Don't Miss the Joke!

Sarcasm. That tricky little tone. Most SAT exams (not all) contain questions that require students to understand and find sarcasm within a passage. These questions are usually level 5 questions (hardest) and the hardest type of question for me to teach. Sarcasm: the use of irony to mock or show contempt. This tone is subtle and often misunderstood within the reading. Students often confuse anger with sarcasm or they completely miss the mockery and think the tone is positive. Once I teach what sarcasm is and what it looks like within an SAT passage I have them highlight every time they come across this tone. Also, I teach students to always be on the lookout for sarcasm because if they don’t anticipate it, they will not recognize it. Finally, students should go back and HUNT for sarcasm if they see any of the following words as an answer for a tone question: Wry, Sardonic, Critical, Derision, Irony, Scorn, or Cynicism. Knowing to look for the sarcastic tone, and recognizing this tone will help students gain an extra 10-30 points on the SAT! Here is a typical reading that expresses sarcasm:

I thought we had finished with the subject of your wanting to become a writer when you passed through New York last April. You asked for what you called “an uncle’s meddling advice,” and we spent an afternoon talking about your chance of commercial or critical success (nil and next to none), about the number of readers that constitutes the American audience for literature (not enough to fill the seats at Yankee Stadium), and about the Q ratings awarded to authors by the celebrity markets (equivalent to those assigned to trick dogs and retired generals). You didn’t disagree with the drift of the conversation, and I thought it was understood that you would apply to business school.

The tone of the parenthetical comments is best characterized as

A. ebullient
B. diffident
C. sanguine
D. surly
E. wry

Answer: Choice E.

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