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BIG, MEDIUM, and SMALL Questions

The questions in the Reading section fall on a spectrum from SMALL to MEDIUM to BIG. The size of a question determines how your approach.

BIG questions

BIGs about the whole text. On BIGs, ground yourself in your overall understanding of the text then ruthlessly eliminate the answers that are inconsistent with that understanding.

SMALL questions

SMALLs are about specific points. Go back to the text to find proof for the correct answer.

MEDIUM questions

MEDIUMs ask you to go beyond the text. Combine the strategies from BIGs and SMALLs. Approach MEDIUM-big by predicting first then going back, and MEDIUM-small by going back to generate a prediction.

BIG Questions

BIG questions are about the entire text.

Which of the following most accurately expresses the main point of the text?


What is the purpose of the third paragraph?

On BIG questions...

  1. Make a prediction.
  2. Confidently eliminate wrong answers.

You may not like the correct answer

  • Correct answers on BIGs often rephrase the author's point. You want an "idea match" not a "word match"
  • If you like an answer, you can be extra skeptical with the rest, but you should still read every answer.
  • If you don't like any answer, you can't be picky, choose the least bad answer.

Review tip

If your prediction wasn't useful on a BIG question, that could mean you...

  1. Didn't understand the text's nuanced conflict; or
  2. Didn't approach the answers with enough skepticism/confidence.

SMALL Questions

SMALL questions are about details. The correct answer will be directly supported by a line from the text.

According to the text, which of the following is true of Wittgenstein's philosophy?


The text contains information sufficient to answer which of the following questions?

On SMALL questions...

  1. Scan the answers.
  2. Then go back to the text to find support for the answer you like.
  3. If you find support, pick that answer and move on.
  4. If you don't find support, try another answer.

Review tip

If you didn't know where to go back, then your read of the text was too abstract.

If you didn't need to go back, you might have been reading the text too much for detail (or you got lucky, or you have a very good memory).

MEDIUM Questions

MEDIUM questions take you beyond the text. Correct answers can include new ideas, but they will always be grounded in the text.

MEDIUM questions tend to be the hardest. You can make them easier by eliminating strong answers. Strong answers are unlikely to be supported by nuanced texts.

Suggestions for skill practice

  1. Deliberately look for strength in the text and answers.
  2. Only use strength to make eliminations (maybe don't even read the text).

MEDIUM-big Questions

MEDIUM-big questions go to the author's core belief.

Which of the following would the author be least likely to agree with?


Which of the following would most strengthen the author's position?

On MEDIUM-big questions...

  1. eliminate based on your overall understanding of the text, then
  2. go back to prove the answer you like.

MEDIUM-small Questions

MEDIUM-small questions might be about the purposes of a detail or ask you to analogize from an example.

Why did the author mention the Teapot Dome Scandal?


Which of the following is most analogous to the relationship between European and African sparrows as described in the text?

On MEDIUM-small questions...

  1. go back in order to make a specific prediction, and then
  2. eliminate answers that don't match.