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  阅读,向来是参加英语考试的考生水平的重要试金石。无论是托福还是SAT,要达到阅读高分,毫无疑问得靠扎实的阅读能力。但说到能力,不同的考试对“能力”的定义和要求各有不同,达到托福的阅读要求的考生(比如阅读已经26+)却未必能够在65分钟内把五篇长短不一,题材+各异,各含10题-11题的SAT文章做完且达到350分及以上的成绩(错题少于8个)。

  可见,托福阅读的能力要求与SAT阅读并不完全相同。SAT的阅读能力到底是什么?这个问题的答案可以有很多,但笔者今天重点要讨论的是其中的一个方面:SAT的正误选项的辨识能力。


  这一切都要从SAT改革说起。随着SAT改革,大学理事会(CollegeBoard)越来越多强调以证据为依托(Evidence-Based),以及高应用性单词的认知(HighUtilityVocabulary)。这些倾向的转移,体现在题目上的特征就是选项为一个或两个单词的题目数量降低(如下题1),取而代之的是目前以句子为主的选项设置。

  题1

  Waverlycharacterizes June’s advertisement as

  (A)unsophisticated and heavy-handed

  (B)somber and convoluted

  (C)clear and concise

  (D)humorous and effective

  (E)clever and lively

  题2

  Tocquevillein Passage 1 would most likely characterize the position taken byMill in lines 65-69 in Passage 2 (“Let . . . them”) as

  A)less radical about gender roles than it might initially seem. ?

  B)persuasive in the abstract but difficult to implement inpractice. ?

  C)ill-advised but consistent with a view held by some otheradvocates of gender equality. ?

  D)compatible with economic progress in the United States but notin Europe. ?

  大学理事会如此改革的理由固然很多,这里就不一一赘述。但造成的能力要求的改变显而易见,如对单词广度要求削弱,对加长的选项的阅读速度和精准度提高。在改革后的SAT中,学生做不完题的现象越发明显,很大程度上也拜冗长的题干与选项所赐。那么在增加的阅读量面前,我们有没有什么办法能快速辨识选项的正误呢?

  了解这个问题,得先知道选择题的设置方式。无论是托福还是SAT,我们不难发现,一个包含四个选项的题目,基本没有哪个题目是含有2-3个混淆选项的,即学生只会在正确选项和某个固定的选项上犹豫纠结,而另外两个选项几乎所有学生都能轻易排除。

  为什么会出现这种现象呢?为什么没有一道考题是含有除正确选项之外包含了三个同等混淆度的错误选项呢?原来,出题方在出题时,除了得为考试的效度和信度考虑,还有一个不得不考虑额外的要素:成本。

  而出题成本除了文章选材难易度的把控之外,很重要的是对选项的设计,如何能让选项错误和正确得既具有迷惑又没有争议,这个看似简单的要求其实难度很高,真实的出题时往往需要多轮审核才能确定一道题目选项的措辞。

  可见,迷惑性选项越多,耗费的成本越大。于是,在成本的压力下,所有的题目的选项设置都朝着信效度与成本的平衡点这个单一方向“趋同进化”,即形成了目前2+1+1的模式:2个易于排除的错误选项,1个具有迷惑性的混淆选项和1个具有隐蔽性正确选项。于是,考试的时候如何有效抗拒那1个混淆选项的干扰,选出那个正确选项,就成了关键。

  下面我们就来看看,这些错误的选项在考试里有哪些呈现方式。

  很多同学在看选项时,习惯于关注选项的词汇正确与否。这固然没错,但很多时候由于自身实力不够强大,基础不够扎实,在看选项时无法快速分辨词义的差别,或是会在很多细部过于纠结,即便做对,也会浪费很多无用的时间。比如下面这题:

  原文:

  Everyday, millions of shoppers hit the stores in full force—both onlineand on foot—searching frantically for the perfect gift. Last year,Americans spent over $30 billion at retail stores in the month ofDecember alone. Aside from purchasing holiday

  gifts,most people regularly buy presents for other occasions throughout theyear, including weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, andbaby showers.

  题目

  Theauthors most likely use the examples in lines 1-9 of the passage(“Every . . . showers”) to highlight the

  A)regularity with which people shop for gifts.

  B)recent increase in the amount of money spent on gifts.

  C)anxiety gift shopping causes for consumers.

  D)number of special occasions involving gift-giving.

  很多学生容易误选B选项。因为原文的“millionsof ”“$30 billion”“most people” “throughout theyear”容易让学生在阅读后留下“钱花的很多”的印象。而根据这个印象来做选项,学生极易被错误选项B吸引(increase=多,amountof money =钱,文字似乎很对应),同时对正确的A选项视而不见(regularity过于抽象)。但如果教师在教学时仅仅告诉学生regularity与原文是对应的(如every day, in fullforce,throughout theyear)与increase在原文中并没有体现,这是不够的。

  因为这样的解释固然可以解释这道题,但却没有提出一个方法可以来一劳永逸地解决所有问题,达到正确率的稳定输出。说白了,这道题我解决了,下一个题目,换了一个词,我该怎么办?有没有什么可以操作的思考框架(Framework)

  有!的!

