Practice with PSAT Double Reading Passages

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we explore the PSAT double reading passages portion of the Reading Test. We discuss some strategies for attacking this part, while also providing an example and some example questions in the quiz.

Double Passages

Tests are rarely, if ever fun. You have to memorize reams of material and make sure you're at your best on test day. Studying the subject matter can play a big role in how prepared you are. But what if you have no idea what the subject matter will be? That can be a scary prospect and make it hard to prepare.

Such is the case with the double passage section of the PSAT. The subject of the passages from history, current events, a cookbook--you name it! While this can make things difficult for the PSAT test prepper, there are some techniques you can use that can aid you no matter what subject you come across. This lesson will detail those, as well as provide a practice double passage.

When & Where

You'll definitely run across at least set of double passage questions in the Reading Test portion of the PSAT. Together, the two passages will be somewhere between 500 and 750 words, and you'll have four questions to answer concerning the two passages.

The questions may ask about some minutiae of one of the passages, but what's far more likely is that all four questions will ask you to compare the views and ideas present in each passage.

Strategies

While you may not know what you'll have to read and compare, here are some answer strategies that can help you do the best that you possibly can.

Read Questions First

Reading the questions before reading the passages can be immensely helpful. By reading the questions first and making sure they're fresh in your mind as you read the passages, you may encounter spots in the reading that tip you off to an answer without having to look for it later.

When this happens, it saves you time. Not only do you have the answer to your question before you're even done reading, but you avoid having to go back to the passage and search for the answer later. On a section of the PSAT that can contain up to 3,000 words over several passages, saving time where you can is definitely important.

Guess Smartly

If you read the questions, the passages, and you still haven't the faintest idea what the correct answer is, you'll pretty much get stuck needing to guess. While previous iterations of the PSAT penalized students for making incorrect answers, it no longer does, so make sure you answer every question.

But if you do have to guess, you have to make sure you do it properly. Can you eliminate any answers off the bat? Can you even narrow it down to two possible answers? If so, you can greatly increase your chances of guessing correctly and helping your overall score.

Insert Answers

Some questions may ask you to describe how a difficult or unfamiliar word is being used. There's a good chance you won't know what the word means, but that's the point: you're going to have to figure out how the word is being used through the context, or overall setting or idea surrounding the word.

So when you get one of these questions, simply read the sentence that contains the word, but instead of reading the word each time, insert the possible answer choices. This will make the correct answer choice stand out; only one should make sense when read this way.

Check Both Passages

The creators of the PSAT don't just make up the wrong answers they provide; they craft them to try to trick and mislead test takers. Some answer choices may be true of one passage, but not of both.

Because of this, it's incredibly important that you check the answer you choose against both passages. If it turns out to be wrong for one of them, you're going to need to consider a different answer.

Example Passage

Now that we've learned some techniques, let's put them to work! We're going to take a look at two passages similar to something that could appear on the PSAT. Click over to the quiz questions tab above, read the questions first, then dive in. Good luck!

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