Tips for Part A

Tips for Part A

The single biggest change to the SHSAT is the revamp of the Verbal section into Part A and Part B.  We’ll cover specifics for each Part throughout the prep, and we’ll practice a lot.  But, there are some general tips to remember before you attack Part A.
Part A focuses on revising and editing.  You know what the words “revision” and “editing” kind of mean—but do you know how they are different?  Think of editing as the bones of a text, and revision as the muscle.  If you edit, you’re dealing with the structure of a passage.  If you revise, you’re working the substance (the content) of the text.  Editing is when you tinker with how the text is written, and revising is when you rewrite parts of what it says.
Take the following as an example:
Have you ever heard of “in for a penny, in for a pound” and wondered what it could possible ever mean! I do, all the time. Mom says it to me. The British must’ve mad it up, cause they use pounds.  & pennies, I think.
If you were going to edit this text, you would look at its structure, and try to make changes in punctuation, grammar, spelling, and tense.  An edit of this text could be:
Have you ever heard of “in for a penny, in for a pound” and wondered what it could possible ever mean? I do, all the time. Mom says it to me. The British must have made it up, because they use pounds, and pennies, I think.
Already, just from an edit, the passage is better.  But, it’s still not great.  This text needs to be revised. The structure makes sense, but the “meat” of it could be stronger.  Can you figure out ways to change the text so it’s clearer?  How about this?
Have you ever wondered where the phrase, “in for a penny, in for a pound” means?  My mom often uses the phrase, but I am not sure what it means.  The British might have said it first, because their money is called the “pound”.
The revision is a rewrite of the text, and is better than an edit alone at conveying the author’s meaning.

Good edits and revisions:  L.S.B.

Part A is about how well you can pick out good edits and revisions!  What makes a revision and edit good?  Well, like most things in life, good revisions and good edits are good at making writing better by doing what they are meant to do.  A good edit helps the writing be better by fixing small problems.  (Just like the example above, the problems fixed by editing were punctuation, grammar, and verb choice.)  Edits that are done right make the writing clear.  A good revision improves what the writing says by adding or deleting text (to better explain, or to make ideas that are too-complex simpler).  (In the example above, ideas were combined and simplified to make the meaning of the passage stronger.  Even though the revision uses almost the exact same number of words, the content is much improved.)
You can remember what makes good edits and revisions by remembering LSB.
L:  Language.  You won’t be rewriting anything yourself on the SHSAT—any possible revision and edit will be given to you.  The good choices for correct answers will focus on language use in the text.  This is where you’ll get to investigate which answer choices change language in the text and make it easier to read.  When you read the answer options for any question, you’ll look for whether the answers are difficult to read, contain errors in grammar, or made mistakes with pronouns or verb use.  You’ll know that those answers are automatically wrong!
S:  Structure.  Our “L” focused on word use and grammar.  For “S”, you’ll look at how the answer choices are written.  Is there missing (or misplaced) punctuation?  Is the text disorganized, too-wordy, or too-general?  Are there parts of the text that seem out of place?  Should there be a transition?
Part A only will give you smaller sections of reading, so you won’t have to worry about answer choices that involve a lot of missing content. But, by focusing on the answer choices, you’ll be able to see if you have good options that have a solid structure.
B: Book-Ends.  Usually, you’ll have three sentences or so in a Part A text. Even if you have one or two more sentences than that, look carefully at the bookend sentences:  the first and the last.  Are they related to each other?  If both of the bookends are true, what information would need to be said in the sentences between the first and last sentence to make the whole passage make sense?  Having an idea in your own words of how the bookends help shape the content of the text will help you approach the answers boldly!

Part A Pro Gamer Tip

Remember that a good gamer thinks about how the game is developed.  You try to win the game by thinking about how the game was designed.
The ELA on the SHSAT is designed by adults who care a lot about what is called assessment.  You know how to assess lots of things—what to wear today based on the weather, if you’re going to have a good weekend based on your plans, or whether the Mets or Yankees are going to make it to the playoffs this year.  But, assessment is the way teachers grade themselves.  Assessment is a measurement of whether student learning goals were met.
So, if you’re a gamer ready to beat the SHSAT game, think about how the folks who designed the exam want to assess what makes an excellent Part A of the test.  How would they assess good revising and editing?
It starts with what makes good writing.  Passages that are well-written in the SHSAT will be organized, be precise, state a position, and support the position with evidence.  (To see more about elements of good writing, jump to “What to Know About Good Writing”.)  Correct editing and revising helps you fix the text’s organization, precision, information, and argumentation will be correct.
The SHSAT writers will frame answers to Part A in three ways:

  1. Correct responses. Correct edits and revisions make the ideas in the text clearer, sound better, and cohere (stick together) with each other.
  2. Sibling responses. The SHSAT will ask you to pick the best response.  That means there will be responses that will seem right that aren’t actually right.  (They are siblings of the right answers.)  These options will make a revision and/or edits that do make the text better.  They might use better vocabulary, punctuation, and grammar.  But, they won’t be excellent options, and they won’t make the text’s meaning jump out at you.
  3. Wildly wrong responses. There will be wildly wrong responses.  (Yay!  Wildly wrong responses are automatically eliminated, so they really help you out.)  How will you know if an answer is wildly wrong?  It may not relate at all to the passage, may contain grammatical and punctuation errors, and may be really simple and general.