Dual Passage Questions on the SAT – Critical Reading Tip 3
As if the SAT Critical Reading sections didn’t already have enough tricks up their sleeve, they introduce new question types just for the dual passage sections! (This is when you have two longer passages labeled “Passage 1” and “Passage 2” lined up vertically.) The most challenging question type for the dual passages is the comparative question. There will be several of these on each SAT, so make sure you know how to identify them and are ready for them!
You will be presented with two passages that are somewhat related to each other, each focusing on varying aspects of the same subject. These passages will rarely present completely opposite points of views. (For instance, the first author in a sample set of dual passages argued that dolphins are incredibly intelligent, while the second argued that there are different ways of defining intelligence. Note, the second author does NOT argue that dolphins are not intelligent, but comes at the argument from a different angle altogether.)
The authors will talk about some of the same things, but there will also be things that only one of them talks about. Within the ideas they both touch upon, there will be things about which they both agree, and things about which they disagree.
There are several types of comparative questions. Comparative questions can ask about what is mentioned in just one passage (“difference” questions). They can ask about what both authors mention (“both” questions). They can ask about what both passages assert (also “both” questions). They can ask about what the authors disagree about (also “difference” questions). Finally, they can ask what one author would say to the other (author-vs.-author questions).
Some students find these comparative questions more difficult because they ask one to synthesize information from two different passages and to perform critical analysis across authors. Don’t worry! Simply be on the lookout for the “comparative” questions and say to yourself; “What is this question asking me? Where would it fall on the Venn diagram?
QUICK TIP: When you encounter a “both” question, inquiring about what both passage assert, remember—since the authors of dual passages always agree about some things and disagree about others, questions of this variety tend to have boring answers. After all, what they both assert will be their common ground, despite their disagreements.