Elimination: Why Looking for the Wrong Answer is Better than Looking for the Right One.
Just so you know- we’ve heard all the “elimination” jokes in the book. Or perhaps you’re a joke pioneer, and you’ve come up with a new one. Well then, enlighten us!
Most students approach each question of the SAT or ACT the same way- they look for the correct answer. While this sounds like the best way to go, it often isn’t. Both the SAT and ACT pick answer choices for each incorrect answer that appear “attractive”. That is, the wrong answers don’t look terribly wrong. Sometimes, they look a lot like the right answer. We refer to these attractive but incorrect answer choices as “bait”.
Thus, the strategy of elimination becomes paramount to success. As a test taker, you must become an elimination master! If you can eliminate all, or some of the bogus answers on each question, you’ll have the best shot of getting that great score you’re looking for. Here’s how it works:
In a reading section on either the SAT or ACT:
- Read the question
- Go to the area of the passage that addresses the question and read carefully
- FORMULATE YOUR OWN ANSWER (This is the most important step)
- If you’re not sure how you would answer the question on your own, read again!
- Go to the answer choices and carefully eliminate answer choices that don’t match what you’re looking for.
- Carefully weigh the remaining answer choices.
Step 3 is the most important. When you are sure what you’re looking for in an answer choice, it’s a lot easier to differentiate between attractive incorrect answer choices and the correct one. Here’s a few kinds of bait.
- Answers with big words from the text
Answer choices with big words often impress test takers. The student thinks “I remember that word from the passage! This must be the right answer!” While the answer may be correct, be sure you’re not assuming too much. You can use the same words from the text to say something entirely different.
- Answers that mix up the words “increase” and “decrease”
This sounds silly, but it happens all the time. Make sure you’re clear which thing is going up, and which thing is going down. Be very clear here, lots of smart kids make mistakes like this
- Answer choices with extreme language
These are answer choices that are almost correct. They just go too far. The correct answer will always be fairly neutral. If you’re choosing between a bland answer and an extreme answer, always go with the bland one. The SAT and ACT are not in the business of being controversial
- Answers that sound “smart”
Again, don’t be impressed by fancy stuff. It’s only the right answer if it is explicitly referring to the text. Correct answers usually don’t go beyond the text to make assumptions, even logical ones. The rule of thumb is, “Don’t make stuff up!”
The same strategy works for ACT Science, and to some extent, SAT and ACT Grammar. We know all the tricks. So if you’re studying for ACT or SAT, shoot us an email! We’re the best in the business. (Best = Smartest + Coolest)
A Bit of Timely Advice
Here at Higher Learning, we have a helpful time saving mantra that applies to ACT/ SAT Reading Comprehension and ACT Science: Nothing is important until you’ve been asked about it.
Nothing is important until you’re asked about it.
Nothing is important until you’re asked about it.
You get the point. These timed reading and science sections only ask a limited number of questions pertaining to each passage. Not every bit information counts equally, so why give each piece equal study time?
That was a rhetorical question…
Most students simply read each passage, and then answer the questions as quickly as possible. The clock is ticking, and most students worry that they’re slow readers- that they’ve spent too much time reading the passage. The problem is, that many of the answer choices are partially correct. If you’re rushing to answer the question quickly, you’ll miss the subtleties that separate the correct answer choice from the incorrect ones.
Think about it: These SAT and ACT reading and science sections are the only parts of the test that are “open book”. All the information you need is on the page. How then, can the test makers challenge students and, therefore, differentiate between smart kids and the smartest kids? By making the difference between the correct answer and the incorrect answers subtle. By making students decide between a few closely related answer choices, all of which are partially true.
The test makers’ logic is simple: Only the best readers, the ones who’ve read very closely, will correctly answer all of the questions.
Our strategy is also simple: If not every bit of information is equally important, don’t waste time trying to comprehend every bit equally. Instead of spending valuable time reading information that is not valuable, spend it reading the question carefully, then reading the small but pertinent section of the passage carefully, and reading the answer choices carefully.
