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Active Reading Step | Science passage | Reading test | SAT

David demonstrates an active reading strategy for a Science passage on the SAT Reading test. Created by David Rheinstrom.

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  • blobby blue style avatar for user Elijah B. Tuito'elau
    As someone who may struggle with learning disabilities, what can I do stay in focus of the reading?
    (58 votes)
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  • primosaur seedling style avatar for user Victoria Dawson
    Can't wait for my SAT exam! I am so excited. I wanna get to Columbia University. I am an international student, so I'm learning from 0 to literally perfect score :) Super video!
    (36 votes)
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  • eggleston blue style avatar for user SARRAF
    Doesn't reading the whole passage reduce our overall time? Would I be able to get through all 5 passages if I follow this method? I know it helps answer the questions better, but for the sake of time, I've gotten advice to read the questions and go back to specific parts of the passage that help answer that question.
    (12 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Harshitha
    Do we have an option of underlining or highlighting the text in the original test (on computer)?
    (6 votes)
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  • piceratops tree style avatar for user slayyyfelix
    isnt SAT online now? So would I be able to highlight??
    (4 votes)
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    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Hecretary Bird
      Based off of the online pilot SATs and practices that the College Board has rolled out, there will be a tool that you can use to highlight text. You'll also have access to the formula sheet, a calculator tool, and scratch paper to either write notes about the passage or to work math problems out on. It might be clunkier than if you had a paper and pencil, but all of your tools for the SAT will still be on the online version, rolling out in 2023 and 2024.
      (8 votes)
  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Siddhiraj
    Some terms in the passages are difficult to understand (meanings). So, what to do?
    (3 votes)
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    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Hecretary Bird
      In your general practice, make sure you read works that are at a high school or college or beyond level, to get you familiar with all of these tough words. Additionally, you can use SAT vocabulary programs if you wish.
      During the test, if you see a word you don't understand the meaning of, first make sure you need the meaning. If its a science article, the unfamiliar word might be a scientific process that is already defined somewhere else in the passage. And if no question asks about those lines, the meaning of the word probably won't matter and you can skip it and go to read the next part of the sentence.
      If a question does ask about a word you don't know, try to guess at its meaning based on context clues and tone words scattered around the sentence. If that fails, see if you recognize a latin root, and that might give you an inkling of the meaning.
      (9 votes)
  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Via
    What score did David get on the SAT?
    (5 votes)
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  • starky seedling style avatar for user Marco Trovato
    This is a great video and very helpful!
    (4 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user rgarcia176
    how can i focus on reading
    (4 votes)
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    • leafers tree style avatar for user L. E.
      Ok, here's what I posted elsewhere:
      The reason why SAT reading is hard is that
      1) It's timed
      2) They use advanced vocabulary
      3) The actual content could be anything from classic novels to science papers.

      I'd say begin with reading the classics: The Lord of the Rings, A Tale of Two Cities, Pride and Prejudice, etc. If you don't want something quite so difficult, perhaps choose The Hobbit, The Book Thief, or Tom Sawyer. Writing down words you don't know from those books and memorizing their definitions will help with vocabulary, and just getting used to more complex writing will be a benefit as well.

      You can also get some flashcards for vocabulary words, physical or online like Quizlet/Kahoot/Memrise, and drill those until you feel comfortable with them.

      Unless you are already a good scientist, the scientific reading will be more difficult, as we usually have less experience with that. Perhaps pull up some (simpler!) scientific papers online, or look through your old lab reports and just get familiar with the... long and complicated terminology ;)

      Getting comfortable with both complex and scientific writing styles as well as drilling vocab should help you cut down on the time it takes to read the sections, so you can focus more on the actual questions.

      Many people also suggest reading the questions before you read the content, so that you have a general idea of what you should be looking for.

      Hope that helped, and good luck!
      (1 vote)
  • blobby green style avatar for user 933303
    Should I do the questions associated with a specific passage immediately after reading it? Or should I read both passages then tackle all the questions at once
    (3 votes)
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    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user 24gargaa
      I would suggest reading each passage and immediately answering questions designated with that passage. David uses this strategy as well. I personally think that using this strategy would be more efficient because you are focusing on one passage at a time. This will help you understand each of the questions designated with that passage a little better. But what would be best is if you follow what you think would be most beneficial.
      (2 votes)

