Home / Blog / Common ACT and SAT Verbal Errors (Part Two)

Common ACT and SAT Verbal Errors (Part Two)

This week we’ll conclude our lessons about common errors that students make on the verbal sections of the ACT and SAT when they go with their gut reactions to questions instead of thinking it terms of the test format and rules. Last time we talked about the dangers of choosing answers based on what “feels” or “sounds” right and how to avoid hunting endlessly for evidence in Reading passages. In this lesson, we’ll explore why choosing words based on dictionary definitions is a bad idea and why you should always consider every answer choice.


Choosing the Dictionary Definition of a Word

“Words in context” questions are exactly that. The actual word matters less than how the author is using the word. When a student doesn’t know all or most of the words in the answer choices, there is a natural tendency to choose the word that would pop up as synonym if you typed it into Google. Simply put, don’t ever do this. The “correct” answer out of context is almost certainly a trap answer in context.


Instead, use process of elimination and the morphemes and association techniques we’ve covered in the past to work backwards. You won’t be able to figure out the exact meanings of words this way, but you will be able to get close enough to work out which choice makes the most sense in the context that the author was using the original word in the passage.


Not Consider All of the Choices

Every single aspect of the designs of the ACT and SAT is deliberate, including the order of answer choices. A common trick the test designers will employ is placing a trap answer before the correct answer. Therefore, you need to consider every answer choice for a question, even if you think you’ve already found the correct one. While this applies to all sections of the ACT and SAT, students seem to omit this step most often on the verbal sections because some of the answer choices are rather verbose. You don’t need to give the remaining choices the same level of attention as the choice you think is correct, but you do need to briefly consider whether they could be correct. The one time you don’t will be the one time you fall for a trap answer.

Tags: , , , ,