If you are taking the digital SAT soon, I am here to give you some awesome tips. Today, we’re going to talk about three digital SAT reading question types that everyone is missing. Maybe not everyone, but a lot of people.
The Semicolon Question
The first kind of question that everyone is missing is the weird semicolon question. I didn’t pull this question directly from a blue book, so I have no spoiler alert for this question. I wrote it based on the type of error that I’ve seen over and over again on the digital SAT that a lot of students roll into.
Kenzaburō Ōe once held that Japanese literature had become overly influenced by the work of author Harruki Murakami, and some felt Ōe was one of Murakami’s harshest critics. When Murakami’s “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” was awarded the Yomiuri Literary Prize, Ōe accepted an invitation to present Murakami with the ________ the award ceremony, Ōe, when speaking to the press, slowly began to acknowledge Murakami’s talent and legacy.
a. award, however. After
b. award; however, after
c. award, however, after
d. award, however after
So, here’s the challenge. Conventional wisdom states that when we want to bridge two independent clauses with “however,” we do a semicolon, however, then a comma. And a lot of students pick that on the “however” questions on the SAT. But here’s a fun fact about grammar that many students don’t know: “However” can come at the end of a phrase and function as if it were at the beginning.
So, that’s the rule. I’m going to go back to the question above, and then I’ll show you another example. The contrast in the sentence actually, I think, comes between the sentence that says that Ōe is a total critic and the one that says that Ōe accepted an invitation to present the guy with a big award. That’s, to me, where the biggest contrast in the sentence is. If I look at the last piece of the sentence, “Ōe, when speaking to the press, slowly began to acknowledge Murakami’s talent and legacy,” it is a continuation of the idea that he accepted an invitation to present the award and had a change of heart. There’s no contrast between those two sentences. So, here’s the trick again, because what’s the rule? The rule is that “however” can come at the end of a phrase and function as if it were at the beginning. And where do I actually want the contrast? I want the contrast right here: He was one of his harshest critics, however, when Murakami’s “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” was awarded the Yomiuri Literary Prize, he accepted an invitation to present him with the award. Everybody said he’s his greatest critic, but when he was invited to give an award to the guy, he was like, sure. Contrast, right?
So, I would want the transition before the “When” in the paragraph. But if you can’t get it there, you can put it at the end, but here’s the rule: If you put it at the end, you put it after a comma at the end. So, that nixes B, which again was the conventional wisdom. How do you shove together two clauses with a however? You put a semicolon, however, then a comma. But on the SAT, you have to think about what the however means and where the contrast lies. If the contrast lies between the first sentence or clause and the second sentence or clause, then if the “however” comes at the end of the second clause, it should have a comma in front of it. And that actually denotes the contrast between the first sentence, or clause, and the second sentence, or clause. Again, “however” can come at the end of a phrase and function as if it were at the beginning.
Here is another sentence that does this:
Exoticism was often criticized for its superficial, stereotypical depictions of non-Western cultures, however.
That means there is a contrast between this sentence and whatever came before it. When we put however at the end of a sentence or a clause, it creates contrast not right where the however is, but rather between the previous sentence or clause and that second sentence or clause.
So, how do we find the right answer to the original question? Well, we know it’s not B because that creates contrast between the fact that he’s presenting at the award ceremony and then he slowly begins to acknowledge Murakami’s talent in a legacy. So, then we have A, which puts “however” at the end of the first sentence and starts a new sentence with “After.” That’s what we want, so A is going to be correct. C and D would both be run-ons. There’s no conjunction between these two clauses, and “however” is not a conjunction. It is sometimes a conjunction imposter, but it is an adverb and cannot glue two intimate clauses together. But this delineation between A and B is really the thing that people screw up, and if you want to learn more about it, this is from my online course, and I get really into this. But you can read through this example and maybe wrap your brain around this idea that “ however” can create contrast between a first sentence or clause and a second sentence or clause so long as it’s preceded by a comma at the end of the second clause.
The Command of Evidence Textual Question
The second type of question that people are missing like crazy is the command of evidence textual question. Spoiler alert: this is from the database of College Board questions. As of right now (when the video was filmed), this is not in Blue Book Tests 1 through 4, but who knows, maybe the College Board will suck it up and use it in another. I can’t guarantee that it won’t show up in one. So, there is a bit of a spoiler alert, but this type of question is one that a lot of people miss, and the reason they miss it is that they have trouble delineating between which answer choice requires more inference than another.
