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Dear Mitch,

I've heard that some of the questions on the critical reading section can be very tricky. Not just hard, but actually trick as if they really want to trick students. Is this true? And if it is can you give an example of the kind of trick people mean?

Clive Brown

Myakka, FL


Dear Clive,

I know a lot of people think of the questions as 'trick' questions, but the people at the company that writes the test believe that deciphering reading comprehension questions and math questions that seem like one type but are more akin to another type is one of the hallmarks of a true thinker and problem solver and therefore worth trying to provide opportunities on the test for such students to shine.

In any case, you asked about reading comprehension, so here are a couple of examples of what I think you are referring to:

Very often a reading question will ask if something was answered in the passage. And when you go back to locate the answer you find that that something was answered, but it was answered in the negative. Example: "Does the passage reveal whether we know who developed the recipe for Booley-booley cake?"

And when you go back to the passage, you find this: "No one knows who developed the recipe to the Booley-booley cake."

And so one's first natural inclination is to answer NO, we do not know...

BUT that is NOT what the question asked. The question asked does the passage reveal whether we know who developed the recipe...

The answer is yes, it does reveal that, and the answer it gave was NO, we do not know. Now that is a bit tricky, so look out for it.

The second trick that's common on reading comp sections is one I happen to find unconscionable. It is a true trick and should not be allowed. It goes: "Which of the following is implied in the passage...."

And one of the choices will say something like 'Bob likes to wear a hat'.

Back in the passage, indeed you find a line that says 'Bob likes to wear a hat'.

Good finding of the detail! Careful work. Right? WRONG. The question asked which was IMPLIED. Implied is different from stated outright. Bob may like hats, but it would not be considered the correct answer; look for the answer that requires some logical connecting of separate sentences. That's a Mean Trick, I agree.

Hope this helps,