Video transcript

- [Instructor] If you've taken a practice SAT, you've probably noticed that one of your reading tasks asks you about two passages paired together instead of just one. In this video I'm going to look at one way to approach a set of paired science passages on the SAT. Instead of reading both passages at once and then diving into the questions, I'd like to do them one at a time. So my strategy looks like this. First, survey the questions, then read passage one, then answer passage one's questions, then read passage two. Then I'd answer the questions about passage two, then I would describe the relationship between those two passages and only then would I go back and answer the questions that are about both passages. Now, remember that science passages on the SAT usually feature a new claim or hypothesis along with research that supports it. Sometimes we also see discussion of the conclusions of the research and possible future questions that still need to be answered. Basically, there'll be a what section, and a so what section that we'll get to the main point, and you might see a section about implications of the research, or in other words a what's next section. So I'm gonna start by reading the blurb, then I'll scan the questions and only then will we read passage one. Passage one is adapted from Nicholas Carr, Author Nicholas Carr, The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains, and passage two is Mind over Mass Media. So from this broadly speaking I'm getting the idea that Carr thinks the web is bad. I'm just gonna say web equals bad, question mark. Now you don't have to make margin notes. You may not have time on test day. I'm just doing it to transmit my thought process to you, but don't take my notes as instruction. So, okay, so we got that. What does mind over mass media mean? Does it contrast with the first passage? It probably will, all things being equal. Paired passages are going to be at least in conversation about an idea. Maybe it's competing theories about the same thing, or two diverging stories about why something is the way it is. You know, Carr says x Pinker says y, but right now I don't have enough information one way or the other to figure out what that title means. Now let's survey the questions. All this means is that I'm going to zip through the questions and see which are about each passage, whether any call-out specific words or lines in the passage. And I'm not doing this to memorize the questions for later, I'm just priming my brain, trusting in the learning science that suggests that this pre reading step I'm about to do will help me recognize these target phrases as I read a minute or two from now. What I'm saying is I don't wanna spend a ton of time on this survey step. What I'm doing is essentially creating a roadmap to approach this passage. So if I feel like I'm short on time, I can do some of these questions as I read. Okay, so let's get to it. Question one, the author of passage one. Okay, so this a passage one question. This is what I'm talking about. It's as quick as that, right? Question number two refers back to the previous question, which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question? So this is also passage one. We'll do these first. Question three, the author of passage one indicates that becoming adept at using the internet. So maybe I'll keep my eyes open for the word adept. As used in line 33, the word plastic most nearly means. Okay, so I'm gonna go hop over into the passage and look for line 33, and look for the word plastic, 30, 31, 32, 33, highly plastic, cool. I don't wanna spend more time in the passage than I need to during this step. Okay, question five, the author of passage two. So now we're in passage two questions, refers to the novel War and Peace primarily to suggest that Woody Allen. Okay, so I'll be looking for War and Peace and Woody Allen in passage two. According to the author of passage two, another passage two question. What do novelist and scientists have in common? Great, so, oh, let me go back. Underline novelists and scientists. Think about that as I read passage two. The analogy in the final sentence of passage two. Okay, so this is probably our last passage two question, has which effect, cool. And now we're moving on to question eight. The main purpose of each passage. So this one's about both passages. So a question like this, I will do at the very end. Which choice best describes the relationship between the two passages? So this is another both passage question. Question 10, on which of the following points would the authors of both passages most likely agree? Great, another one that I would do last. And it looks like question 11 is the last one. Which choice provides the best evidence that the author of passage two would agree to some extent with the claim attributed to Michael Merzenich in lines 34 to 37 in passage one? So this is the question that compares both passages. And I'm going to go look really quick for the name Michael Merzenich in passage one, lines 34 to 37. Duper, duper, dup, dup. Okay, now there we go. There's Michael Merzenich. Here's 34 and here's 37. Okay, great, and with that, our survey step, our prereading is done. And it didn't take me very long, and I think it took even longer if I'm being honest, because I was reading aloud to you for the purposes of this video. So with the preread accomplished, let's move on to our next step, reading passage one. As we go, I'll be asking who is claiming what, what's the experiment and its findings, and what are the implications of those findings? Okay, so passage one, The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains. Here we go. The mental consequences of our online info crunching are not universally bad. Certain cognitive skills are strengthened by our of use computers and the net. These tend to involve more primitive mental functions such as hand-eye coordination, reflex response, and the processing of visual cues. One much-cited study. Okay, so there's a study of video gaming revealed that after just 10 days of playing action games on computers, a group of young people had significantly boosted. So I'm gonna put some pluses there, the speed with which they could shift their visual focus between various images and tasks. Let's move on. It's likely that web browsing also strengthens brain functions related to fast paced problem solving, particularly when it requires spotting patterns in a welter of data. A British study of the way women search for medical information online indicated that an experienced internet user can at least in some cases, assess the trustworthiness and probable value of a webpage in a matter of seconds. Okay, so here's another study. I'm also going to underline the word strengthens brain functions. Okay, so web browsing strengthens certain brain functions like the fast ones. Okay, the more we practice surfing and scanning, the more adept our brain becomes at those tasks. The word adept reminds me of a question. I don't remember what the question was about, that's fine. On test day I might peek over the questions and see if I can answer the relevant one right now, but I won't do that now. Let's keep going. But it would be a serious