Icebergs generally appear to be mostly white or blue depending on how ice reflects sunlight. Ice with air bubbles trapped in it looks white because much of the light reflects off the bubbles. Ice without air bubbles usually looks blue because the light travels deep into the ice and only a little of it is reflected. However, some icebergs in the sea around Antarctica appear to be green. One team of scientists hypothesized that this phenomenon is the result of yellow-tinted dissolved organic carbon in Antarctic waters mixing with blue ice to produce the color green.
Which finding, if true, would most directly weaken the team’s hypothesis?
So really important here is to always make sure you know if the question is asking about weakening or supporting the argument. And then, we’re looking for what’s going to weaken the idea that the reason that the iceberg is green is because there’s this yellow-tinted organic carbon that’s dissolved and mixes with the blue.
Choice A states that “White ice doesn’t change color when mixed with dissolved organic carbon due to air bubbles in the ice.” This actually would support the idea that it’s blue mixed with yellow and might account for why we don’t have any yellow ice, but white ice isn’t what they’re saying is mixing. They’re saying blue ice mixes with it, so it has kind of nothing to do with the hypothesis. Choice B says that “Dissolved organic carbon has a stronger yellow color in Antarctic waters than it does in other places.” Other places here are irrelevant, and that’s not part of the argument.
Moving on, Choice C states that “Blue icebergs and green icebergs are rarely found near each other.” Now, from an inference standpoint, it would make sense that if this yellow-tinted dissolved organic carbon was mixing in in some places, you might have it mixing in and then it might not be over there, and so the green and the blue might be next to each other. But I’m doing something right now. I’m inferring some, right? So, this is better than A and B, but I have to infer, and I don’t like to infer. And if I do infer, I want to infer as little as possible. Finally, Choice D says that “Blue icebergs and green icebergs contain similarly small traces of dissolved organic carbon.” Now, here’s the problem: If they have a similar amount of dissolved organic carbon, how would this yellow-tinted dissolved organic carbon account for the green iceberg if it’s also in the blue iceberg? Shouldn’t those blue icebergs be green too, then? And so that makes a little bit more clear sense, and I don’t have to infer like I did with choice C. The original idea that dissolved organic carbon is the cause of the green can’t be true if blue icebergs have it too.
So, with these command of evidence textual questions, again, make sure you’re not inferring too much.
The “ING” Comma Question
I’m going to move on to my third question type, which is also a boundaries question, and I call this the “ING” comma rule. So spoiler alert: this is on our online course, but it’s in our practice sets and not in our practice tests. So if you’re on our online course, maybe you’ve seen it.
Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s own upbringing, shaped by a limited literary landscape, inspired her to create diverse narratives and establish organizations such as the Farafina Trust. The Farafina Trust has launched workshops, publishing opportunities and mentorship ________ young individuals to develop their reading and writing abilities, the program fosters a vibrant literary community.
a. programs, empowering
b. programs. Empowering
c. programs and empowering
d. programs empowering
A lot of people like to choose D because, when I read it, it sounds really great when I read it from the front. But the ING in “empowering” creates problems because, if I say that, the last part of the sentence essentially becomes a fragment that’s tacked on to the end with a comma, and the sentence becomes a run-on.
And then I want to talk about INGs and commas. If there is no comma in between “programs” and “empowering,” then the mentorship programs are what are empowering the young individuals to develop their reading and writing abilities. But I actually think the workshops are doing that too, as well as the publishing opportunities, right? So, if I were to choose between A and D, I probably would choose A because I think the idea is that all three of these things are empowering them. But this is still wrong because it would still be a run-on.
So, a quick side note about INGs: When I have these ING words, if I put a comma, then ING, this refers to the subject of the sentence. That means that the empowering is something that’s done by launching this; by launching this, they are empowering people. When we have no comma, then the ING word, the ING word is done by what touches it.
The general rule of thumb is, again, if I don’t have a comma between “programs” and “empowering,” the programs are what’s doing the empowering, but I actually think it’s the workshops, the opportunities, and the programs. So, that’s just another good rule to know.
So, the trick here is that the answer is actually B because the program is doing the empowering. With ING words, you always have to figure out who or what is doing the action. When we have an ING phrase at the beginning of a sentence, whoever or whatever is doing the action is what’s after the comma, and we call that a modifiers rule. When we have it touching something, the thing touching it is what’s doing that ING word. And when I have a comma, the thing doing that is the subject of the sentence plus the verb, and by doing the verb, it’s doing the action.
Hopefully, that can help you kind of clarify what that ING refers to. And the other thing too is to make sure you always read to the end, because even if something sounds wonderful, if you stop before you finish, you might hit a train wreck or a run-on if you keep going.
Thank you for reading, and we hope this was helpful!