With the exception of the SAT Essay and the SAT Math grid-in questions, every question on the SAT is multiple choice. Having 5 options to choose from has its benefits (one of them must be right!), but it can lead to some agonizing deliberation too (which one IS it?!?).
Here are some quick tips to avoid a mid-section freak-out and maximize your multiple-choice success on the SAT!
1. Start with shorter answer choices.
We know the SAT Writing section is predisposed to prefer less wordy options, so long as they have clarity of meaning and are free of grammar errors. If you’re faced with an especially long sentence, begin by examining the shortest available option! It just might be the right one!
2. Trust your instincts.
If something doesn’t “feel right” to you, trust your instinct. Maybe there’s a Math answer choice that seems like a trap? It might be! Or something grammatical that you can’t quite identify, but sounds awkward to your ear? You’re probably sensing some awkwardness in the construction! Even if you aren’t sure what the exact correct answer is, you can usually eliminate 1 or 2 answer choices purely on gut instinct when you’re feeling stuck.
3. Skip the hard ones!
Don’t let one question ruin the whole section for you. Troubled by the vocab in an especially hard-looking Sentence Completion? Skip it! You can always come back after working on the other ones. One question won’t make or break the entire exam!
4. Look for another “way in” to a Math question.
Remember that algebraic equations aren’t the only way to get a question correct! You can always choose numbers for variables, or use 100 for unknown starting values in percent questions. Also look for opportunities to backsolve, or plug-in, when possible. If you get stuck on a SAT Math problem and can’t think of a way to approach the math, try plugging in the answer choices back in the problem. Eliminating four wrong answers is just as good as solving for the correct one!
5. Paraphrase the passage to yourself while you read.
Ask yourself questions as you read the SAT Reading passages, such as, “Why is the author saying this?”, “What is the point of this paragraph?” and “What is the author’s tone?” It helps you not “zone out.” The #1 cause of Reading Comprehension multiple-choice panic is failing to comprehend the passage itself. Do your best to stay focused on interpreting the passage as you read it the first time.
It’s hard to believe, but the multiple-choice set-up of the SAT is actually a benefit to you! Eliminating four incorrect options is just as good as solving for the correct answer. If an SAT question induces sweaty palms, examine the 5 options – they won’t ALL be good ones.
Vivian Kerr is a regular contributor to the Veritas Prep blog, providing advice to help students better prepare for the GMAT and the SAT.