PSAT Reading: Practice Questions

PSAT Reading: Global and Command of Evidence Practice Questions

Let’s look at the following example of a test-like passage and question set. After the mapped passage, the left column contains questions similar to those you’ll see on the PSAT Reading Test on Test Day. The column on the right features the strategic thinking test experts employ when approaching the passage and questions presented. Pay attention to how test experts vary the approach to answer different question types.


A well-crafted Passage Map should summarize the central idea of each paragraph as well as important topics or themes. Use your Passage Map to help you answer each question.

Sample PSAT Reading Practice Questions: Global/Command of Evidence

Questions 1-3 are based on the following passage.

The following, adapted from an English novel published in 1907, describes the family environment and early childhood of Rickie Elliot, a boy with a mild physical disability.

Some people spend their lives in a suburb, and not for any urgent reason. This had been the fate of Rickie. He had opened his eyes to filmy heavens, and taken his first walk on asphalt. He had seen civilization as a row of semi-detached villas, and society as a state in which men do not know the men who live next door. He had himself become part of the gray monotony that surrounds all cities. There was no necessity for this—it was only rather convenient to his father.

Mr. Elliot was a barrister. In appearance he resembled his son, being weakly and lame, with hollow little cheeks, a broad white band of forehead, and stiff impoverished hair. His voice, which he did not transmit, was very suave, with a fine command of cynical intonation. By altering it ever so little he could make people wince, especially if they were simple or poor. Nor did he transmit his eyes. Their peculiar flatness, as if the soul looked through dirty windowpanes, the unkindness of them, the cowardice, the fear in them, were to trouble the world no longer.

He married a girl whose voice was beautiful. There was no caress in it yet all who heard it were soothed, as though the world held some unexpected blessing. She called to her dogs one night over invisible waters, and he, a tourist up on the bridge, thought “that is extraordinarily adequate.” In time he discovered that her figure, face, and thoughts were adequate also, and as she was not impossible socially, he married her. “I have taken a plunge,” he told his family. The family, hostile at first, had not a word to say when the woman was introduced to them; and his sister declared that the plunge had been taken from the opposite bank.

Things only went right for a little time. Though beautiful without and within, Mrs. Elliot had not the gift of making her home beautiful; and one day, when she bought a carpet for the dining room that clashed, he laughed gently, said he “really couldn’t,” and departed. Departure is perhaps too strong a word. In Mrs. Elliot’s mouth it became, “My husband has to sleep more in town.” He often came down to see them, nearly always unexpectedly, and occasionally they went to see him. “Father’s house,” as Rickie called it, only had three rooms, but these were full of books and pictures and flowers; and the flowers, instead of being squashed down into the vases as they were in mummy’s house, rose gracefully from frames of lead which lay coiled at the bottom, as doubtless the sea serpent has to lie, coiled at the bottom of the sea. Once he was let to lift a frame out—only once, for he dropped some water on a creton.* “I think he’s going to have taste,” said Mr. Elliot languidly. “It is quite possible,” his wife replied. She had not taken off her hat and gloves, nor even pulled up her veil. Mr. Elliot laughed, and soon afterwards another lady came in, and they went away.

*here, a piece of furniture covered with a cotton fabric

1. Mr. Elliot is described as being
(A) monotonous and opportunistic.
(B) superficial and condescending.
(C) tasteful and classy.
(D) weak and generous.

2. According to the passage, the family’s life in the suburbs is described as
(A) an impersonal and unfortunate situation chosen to accommodate Mr. Elliot.
(B) a dull environment from which Mr. Elliot wanted to escape.
(C) an impoverished but friendly upbringing for Rickie.
(D) oppressive to Mrs. Elliot, but something she endured in order to please her husband.

3. Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?
(A) Lines 1-2 (“Some . . . reason”)
(B) Lines 3-7 (“He had opened . . . next door”)
(C) Lines 7-8 (“He had himself . . . cities”)
(D) Lines 9-10 (“There was . . . father”)

¶1: Rickie doesn’t like suburbs
¶2: description of Rickie’s father
¶3: description of Rickie’s mother
¶3: Mr. E not excited about marriage
¶4: mom- bad taste, dad- left
¶4: parents lived apart
¶4: father has new lady

Step 2: Examine the question stem

  • What kind of question is this? A Global question
  • How do you know? It asks about the description of a character mentioned throughout the passage

Step 3: Predict and answer

  • What is the general characterization of Mr. Elliot? Negative
  • Which answer choice contains two negative adjectives that reflect Mr. Elliot’s personality? Choice (B)

Step 2: Examine the question stem

  • What kind of question is this? A Detail question
  • How do you know? “According to the passage”

Step 3: Predict and answer

  • In what part of the passage does the author mention the suburbs? The first paragraph
  • What is Rickie’s attitude toward the suburbs? Negative
  • Why does the family live in the suburbs? Because it’s “convenient” (line 10) for Mr. Elliot
  • What answer choice matches this? Choice (A)

Step 2: Examine the question stem

  • What kind of question is this? A Command of Evidence question
  • How do you know? The question stem’s wording
  • What keywords in the question stem’s wording? “Best evidence for the answer to the previous question” and the answer choices use line citations

Step 3: Predict and answer

  • Where did you find the answer to the previous question? The first paragraph
  • Who insists that the family live in the suburbs? Mr. Elliot
  • What answer choice matches this? Choice (D)


The Kaplan Strategy for Command of Evidence questions: Review how you selected the answer to the previous question and avoid answer choices that provide evidence for incorrect answer choices to it. The correct answer will support why the previous question’s answer is correct.

PSAT Reading Practice Question Explanations

Question 1
When asked for a description of a character in a U.S. and World Literature passage, use your Passage Map to gather an overall sense of the character. The author’s tone is generally negative when referring to and describing Mr. Elliot, so look for the answer choice that is fully negative. Watch out for answer choices that have only one negative adjective. Both adjectives must apply for the answer to be correct. While A also contains negative adjectives, there is no indication that Mr. Elliot is “monotonous,” even though the suburbs are boring. Choice (B) is correct.

Question 2
Active reading means always searching for the author’s opinion about what is being described. Look for hints that reveal the author’s opinion. The phrases “filmy heavens” (line 3) and “gray monotony” (line 8) are negative. The author also says “there was no necessity for this—it was only rather convenient to his father” (lines 9-10). Choice (A) captures the negative tone of the passage and its emphasis on the convenience of Mr. Elliot.

Question 3
Always use the Kaplan Strategy for Command of Evidence questions. In answering the previous question, you established that the Elliot family’s experience in the suburbs was negative and all for the convenience of Mr. Elliot. The sentence in choice (D) supports this.

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