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Cracking Citation Questions on the SAT Reading Test

By May 22, 2018January 29th, 2024SAT

If you’ve taken the SAT, you probably remember citation questions. They request evidence from the passage, usually to support the answer to the previous (or “base”) question:

Citation questions can be tricky, but keeping these key points in mind can help you get more out of them.

  1. They’re common. Expect to see two per reading passage. Given that they usually form a pair with a base question, that’s a total of four questions per passage, or twenty of the reading section’s fifty-two questions, that are likely to be citation-related. Learn to tackle them!
  2. You can use the citation to solve the base question. Try reading the base question, ignoring its answers, and going straight to the citations. Let them guide you to the evidence you need to answer the base question correctly.
  3. The SAT sets citation traps. It’s common for a wrong answer to the citation question to “point” to a wrong answer to the base question by mentioning a word or phrase from that answer. Check context and know exactly what the passage says about each word or concept.
  4. Correct answers form a triangle.

Imagine the base question, the base answer, and the citation as the points of a triangle:

You should be able to connect any two points. Trap answers will be missing a side of the triangle. You might find a citation and a base answer that talk about the same thing but don’t answer the question, or you may be offered a base answer that addresses the question but isn’t supported by any of the citations. Check each leg of your triangle and you’ll spot the SAT’s traps.

The Compass Team

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