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Writing: Relevant Information — Video lesson

David shows you how to approach a Relevant Information question on the SAT Writing and Language test. Created by David Rheinstrom.

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Video transcript

- [Instructor] Okay, so what we're looking at here is called a relevant information question. You will see between two and four of these on your exam, and you can identify them 'cause they usually start like this by saying that the writer is considering adding the following sentence and then the sentence, and then should the writer make this addition here. And you are being asked two questions. First of all, there's a binary, right? Like a this or that choice, a yes or no choice. And then there's a, if so why, if no, why, if yes, why? So what's nice as a strategy is we can first make that binary yes and no decision. Because there's two yeses and two nos we can knock out half the answers and then we can free up some brain space to consider the rationale. Because you can be correct that the author should or should not make an addition. But if you haven't identified the correct reason then you won't get the question correct. So let's take a look at the immediate context for the question. "All my life," the sculptor, Constantin Brâncuși remarked, "I have been seeking to capture the essence of flight," and the sentence, whatever it is would go in here. "Bird in Space" is a work of abstract art. "It is not a readily recognizable representation "of the bird in its title "but rather a polished arc of bronze "that calls to mind the animals' graceful airborne motion." All right, I'll stop there. Because for a relevant information question, we're really only looking at the immediate context of where the addition goes. We're not thinking about the paragraph as a whole. We're thinking about, okay in this spot between sentence one and sentence two, we wanna put this sentence 1.5. Does it fit there or not? So the writer is considering adding the following sentence, more than any of Brâncuși's other works, the 1926 sculpture "Bird in Space" manages to achieve that aim. So before I even look at the choices, I'm going to determine, okay, yes or no, does that belong here. With these questions, the answer will be yes. If we, when we're exploring the content we noticed that there's some kind of gap. So in the passage, for example, there's a gap between what Brâncuși believes about sculpture and depicting flight and discussing "Bird in Space". There's no introduction of "Bird in Space". There is a gap there. The answer will be no when there is no such gap and adding the sentence, it would distract from the point being made or it would be irrelevant to the point being made. And I think the answer is, yes it does belong here because, okay, so the second sentence mentions "Bird in Space" but it doesn't link "Bird in Space" to Brâncuși. So I'm gonna say, I'm gonna cross off C and D. We've made our binary decision and now we can focus on the rationale, on why it makes sense to include this information. So choice A, yes, because it helps explain why the US government would eventually recognize "Bird in Space" as a work of art. Now, we don't have the context for that but that is what this passage is about. And you can see at the very end of this paragraph which is just part of a longer passage that I've excerpted, it says, more than just a visually arresting sculpture, then "Bird in Space" was responsible for changing how the US government recognizes art. That may be part of the same paragraph but it's not part of the immediate context of where the sentence is supposed to go. And at any rate I don't think that's what this sentence does. Ask yourself when you're looking at the addition, what does this sentence do? And earlier I said, it introduces the idea of the statue. So let's look at choice B. Yes, it should be inserted because it provides an effective transition between the presentation of Brâncuși's goal and the discussion of "Bird in Space". And this, the word transition is very similar to my notion that it introduces the idea of the sculpture. So I'm going to say B is our answer. So when you are asked should the writer make this addition, first focus on the context, where is it fitting in exactly? Because it could be that the sentence being proposed makes more sense here or here, but not here. So you want to focus on the fact of whether or not it is immediately relevant in the specified spot. Not could it fit somewhere else in the paragraph. It probably could. But here we have this reference specifically, the sculpture manages to achieve that aim, what aim? Capturing the essence of flight, right, it even makes a reference back to the previous sentence. So we're trying to determine, does it fit in and why? So your strategy for relevant information questions like this is first to make that binary yes or no decision, and then determine the function of the sentence to help you figure out the reason to include it or not. Also, before we go, I thought it would be cool if you actually got to see the sculpture in question. So this is Brâncuși's "Bird in Space". I really like it, it's one of my favorite sculptures. Okay, see you.