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The SAT Reading Test: Rhetoric

Details about Rhetoric on the Reading Test

What is rhetoric?

One definition of the word rhetoric is “the study of writing or speaking.” Rhetoric questions on the Reading Test assess how well you understand the choices that authors make as they structure and develop their texts to convey meaning.
A note on the images in this article: all Reading Test items will be associated with a passage, but the passages are not included here. Each question pictured is just one example of how items in that category can look.
Some sub-topics within rhetoric:

Analyzing word choice.

Questions will ask you to determine how specific words or phrases or the use of patterns of words and phrases creates meaning and tone in the passage.
An image of an Analyzing Word Choice question which says:
The authors' use of the words "exact", "specific", and "complement" in lines 47-49 in the final paragraph funcitons mainly to A) confirm that the nucleotide sequences are known for most molecules of DNA. B) counter the claim that the sequences of bases along a chain can occur in any order. C) support the claim that the phosphate-sugar backbone of the authors' model is completely regular. D) emphasize how one chain of DNA may serve as a template to be copied during DNA replication.

Analyzing text structure.

Questions focus on the overall structure of a text and on analysis of the relationship between a particular part of the text (e.g., a sentence) and the whole text.
An image of an Analyzing Text Structure question which says:
Which choice best describes the developmental pattern of the passage? A) A careful analysis of a traditional practice B) A detailed depiction of a meaningful encounter C) A definitive response to a series of questions D) A cheerful recounting of an amusing anecdote

Analyzing point of view.

Questions will ask you to determine the point of view or perspective from which a passage is told, or identify the influence this point of view or perspective has on content and style.
An image of an Analyzing Point of View question which says:
On which of the following points would the authors of both passages most likely agree? A) Computer-savvy children tend to demonstrate better hand-eye coordination than do their parents. B) Those who criticize consumers of electronic media tend to overreact in their criticism. C) Improved visual-spatial skills do not generalize to improved skills in other areas. D) Internet users are unlikely to prefer to reading onscreen text to reading actual books.

Analyzing purpose.

Questions will ask you to determine the main purpose of a text (typically, one or more paragraphs).
An Analyzing Purpose question which says:
The main purpose of the first paragraph is to A) describe a culture. B) criticize a tradition. C) question a suggestion. D) analyze a reaction.

Analyzing arguments.

Questions will ask you to analyze arguments for their content and structure.
An Analyzing Arguments question which says:
The central claim of the passage is that A) educated women face a decision about how to engage with existing institutions. B) women can have positions of influence in English society only if they give up some of their traditional roles. C) the male monopoly on power in English society has had grave and continuing effects. D) the entry of educated women into positions of power traditionally held by men will transform those positions.
You will not need to know these types of questions by name for the test, but this list gives you an idea of some of the question types you will encounter.
Want to practice your rhetorical analysis skills? Start here!

Attributions

This article was adapted from the following sources:
“SAT Practice Tests” from The College Board.

Want to join the conversation?

  • female robot ada style avatar for user Lama Bahaa El-Dien
    In analyzing arguments questions, isn't there a faster and easier way rather than reading the whole passage? because when i do, read the whole passage, I mess up everything and waste a lot of time and most likely answer the question wrongly
    (1 vote)
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    • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Marie Kim
      For argumentative passages it's important to know the main point and what the author uses to prove that main point. So just read those parts (bits of the evidence and the conclusion, introduction wherever the main point is clearly presented).
      (12 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user YBN_MONK
    How can i increase my reading speed
    (6 votes)
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  • duskpin seed style avatar for user Alex Han
    What's the difference between Rhetoric- Analyzing purpose/Analyzing Arguments and Information and Ideas- Determining Central Ideas and Themes?
    (4 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Anastasia
    Is it allowed to take notes on sat papers where contents are written?
    (3 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user aryammansahlot03
    where can i find the grammar rules of SAT in khan academy?
    (2 votes)
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  • starky ultimate style avatar for user Ahhyun
    I think there's a typo. On the third line first paragraph the word "they" is repeated twice.
    (1 vote)
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  • hopper cool style avatar for user N. Kang
    If I'm not able to understand a passage and I'm not able to solve the questions because of that, what should I do?
    (1 vote)
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    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Hecretary Bird
      If during the test, you find yourself unable to understand a passage, focus on the detail-based questions first, such as ones containing line references. These don't really require you to have an understanding of the passage as a whole, so you can get by with those. Afterwards, perhaps your analysis of those details may have clued you in to the main point of the passage as a whole.
      Another thing you can do is to analyze other parts of the answers that don't require an understanding of the passage. Is it a sweeping generalization? Does it have a strong opinion, and is the passage neutral? If so, that answer choice is likely to be wrong. Pick up a couple general rules like these to put into your SAT toolbox. (Try not to use these tricks by themselves to eliminate answers; they're really just guidelines and could potentially be violated at any time)
      (2 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Sylvie Deborah
    what about the questions that ask to give another word that best describes a word in the passage?
    (1 vote)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user drayush.sr
    where is the actual practice test
    (1 vote)
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  • marcimus purple style avatar for user Beberli Guzman
    What is rhetoric? i think que defina que numero formado de shape que sonsume que numbero se van compuesto de exponet and x,y axis it could funtion
    (1 vote)
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