SAT Critical Reading – Let’s All Play “Hide The Noun”

On Critical Reading questions, you should come up with your own answer before you look at the choices.

Let’s suppose you’ve done just that, and your answer is “environmentalism has been effective.” Then you look at the answers, and only one of them mentions environmentalism, so you choose it.

News flash – you just chose the wrong answer!

“How can that be?” you ask. “You just wrote that the correct answer is about environmentalism.”

Well, you missed for two reasons. First of all, don’t leap at an answer because you like a single word in it. Second, the test writers fooled you, as they have fooled a huge number of students over the years, by playing a game I call…

“Hide The Noun”

You see, the test writers know that many students will be looking for an answer about environmentalism. And they want to make the questions challenging. If the correct answer contains a word that lots of students are looking for, the question isn’t very challenging. So they use an “alias” (assumed name).

Sometimes, the test writers are only a little bit mean, and they use a common synonym for the noun in question. Then the correct answer will use words such as “preserving the ecology” or “Green Movement.”

But sometimes they get meaner. The correct answer might include the words “a certain practice.” That’s very vague, but “a certain practice” could be environmentalism. Of course, it could also describe how you wash behind your ears, but that doesn’t matter to The College Board.

The Earth seen from Apollo 17.

I’ve seen many of these over the years. For example:

“Certain biological phenomena” referred to clocks and cycles in animals and plants.

“An entire group of people” referred to African-Americans.

“People with certain political leanings” referred to right-wingers.

So, if you “young people engaged in academic pursuits” (students) want to “achieve your desired goals” (score high) on a “particular standardized exam” (the SAT), you should “direct your efforts in an appropriate fashion” (study).


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