  框架一,错误的逻辑关系

  给原本正确的选项渗入一些常见的逻辑关系词,展现错误的逻辑关系。最常见的有比较类(Compare& Contrast)类词汇。

  比如,表达比较类的错误选项经常含有

  more/less than, same, different,similar, share, while, whereas, but, however, etc. 如下题

  原文:

  Paradoxically,although amphibians have proven themselves to be survivors in thepast, there are reasons for thinking that they might be vulnerable tocurrent environmental challenges and, hence, serve as multipurposesentinels of environmental health.

  题目:

  The author impliesthat the study of frogs and other amphibians is especially importantbecause these species

  A)aresensitive to environmental changes that might affect other species inthe future.

  B)have lessability to adapt to changing environmental conditions than otherspecies do.

  C)are exposedto morepredators and parasites than other species are.

  D)embody theprinciples of evolution moreclearly and linearly than other species do.

  除A外,B,C,D三个选项都不约而同地含有less/more/more三个比较词,也就意味着,BCD任一一个选项如果正确,必须在原文中投射类似的逻辑关系。而原文的核心词是关于两栖类动物是否能生存的讨论,并不存在ability,predator和parasite以及clearly与linearly的对比,排除BCD顺理成章。

  试想,如果让考生根据这3个选项的内容来排除,学生必然会把选项里的abilityto adapt to changing environment, principles ofevolution跟原文的vulnerableto current environmentchallenges等内容进行反复对比和解读,不仅浪费时间,而且命中率的波动幅度大,无法预测。

  另外,除了上述提到的较为明显的比较词外,选项中还有一些不易发现的,本身含义无比较,但在逻辑上却暗示了对比关系的词汇,比如:

  理想vs现实的比较词:unexpected,surprising, unanticipated, unusually, etc.

  数量vs增减的比较词:increase, raise,decrease, decline etc.

  新鲜vs陈旧:recent, new,change, now, etc.

  现在我们可以回到之前的那道题,我们已经有了一个统一的思考框架,从比较(Compare& Contrast)的角度来审视选项。

  题目

  Theauthors most likely use the examples in lines 1-9 of the passage(“Every . . . showers”) to highlight the

  A)regularity with which people shop for gifts.

  B)recent increasein the amount of money spent on gifts.

  从上面的比较词可知,Increase属于比较词的一部分,于是当我们在选项里看到类似词汇的时候,我们就有了思考方向:文章里到底有没有数量的比较。学生的思路,就可以从字面的含义,提升到逻辑的层面(比较)来理解和认知选项,而逻辑排除永远快于字面排除,因为逻辑的思考复杂度远比单词本身的繁杂度来的有限且可穷举。

  同样的,让我们再看个例子

  Withina few decades, these firms may be?meetingearthly demands for precious metals, such asplatinumand gold, and the rare earth elements vital for personal electronics,such as yttrium and lanthanum.

  Theauthor of Passage 1 indicates that space mining could have whichpositive effect?

  A)It could yield materials important to Earth’s economy.

  B)It could raisethe value of some precious metals on Earth.

  C)It could create unanticipatedtechnological innovations.

  D)It could changescientists’ understanding of space resources.

  从上题的BCD3个选项可以看到,B选手是针对value的比较关系,C选项是针对innovation是否符合预期的对比,D选项是针对科学家理解的前后对比。从原文中不存在这3类比较,或者确切的说,原文没有比较,于是BCD排除起来就会十分的容易。

  除了选项以外,很多题干里有蕴含了隐蔽的比较关系,比如看下面这题

  Intuitionsuggests that more of that aroma should be even more appealing tobees. “We have this assumption that a really fragrant flower isgoing to attract a lot of pollinators,” says Theis, a chemical ecologistat Elms Collegein Chicopee, Massachusetts. But, she adds, that ideahasn’t really been tested—and extra scent could well call in morebeetles, too.

  Theauthor indicates that it seems initiallyplausible that Texas gourd plants could attract more pollinators ifthey

  A)did not have aromatic flowers.

  B)targeted insects other than bees.

  C)increased their floral scent.

  D)emitted more varied fragrant compounds.

  上题的题干里的Initially,中文翻译为:一开始,在逻辑上的意义其实是跟后文作对比,意味着后文要发生改变。而文字上,对于要发生改变,跟前文不一样的内容,通常是以转折词,对比词的方式出现。这样我们在读原文的时候,就有了阅读重点。在这儿,这个重点词就是but。文章既然问的是initially的内容,从逻辑角度来看,就应该是考察转折词but前的内容。

  Intuitionsuggests that more of that aroma should be even more appealing tobees. “We have this assumption that a really fragrant flower isgoing to attract a lot of pollinators,” says Theis, a chemical ecologistat Elms Collegein Chicopee, Massachusetts. But,she adds, that idea hasn’t really been tested—and extra scentcould well call in more beetles, too.

  最后的总结

  本文提出了一个SAT阅读教学的思考的方向,即如何教授学生在一定程度上挑出字面的内容,从一个固定的思维框架来审视和排除错误选项,进而提高效率,减少时间消耗。学生在掌握的框架后,即可以在很大程度上在没有老师的情况下,也知道该以什么角度来思考,且能够达到稳定的思考输出,笔者觉得,这一点,才是教学中最重要的内容。


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