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Three Tips for ACT and SAT Questions

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Some rules apply to virtually any standardized or multiple choice test. The ACT and the SAT, for example, must follow the “one correct answer per question” rule. If either exam broke this rule, it would no longer be considered a standardized test. This means that there is a certain level of consistency in the way that all multiple choice ACT/SAT questions are constructed. With that in mind, here are three general tips that apply to any question on any section of the SAT or ACT.


You don’t need to show your work

With the exception of the Writing and Essay sections, neither the ACT nor SAT requires you to “show your work.” As long you choose the correct answer, the ACT and SAT do not care how you get to this answer. This means that there is no reason to do problems the “right” way. If you have a shortcut to a math problem that lets you reach the correct answer more quickly, use it. If you can eliminate wrong answers on a grammar question by identifying a shared error among those choices, do so.


You still need to know why the correct answer is correct

While there’s no incentive to take the “official” route to a correct answer, you still need to have an idea of why each correct answer choice is indeed the correct one. Specifically, you need to have a functional understanding of the rules behind correct answer choices. In math, for instance, you should know how to use formulas correctly, even if you can’t name any of them. In grammar, you should know that you have to match the “-ed” and –ing” endings of words in lists, even if you can’t remember that this is called parallelism. Not every answer can be solved with an unlocking technique or a shortcut. Sometimes you will need to work through a question as intended to get the correct answer.


You should consider every answer choice

Nothing about the design of the ACT or SAT is accidental. This includes the order of answer choices. Regardless of how sure you are that an answer choice is correct, do not choose that answer until you have considered every choice for the question. In the verbal sections in particular, you will regularly see questions where the second or third choice “looks” correct at first glance. However, it’s entirely possible (and probable) that this choice will contain a small error that will only become obvious after you have considered the remaining choice(s). Don’t lose a point on a relatively easy question just because you went with choice “C” and didn’t look at choice “D.”






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