SAT Tip: When It Makes Sense to Choose the 'Easy' Answer

Photograph by Ben Peterson

This tip on improving your SAT score was provided by Matthew Chan at Veritas Prep.

The biggest weakness of the SAT is that it is a standardized test. While that may sound counterintuitive, you can use this fact to your advantage. In order to standardize the difficulty of tests among test administrations, College Board orders the questions in each of the vocabulary and math sections of the test in a range from easiest to hardest. Here’s how you can take advantage of that:

Vocabulary Sections

During the first few vocabulary questions, you can expect the answers to be “easy.” Let’s say you’ve narrowed question No. 2 to two choices: (A) abjure or (D) accept. It’s more likely to be (D), because the College Board has statistically calculated that a very high percentage of people will get the question correct.

Likewise, for a question closer to the end of the vocabulary section, (A) abjure would be a more likely answer because College Board wants fewer people to know the answer to the “hard” questions.

Math Sections

The strategy of using order of difficulty to your advantage for the math section is slightly different. For the easier math problems, you can expect an easy solution. What does that mean?

Let’s take the problem, 1/16+1/17+1/x=1/16+1/17+1/18. Solving traditionally would involve finding a common denominator and tediously solving through several steps of algebra. Since it is an easy problem, there is probably a much easier solution. Taking a step back, a much easier solution would be cancelling 1/16 and 1/17 from both sides and being left with 1/x=1/18.

Thus, if you ever hit an extremely wearisome problem early in the section, your best bet may be to take a step back and approach the problem from a different angle .

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