Read an Excerpt
Excerpt from Gruber's SAT 2400
General Test-Taking Strategies
Before studying the specific strategies for the Math and Verbal questions, you will find it useful to review the following General Strategies for taking the SAT test.
Strategy 1: Know the Directions to the Question Types
Before You Take the Actual Test
All SAT tests are standardized. As an example, all the sentence completion questions have the same directions from test to test. You can take advantage of this fact by memorizing the sets of directions and familiarizing yourself with their types of questions before you take your actual SAT. Never spend time reading directions during the test or doing sample questions that don'tt count.
here's an example of a set of SAT directions, together with an accompanying example for the Sentence Completion type of questions.
For each question in this section, select the best answer from among the choices given and fill in the corresponding oval on the answer sheet.
Each sentence below has one or two blanks, each blank indicating that some thing has been omitted. Beneath the sentence are five words or sets of words labeled A through E. Choose the word or set of words that, when inserted in the sentence, best fits the
meaning of the sentence as a whole.
Medieval kingdoms did not become constitutional republics overnight; on the contrary,
the change was __.
If on your actual test you spend time reading these directions and/or answering thesample question, you will waste valuable time.
Strategy 2: don'tt Rush into Getting an Answer without Thinking
A lot of test-takers panic when they take a test like the SAT. The result is that they rush into choosing answers. it's OK to work quickly, but you have to think carefully, too. If your answer seems to come too easily, beware! When you rush into getting an
answer and have not thought the problem out critically, it will probably be the wrong answer.
here's an example of what to watch out for:
Below is a picture of a digital clock. The clock shows that the time is 6:06. Consider all the times on the clock where the hour digit is the same as the minute digit, as in the clock shown below. Another such "double" time would be 8:08 or 9:09. What is the smallest time period between any two such doubles?
(A) 61 minutes
(B) 11 minutes
(C) 60 minutes
(D) 101 minutes
(E) 49 minutes
Did you subtract 8:08 from 7:07 and get 1 hour and 1 minute (61 minutes)? If you did, you probably chose Choice A. Think - do you really believe that the test-maker would give you such an easy question? The fact that you figured it out so easily should make you think twice. The thing you have to realize is that there is another possibility: 12:12 to 1:01 gives 49 minutes and so Choice E is correct.
Strategy 3: Look out for Traps
Especially, beware of the Choice A answer. It's often a "lure" for test-takers who aren't thinking critically and carefully. here's an
example of how you may be lured into an incorrect answer.
If x + y = 6 and xy = 5, what is x²+ y²
Did you think that (x + y)² = x² + y² and choose the answer 6x = 36 (Choice A)? What you really have to know is how to obtain the quantity x² + y² from x + y and from xy. The answer is Choice E. I'll show you how to get that answer without having to solve for x and y later. One way to avoid the "Choice A lure" is to look at Choice E first and work backwards. Of course, you should be aware that Choice A answers do occur, especially if there is no "lure" choice. But if you get the answer easily and it's a Choice A answer, think again. You may have fallen for the "Choice A lure."
Strategy 4: If Two Choices Look Equally Good, Guess and Go On
If you have narrowed all the choices down to a choice between two answers but cannot decide between them, just pick one of the two at random. don'tt waste time! Go on to the next question. This way you will not psychologically exhaust yourself trying to pick the correct answer. Research shows that it is actually psychologically better for you to get the previous question wrong than always to wonder whether you should go back and change the answer.
Strategy 5: it's OK to Guess
On the SAT you lose a percentage of points if you guess and get the wrong answer. But the penalty for guessing is much smaller than you may think. here's why: Suppose you're taking a test with five choice questions. If you guess at five of the questions, you would probably get one right and four wrong. That is, from a probability stand point, you have a one-in-five chance of getting each five-choice question right if you randomly guess at the answers. Since 1/4 point is taken off for each wrong five-choice question, you've gotten 1-(1/4 x 4)=0 points, because you've gotten 1 question right and four wrong. Thus you break even. So the moral is, whether you randomly guess at questions you're not sure of at all or whether you leave those question answers blank, it doesn't make a difference in the long run!
Strategy 6: It May Be Wiser Not to Leave an Answer Blank
If you don'tt mark every line on your answer grid, you run the risk of mismarking future answers. And if you do mark every line, you have at least a chance of getting the answer right!
Strategy 7: If You Have to Try All the Choices, Start with Choice E
here's an example:
If x is an integer, which number is sometimes even?
(A) 2x + 1
(B) 2x - 1
(C) 4x - 1
(D) (2x + l)
(E) (x + 1)2
Many students would try different numbers for x and substitute those numbers in each of the choices. That's OK. But the student would start with Choice A first! Take my advice and start with Choice E first, then try Choice D, etc. Let's try a simple number for x like x 5 1. You can see that substituting x 5 1 in Choice E, you get (1+1)² = 2² = 4. The number 4 is even, so Choice E is correct. No need to work on the other choices!
So, for questions where one usually has to test out all the choices and eliminate the incorrect ones, the test-maker usually has an answer Choice E or Choice D. This is because the test-maker wants to test to see if the student is able to eliminate all or most
of the incorrect choices before arriving at the correct one. And since most students usually start with Choice A, then try Choice B, etc., the test-maker puts the correct
choice at the end of the choices.
A word of warning: This strategy works only in the special circumstances when a question cannot be answered without looking at all the choices. For example, you would not use it to find the answer to a question like this:
If x = 5, what is x2 + 3?
In this question, you do not need to look at the choices at all to get the correct answer. You would first calculate that x² + 3 = 28, and only then go to the choices to find which one is the same as your answer. So the strategy does not apply.
A second warning: The strategy of starting with Choice E is not designed to give you the correct answer by itself. It is designed to help you find the correct answer faster when you start working through the choices.