SAT and ACT readings are, plain and simple, boring to read. Therefore, I encourage all of my students to stop reading, and start hunting. What are you hunting for? Clues to the author’s message – the main idea that relates to all of the questions.
As you’re hunting, stop and check out the buts! “But”, “instead”, “rather”, “though”, “however”, “despite”, “although” and “yet” are thought-reversers. Remember these words using the acronym BIRTHDAY. These thought-reversers should be circled, and the words that follow should be underlined. These thought-reversers change the direction of a piece and qualify statements. An answer to a question is usually found directly following a thought-reverser.
Imagine little Johnny and little Suzy. Johnny thinks little Suzy is a little cutie, and wants to ask her on a date.
Johnny: Hi Suzy, I was wondering if you’d like to go out on Saturday.
Suzy: Oh Johnny, that’s so nice of you to ask. You’re really cute, funny, and an awesome chem lab partner, but…
Johnny can stop listening at this point. It doesn’t matter how many compliments Suzy lays out. As soon as she says “but”, Johnny knows there will be no Saturday night with Suzy the cutie.
So again, make every day your BIRTHDAY while you’re hunting through a reading passage on a standardized test. Circle, underline, and take note of the change in direction!