

Sure enough: the ability to answer SAT reading questions without reading the passage correlates directly with the verbal score.

I interpret that to mean that high-scoring students ***are reading the SAT Writer Person.***

HIgh-scoring students are a) aware that the author of the questions is a different entity from the authors of the passages and b) are reading the implied author of the questions.

Catherine Johnson said...

David Owen just sold another book.

It's in my Amazon cart now!

pckeller said...

OK, I am not a verbal tutor. But I am a lifelong reader and I work closely with an excellent reading tutor. So I just picked up an old SAT and tried to answer without reading the sections. Got about 2/3 right. But that's not good enough. And I find that if I actually read the damn passages slowly and then answer based only on the evidence in the passage, I can get them almost every time. It's just that who would want to read them if they didn't have to?

I also give a thumbs up to the David Owen book. And by the way, if you are at all interested in houses and DIY, I also recommend his book "The Walls Around Us".

Jen said...

I resisted at first when I heard a [big test prep firm] tell their teachers to tell students NOT to read the passage first, but to skim the first paragraph, read first sentences of all the rest and then skim last paragraph. Quickly. Just to get a vague idea of what was in there.

Now, I rarely do even that. I do always read the little italicized intro bits if they have them.

I go through and do the questions with line numbers first -- the questions specific to some detail in the passage. In many cases knowing more will hurt you in answering those questions.

Many good readers and/or thinkers make inferences, and "add in" what they know about the topic when answering questions. You are much more likely to pick the wrong 1 of the 2 seemingly possible answers in that situation. Just use what's there.

After you've done all the line # questions, you've often read a good chunk of the passage (in order) and should have a good idea of the tone, purpose, etc. Answer those questions next/last, rereading as necessary and paying attention to the conclusions at the end.

For the two short passages with comparison questions -- those I do read in full and write a quick phrase or sentence of their main point. Being able to summarize quickly/concisely is a "good reader" skill and one that is often difficult for HS students.

The other rule for SAT reading passage questions is that the answers aren't going to offend anyone's parents. They aren't going to have "many scientists engage in academic fraud these days" as a correct answer choice. They don't seem to want the children of scientists going home and complaining about that horrible test.

Katharine Beals said...

To the extent that imagining the writer's perspective is key--whether the writer is the writer of the reading passage, or the writer of the entire reading test--I wonder about the special challenges faced by those on the autistic spectrum (or with a heavy loading of autism genes!)..

Catherine Johnson said...

pckeller wrote: Got about 2/3 right.

Phillip - that is a HUGE number to get right!

2/3???

Wow.

Assuming I'm reading the summary right (and I'm reading a summary written by a student, not the original papers), the highest scores were around 45% correct.

That's compared to 70% correct for students who read the passages.

Catherine Johnson said...

LISTEN TO JEN EVERYONE!!!!

Many good readers and/or thinkers make inferences, and "add in" what they know about the topic when answering questions. You are much more likely to pick the wrong 1 of the 2 seemingly possible answers in that situation. Just use what's there.

She is ***absolutely*** right.

I was thinking about this just today or yesterday: I think this is the Critical Reading equivalent of the find-the-hidden-right-triangle images in the math sections.

Your brain 'sees' (math) or 'knows' (reading) something, and you have to forcibly suppress that knowledge in order to limit yourself to the logic of the question.

That is a very, very unnatural thing to do.

BRAIN DOESN'T LIKE IT.

Jen has just described --- Hideous Jargon Alert ---- a brain-based technique for suppressing background knowledge while taking a Critical Reading section.

Catherine Johnson said...

Synchronicity: I just did the Great Expectations passage in BB Test 10 because Debbie says one of the tutors she's worked with told her kids can't do it.

I missed one -- and I missed it because I brought in background knowledge!

I don't know whether my answer was right in terms of the book the excerpt was drawn from (I haven't finished reading the book, and hadn't gotten to that passage.)

My answer was right in terms of the character (Pip in Great Expectations).

But my answer was definitely wrong in terms of the 'bounded' nature of the excerpt on the SAT.

Catherine Johnson said...

Jen - are you a tutor??

(I was thinking you're a parent ----- )

I do realize a person can be a parent AND a tutor!

pckeller said...

Catherine --

Don't be impressed with 2/3 -- I didn't do the entire section! Just the shorter ones. I know I would not have done nearly as well on the long "compare the two passages section". So, since I didn't think I could win, I didn't play! (I knew I would have to go back and read to chek my answers, and as I said before, I really don't enjoy this kind of reading.)

Also, even if the ability to play this game correlates perfectly with reading scores, that is still not the point. The point is: which method yields higher scores? I am having a hard time envisioning the student who has enough experience and sensitivity in their reading to learn how to play the meta-game well enough to use it with confidence on the real test and yet who cannot learn to use the read-the-passage-find-the-evidence approach with a higher success rate.

pckeller said...

OK, I did another...still not a comapre the two sections type. This time, a medium passage with 9 questions...no lie, I promise: got 6 out of 9! I still think this is silly but maybe a little fun. And I can think of one way it might be helpful during prep: my colleague always has kids start off their reading prep by practicing untimed -- take all the time you need to learn to find the evidence. If you were practicing untimed, I think this game might be helpful. You get to see which questions you can sort-of guess and which ones will definitely need to be read about. But also, I found myself inventing a kind of ghost narrative as I read the questions. The questions created a scaffold and I tried to imagine the passage constructed behind. As a puzzle game, it reminded me of the double acrostics that show up in the Sunday Times every few weeks. Sometimes I can sovle those even though I was sure that I did not have enough clues to start with. Again, I had to imagine a structure without having certainty. And in general, if I were trying to begin SAT prep really early, I would feed my children a steady diet of of all kinds of puzzles.

readingcare said...

Most of people in this world have problem in their vocabulary and they can really improve their vocabulary using SAT reading practice tests.

Jen said...

**I do realize a person can be a parent AND a tutor! **

Yup, guilty on both counts. Two of my own kids now past SATs, thank heavens, only one to go. Used to tutor, stopped when other work took over, started up again last spring.

In light of this conversation (to which I'm returning much later, thanks to the reading care ad poster above!), I'd add that tutoring SATs requires not just a knowledge of the tests and the skills tested...but also of the teen brain/thought processes. I don't promise to have a whole lot of insight there, but enough surrounding the test to usually get them good score increases.