Our method could be said to resemble what English professors call “close reading”. Close reading is focusing on a small section of a larger piece of prose or poetry, and analyzing it thoroughly.
So, repeat after us: Nothing is important until you’re asked about it. Nothing is important until you’re asked about it. Nothing is important until…
(Is it weird to talk to your computer, repeating the same thing over and over?)
We’ll discuss the second element of our strategy, Elimination, in our next post!
If the suspense is killing you, or you want to make a joke about “elimination” or if you’ve got other questions for your favorite international SAT and ACT super heroes, drop us a line:
When studying for the ACT or SAT, you’ll need to focus on two aspects. First, you’ll need to make sure you have all the content covered. Don’t worry. In every section- SAT Math, ACT Science, Reading Comprehension, SAT Writing or ACT English- the scope of content is quite limited. In other words, in order to improve on the SAT or ACT you should focus on the small scope of content you will see on the exam. You’ll need to know basic grammar, basic algebra and geometry, and you’ll have to have basic reading skills.
Beyond that, however, studying for either ACT or SAT is a matter of studying for the specific exam. Learn how many questions you’ll have to answer correctly to get a score you’d be happy with. Learn the lay out of each test section. Learn the specific style of the exam in each subject area, and how to beat it.
Odds are, you probably have the content mastered by now. Or at the very least, you could feel extremely confident with a small amount of focused review. That means the majority of your time should be spent on test-specific study methods. Like the ones your Higher Learning Tutor will happily share with you!
Drop us a line! firstname.lastname@example.org
The SAT and ACT season is in full swing! Higher Learning Test Prep is the best source on the web for one on one, focused ACT and SAT tutoring. We’ve helped students from across the world- Europe, Australia, South America, Asia, and North America (we’re still pulling for our first student from Africa!) attain their collegiate goals. We’re a small company owned by tutors. That means we really care about your success. In fact, our success as a business is contingent upon your success on test day.
Do you need help studying for the ACT, SAT, or PSAT? We can help! Our tutors have years of experience teaching one-on-one lessons using Skype and Google Hangouts. Today’s video conferencing technology allows us to reach students anywhere in the world! Whether you need help improving your SAT Math skills, or you’re struggling with the ACT Science section, we can help!
Drop us a line, and we’ll set up a time to start studying!
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Repeat the following: The ACT (or SAT) is predictable, and beatable.
Good. Now repeat 3 times. Good. Then send us an email.
The life of an online SAT and ACT instructor is a difficult one. Take yesterday- after an early morning tutorial with a student in Germany I was forced to hit the slopes of Colorado for the rest of the day. But, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
While on the ski lift, I shot the breeze with an older gentlemen sitting to my left. His work as a mental conditioning and performance coach has brought him all over the planet. He’s worked with college football teams, professional athletes, musicians, and even Olympians. He has spent his whole life helping people gain a mental advantage in competition- especially those who had no other advantage. The Underdogs.
He described one of his key methods as “Chunking”. He defined chunking as taking on small, manageable parts of something much larger, and focusing deeply on these small chunks. By tackling one small chunk at a time, a seemingly impossible task becomes possible over time. Actually, the impossible becomes possible in a far shorter amount of time when chunking rather than when trying to tackle everything at once.
The same is true for the SAT and ACT. So you need to improve your score. Great. In what areas can you improve the most? Even if your SAT Math score is the highest, perhaps your current math skills are much better than your current grammar skills. Well, let’s get all those math points then! Specifically, what kind of math question is stumping you? Chunk the math section into different smaller categories and work to improve at a specific skill, instead of just trying to improve at math at large.
The same is true in any other section. Whether it’s ACT Science, SAT Reading Comprehension, ACT Math, or SAT Writing- chunk it up.
If you pick a small, manageable aspect of the test, you can improve tremendously. Then it’s simply a matter of breaking off another chunk, and another. If you try to take on the whole exam at once, it’s much more difficult to improve. It’s also more stressful, which is something we tend to avoid. Because life is too short!
Drop us a line. We’ll help you get where you’re going!