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PSAT – Reading

What does the PSAT Reading Section test?

The PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test) Reading section is designed to assess your ability to understand, analyze, and interpret a variety of written texts. This section is meant to evaluate your reading comprehension skills and your ability to engage with different types of passages that you might encounter in academic and real-world settings. The reading section typically includes a mix of passages from various genres, such as fiction, non-fiction, science, history, and social studies.

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The PSAT Reading section tests several key skills:

Comprehension: You’re assessed on your ability to understand the main ideas and details of a passage. This involves grasping the overall message, identifying key points, and understanding the relationships between different ideas within the text.

Vocabulary: Your vocabulary skills are assessed through the words and phrases used in the passages. You might encounter unfamiliar words, and your ability to infer the meanings of these words from the context is important.

Inference: The test will gauge your ability to draw logical conclusions and make inferences based on information presented in the passages.

Analysis: You’ll be asked to analyze the author’s tone, purpose, and perspective. This involves understanding why the author wrote the passage and the techniques they used to convey their ideas.

Evidence and Detail Recognition: You’ll need to identify specific details and evidence that support the main ideas or arguments presented in the passages.

Comparative Reading: In some cases, you might be presented with multiple passages that relate to a common theme or topic. You’ll be asked to compare and contrast these passages in terms of their content, style, and perspective.

Understanding Rhetorical Devices: The passages might use various rhetorical devices, such as similes, metaphors, analogies, and figurative language. Your ability to recognize and interpret these devices can be tested.

Main Idea and Purpose: You’ll be asked to determine the main idea of a passage and understand the author’s purpose in writing it.

Organization: You’ll need to understand the structure and organization of the passages, including how information is presented, transitions between ideas, and the overall flow of the text.

To do well on the PSAT Reading section, students should practice reading a variety of texts and familiarize themselves with the types of questions that are typically asked. It’s also important to manage time effectively during the test, as there are many questions to answer within a relatively short period of time.

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PSAT Reading Sample:

Read the passage and answer the questions that follow.

The cabin in which I found myself was small and rather untidy. A youngish man with fair hair, a bristly straw-colored mustache, and a drooping nether lip, was sitting and holding my wrist.

Then just overhead came a clamoring sound like an iron bedframe being knocked about, and then a low reverberation, the growling of some large animal. Simultaneously, the man repeated his question, “How do you feel now? You were on the brink of starvation when we retrieved you from the boat.  The name on the boat was the ‘Lady Vain,’ and there were several areas with blood on the upper edge of the boat. You were in luck,” he said, “to get rescued by a ship with a medical professional aboard.”

He spoke with a slobbering articulation, an impression of a lisp. “You were virtually dead,” said my interlocutor.  “It was a very near thing, indeed.  But I’ve put some stuff into you now. Do you notice the soreness in your arm?  It’s from the injections I’ve given you.  You’ve been insensible for nearly thirty hours. “Then the cacophony overhead began again, a grimacing growl and the voice of a human being, together.  Then another voice, telling some “Heaven-forsaken idiot” to desist. Distracted now by the yelping of several dogs, I thought somberly about my near death.

“But,” he said with a momentary hesitation, “you know I’m dying to hear of how you came to be alone in that boat. Curse that howling!”

I thought I detected a certain suspicion in his eyes as he suddenly left the cabin, and I heard him in violent controversy with someone, who seemed to me to talk gibberish in response to him. The matter sounded as though it ended in blows, but in that, I thought my ears were deceiving me. Then he shouted at the dogs and returned to the cabin.

“Well?” he said in the doorway.  “You were just beginning to tell me.”

My ship collided with a ghost ship ten days after embarking. Two other men and I were fortunate enough to climb aboard the dinghy. Famished and tormented by an intolerable thirst, we drifted for eight days altogether. After the first day, we said little to one another. The sun became pitiless, and our haggard minds were already thinking strange things and saying them with our eyes. We knew someone had to get help. We drew lots to decide who would risk the peril. The lot fell upon the strongest of us, but he would not abide by it, and attacked. The other man grappled with him almost standing. I crawled along the boat to them, intending to help, but the men stumbled with the swaying of the boat, and the two fell upon the boat’s edge and rolled overboard together, then sank like stones.

The growling overhead was renewed, so suddenly and with so much savage anger that it startled me.  “What’s that?”  I called after him, but the door had already closed.

Sample Question #1
What caused the narrator to have to be rescued?
A. The narrator was injured when he was chased by a large animal.
B. The narrator was shipwrecked and floating on a dinghy.
C. While fighting, the narrator’s two shipwrecked companions injured him.
D. Losing a bet, the narrator’s companions forced him overboard.

Answer:  B – Paragraph 2 describes the scene in which the narrator is rescued while the rest of the passage describes how he came to be in that position, telling us that B is the best choice.

Sample Question #2
How did the fair-haired host care for the narrator?
A. He gives the narrator medical attention.
B. He quiets the disturbance.
C. He feeds the narrator.
D. He protects the narrator.

Answer:  A – From the second paragraph, we learn that the host is a medical professional who has been attending to the narrator.

Sample Question #3
What is the most likely reason that the narrator’s host left the room abruptly several times?
A. The host is looking for the cause of the growling they hear.
B. The host is attempting to conceal what is growling.
C. The host is uninterested in the story his guest wants to tell.
D. The host is going to retrieve food for his guest.

Answer:  B – The narrator never states exactly why this happens, but we can infer from his action and his “look os suspicion” that the host is hiding something.

Sample Question #4
The passage answers all of the following questions EXCEPT which one?
A. What was the narrator’s condition when he was rescued?
B. What happened to the narrator’s shipwrecked companions?
C. What was making the growling noise the host and narrator hear?
D. In what line of work was the host involved?

Answer:  C – We are able to pull answers to all of the questions except the source of the growling.

Sample Question #5
In the second to last paragraph, the bolded word “lots” most nearly means
A. rations.
B. many.
C. weapons.
D. straws.

Answer:  D – To help randomly select a person, a group would pull straws of different lengths – the person with the shortest straw having to go do the action. This is also referred to as “drawing lots.”

Sample Question #6
Which phrase means most nearly the same as the italicized phrase “it ended in blows” found in the fifth paragraph?
A. a verbal argument continued
B. a physical fight occurred
C. spoken in a foreign language
D. demonstrated impatience

Answer:  B – From the context of the sentence we can infer that a fight broke out.

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