Since SAT employed only passages in its section 2 (grammar) in 2016, there isn’t a divide on how students may approach the section that contains 44 questions and merely 43 second per question.
All in the test prep profession believe that you should read in detail only when necessary. Such a necessity, as they suggest, arises at the presence of EOI questions, where EOI stands for expression of ideas. We know that EOI questions come in three ways, relevancy of information to topic, identity either as idea or evidence, and location or order of information in question. When you are asked on this type of questions, you read in detail to identify the topic (key idea) of the paragraph, determine whether the information is summative or supportive to, or simply off-topic. Then, of cause, to find the right order in which the in-topic information should be placed, displaced or replaced. This framework seems so obvious that many of us, including myself, have been advising it to students. Not until now!
Looking at students’ practice, we see that some of the EOI errors are surprisingly consistent throughout the practices. One of the errors is on the determination of relevancy on a particular information. Take a look of the following example:
From New Orleans, Armstrong moved to Chicago to join Joe Oliver and his King Oliver Creole Jazz Band. His new big move was to New York, Where the “Harlem Renaissance” was in full swing. Here Armstrong met and collaborated with artists of all types—painters, poets, writers, actors and musicians — and ___________ :
Choose one that indicates specific effect of Armstrong’s New York experience on his work:
-A. embraced an artistic culture even richer than that in New Orleans;
-B. many of whom have become legendary artists in their own right;
-C. so his performance become more theatrical and comedic;
-D. later would recall this period as one of the most influential in his career.
Although the key to the solution lies in the question itsself or a “specific effect …on his work” as stated by the question, many students missed this question more than twice and even after they were explained the correct answers. The cause to the error’s consistency is that all four choices read fine by view of grammar logic when you are not equipped with an eye on the overall EOI structure. If the question is revised into “which choice best fit the discussion here”, you may see very few students survive.
However, if you know the article’s EOI structure, this would not be your problem. The article describes the career growth of American Jazz musician Louis Armstrong, following an IE-E-S structure with merely three paragraphs. “I” stands for idea, or key idea that we just stated above. “E” stands for evidences that are generally the supporting information that discusses, describes, explains, proves or narrates the key idea. In the Armstrong article, evidences are his career life lines with an emphasis on his acquisitions and choices in musical values. After Armstrong’s musical start in New Orleans is introduced, his musical specifics along his Chicago-New York-Chicago route is discussed in detail. Thus, having a message on the “more theatrical and comedic” performance of his would be much relevant, if not perfect. Even though A and D both read very well and seem to be related to Armstrong's music career, C is specifically in topic within the paragraph. You can also confirm this if you find Armstrong’s “rhythmic but nonsensical syllables” later in the paragraph.
There are two general structures in section 2 passages, IES and IED, both in line with what we discussed in Idea Progressions (click here is you haven’t read this topic). IES is idea-evidence-summary, and IED is idea-evidence-development. The difference between summary and development is whether the passage closes the discussion or indicates an unresolved direction by the end. Considering passages are often (almost) in 4 to 5 paragraphs, variations of both structure are in place. The following three count nearly all of your SAT examples since 2016.
One most common variation is I-E-I-E-S/D. In this structure, passage throws out an initial idea in the first paragraph, then places some evidences in the second. (Sometimes, the first and second may be combined in one so that structure can be IE-I-E-S/D.) In the next paragraph, a new, often competing idea is introduced and then evidence supplied. Last paragraph serves as closing statement or further extension for the entire passage. As you may have noticed, this also looks a lot like the standard structure in our CRM model.
The second variation, even more popular, is IEI-E-E-S/D. When you see a very long beginning paragraph, sometimes takes 1/3 to 1/2 of the entire passage, that's it. In such cases, an idea (often a phenomenon or person) is introduced in the very beginning with some illustrating details. But the first paragraph generally doesn’t stop here, instead it points out a concern or question about the idea or phenomenon. It indicates but may not give out an second idea straightly in the first paragraph. The following 2-3 paragraphs go on with all the evidences, and then a closing paragraph of summary or development.
The last common variation is I-E-E-E-S/D. Unlike the first two structures where two ideas are discussed, this third one employs only one key idea but gives out a lot more supporting information. It is very common when the passage’s main objective is to explain basics of a phenomenon or object, or describe a person’s life or career. It may be needless to employ two competing ideas in such occasions. The Armstrong examples falls in this structure.
In taking a section 2 test, you shall have these structures in mind before you start to address the questions. When asked for an EOI question, identifying the paragraph in the overall structure first — being it as simple as “I”, “E” or “S/D”, or complicate as “IE” and “IEI” — will help you to make your choices. It not only helps in determining the information relevancy, it can also help to determine the location or order on a good piece of information that you sure must keep. We will talk about this in next blog.