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SAT Critical Reading


Short Reading Passages

Each short passage is approximately 100 words in length and is followed by two questions related to the passage. Each of the questions will fit into one of the seven categories of critical-reading questions covered earlier.


Strategies for Short Passages

When tackling short passages, follow these steps:

  1. Read the two questions but not the answer choices.

  2. Read the passage.

  3. Come up with answers for the questions in your own words.

  4. Match your answer to the correct answer.


Sample Short Passage

Airplanes are such a common form of travel that it’s easy to forget just how recently they were invented. Today, even a person in the middle of nowhere would not be surprised to see a plane in the sky. But before the Wright Brothers flew their plane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903, most scientists thought flight by heavier-than-air machines would never be achieved. Never. In fact, the word airplane didn’t come into common usage until after 1945.

  1. The reference to the “person in the middle of nowhere” serves primarily to

    1. introduce a new argument

    2. challenge common beliefs

    3. highlight the limitations of an accepted idea

    4. question modern morals

    5. indicate the scope of a change

  2. The author of the passage would most likely agree with each of the following statements EXCEPT

    1. airplanes are a relatively recent innovation

    2. the Wright Brothers took the first airplane flight

    3. air travel remains the privilege of the elite

    4. the word airplane was rarely used in the early twentieth century

    5. airplanes can be seen almost anywhere


Answers and Explanations

  1. The correct answer is E.

    • The phrase in the middle of nowhere emphasizes how common airplanes are today. It draws a contrast to 1903, when scientists did not believe such flight was possible.

    • In other words, the phrase in the middle of nowhere serves primarily to indicate the scope of a change. Therefore, E is the correct answer.

  2. The correct answer is C.

    • The author’s primary argument in the passage is that air travel has become commonplace even though airplanes were invented only 100 years ago.

    • A is incorrect because the author would certainly agree that air travel is a recent invention.

    • B is also incorrect since the author references the Wright brothers’ famous first flight directly in the passage.

    • D and E are incorrect because they both relate to assertions that the author clearly supports in the passage—that airplanes can be seen even in the middle of nowhere and that the word airplane came into common use only recently.

    • Only C stands out as directly contrary to the author’s main theme. Therefore, C is the correct answer.