mistake. So this but is important, serious mistake. It's a bunch of negatives. I'm gonna put some minus symbols there, but it would be a serious mistake to look narrowly at such benefits. I conclude that the web is making us smarter. In a science article published in early 2009, prominent developmental psychologist Patricia Greenfield reviewed more than 40 studies on the effects of various types of media on intelligence and learning ability. She concluded that every medium develops some cognitive skills at the expense of others. Okay, so there's a trade-off here. Our growing use of the net and other screen-based technologies, she wrote, has led to the widespread and sophisticated development of visual-spatial skills, but, always look for transition words like but, but those gains go hand in hand with a weakening of our capacity for the kind of deep processing that underpins mindful knowledge acquisition, inductive analysis, critical thinking, imagination and reflection. Yeah, wow, that's a big call-out, right? So we're good at some stuff, but are we getting smarter? This Greenfield study suggests a couple of things, first that getting good at the internet means losing ability at deep processing. So there's a trade-off, and second it suggests that that trade-off itself is a bad deal. Losing processing power in exchange for speed is bad. We know that the human brain is highly plastic, and there's that vocabulary word that we circled in the survey step. If I was running short on time, I might just go and do this question right now, but I won't since I'll be doing a separate video for that question later. Let's move on. Neurons and synapses change as circumstances change. When we adapt to a new cultural phenomenon including the use of a new medium, we end up with a different brain, says Michael Merzenich, a pioneer in the field of neuroplasticity. So I think what he's saying there is what we do changes what our brains are. That means our online habits continue to reverberate in the workings of our brain cells even when we're not at a computer. We're exercising the neural circuits devoted to skimming and multitasking, while ignoring those used for reading and thinking deeply. So overall, my take on this passage is that it's saying the web is wrecking our brains, and making us bad at deep thinking, but making us good at making snap decisions and snap judgments, things that the author deems as primitive brain functions. So overall web is bad. Now on test day, I would go through and do all the questions about passage one, but I'll be breaking those down into individual worked example videos later. So in the meantime, let's press ahead with passage two. Here we go with Mind over Media, by Steven Pinker. Critics of new media sometimes use science itself to press their case, citing research that shows how experience can change the brain. Kind of sounds like Merzenich in that last paragraph of passage one, but cognitive neuroscientists roll their eyes at such talk. I see, okay. So I think I have an idea of how Pinker feels about passage one just from the jump. Yes, every time we learn a fact or skill the wiring of the brain changes. It's not as if the information is stored in the pancreas. Oh, Steven, you're so salty. But the existence of neuroplasticity does not mean the brain is a blob of clay pounded into shape by experience. Okay, so this basically sets up a direct contrast with passage one. Experience does not revamp the basic information processing of capacities of the brain. Speed reading programs have long claimed to do just that. But the verdict was rendered by Woody Allen after he read Leo Tolstoy's famously long novel War and Peace in one sitting. It was about Russia. Genuine multitasking too has been exposed as a myth, not just by laboratory studies, but by the familiar sight of an SUV undulating between lanes as the driver cuts deals on his cell phone. Okay, so here we've got Woody Allen, and War and Peace. And I remember that there was a question about Woody Allen. So on test day, I might go and see if I could tackle that question right now. War and Peace is as Pinker writes a famously long and also a famously complex book. It would be absurd to boil it down to a single sentence. And Pinker is arguing that the brain isn't so malleable that you can transform yourself into the person who can read and comprehend War and Peace all at once. It doesn't matter if you've taught yourself to speed read, your comprehension will not be as good. And this is illustrated by the example of someone driving badly while talking on their cell phone. Moreover, the effects of experience are highly specific to the experiences themselves. If you train people to do one thing, recognize shapes, solve math puzzles, find hidden words. They get better at doing that thing, but almost nothing else. Music doesn't make you better at math, conjugating Latin doesn't make you more logical, brain training games don't make you smarter. Accomplished people don't bulk up their brains with intellectual calisthenics. They immerse themselves in their fields. Novelists read lots of novels, scientists read lots of science. I remember there was a question in the pre-read that was about novelists and scientists. If I was tight for time on test day I might just head over and try to find and do that question now. I would say that the point of this paragraph is saying that specific experience is more important. If you're good at solving a Rubik's cube, it doesn't make you better at writing history papers. It makes you good at solving a Rubik's cube. So this is in contrast to passage one that says, if you play a lot of video games, it's gonna make you worse at doing research. The effects of consuming electronic media are likely to be far more limited than the panic implies. All right, so Pinker's saying, it's not that bad. Media critics write as if the brain takes on the qualities of whatever it consumes. The informational equivalent of you are what you eat. As ancient peoples who believed that eating fierce animals made them fierce, they assume that watching quick cuts in rock videos turns your mental life into quick cuts, or that reading bullet points and online postings turns your thoughts into bullet points and online postings. So, okay, so this feels like it's in contrast to the Merzenich. So maybe the overall point of this passage is you aren't what you eat. At this point, I'd go through all of the passage two questions, and only then would I swing around to the final questions about both passages. And in preparation for that I would compare the two passages. So let's do that right now. So if the point of passage two is you aren't what you eat. Well, then the point of passage one is that you are what you eat. According to the first passage, the things your brain takes in do shape your brain. And according to the second passage they don't. And with that basic understanding in mind, approaching the questions about both passages suddenly becomes a lot more manageable. Summarize each paragraph as you go along, like I did in this video. Rephrasing the main points of each paragraph in your own words will strengthen your understanding of the passage as a whole. Good luck out there. You've got this.