While the SAT is primarily used for admission into American institutions, the test is administered internationally. Therefore, one of the aims of redesigning the SAT was to make it more accessible for test takers regardless of their respective backgrounds. And what better way to do that than to add a passage to every test that aligns itself with American values and assert that it’s a universally valued text? A text that is part of not just “a global conversation” but rather “The Great Global Conversation.”
All kidding aside, the Great Global Conversation passage of the redesigned SAT Evidence-based Reading exam is very much in line with the college board’s overall goas of assessing a student’s college readiness. In earlier specifications for the redesigned exam, the College Board asserted that it is committed to “the idea that all students should be asked routinely to engage with texts worthy of close attention and careful analysis,” and that “nowhere is [this commitment] more evident than in the Reading Test’s inclusion of U.S. founding documents and texts from the Great Global Conversation.”
So what exactly is this passage from “the Great Global Conversation”? A primary source document such as a U.S. founding document (the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, etc.) or some other historical text that explores the concepts of freedom, liberty, and/or justice. Selections ostensibly span from said founding documents all the way to texts from the twenty-first century and represent authors of all different nationalities and backgrounds. In addition to providing a sample from Congresswoman Barbara Jordan’s speech at the Nixon impeachment hearings in 1974, the College Board has also named Edmund Burke, Henry David Thoreau, Gandhi, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Martin Luther King, Jr. as possible passage sources. Your friends at College Compass have also been careful to note some passages that have recently shown up in experimental sections of the exam that fit the profile of “Great Global Conversation” passages (included at the end of this post).
As the College Board is careful to point out, however, while these passages may, in some cases, be more difficult to dissect than some of the more contemporary texts on the exam, the questions associated with these passages will still require students to choose an answer that’s supported by the text. In other words, no previous knowledge of any historical event associated with the passage is necessary to answer the questions. In fact, even if you are an expert on the subject, remember to answer the questions with evidence from the passage.
What it comes down to is this: this passage may seem more intimidating, but the College Board has generated the same types of questions and answering them will require all the same skills and strategies as answering the questions for any other passage. You may want to plan to take an extra minute or two on this passage to allow yourself a little bit more time to interpret the text, but otherwise, treat it as you’d treat any other passage.
Previous examples of Global Conversation passages include excerpts from:
- The Bill of Rights
- The Federalist Papers
- Rights of Man by Thomas Paine
- Susan B. Anthony
- Thomas Jefferson’s inaugural address
- Fredrick Douglas *
- Alexander Hamilton on Slavery
- Alexis de Tocqueville
*Passage was on October PSAT