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Process of Elimination Strategy for SAT/ ACT Style Questions

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Sometimes students will encounter a question that they do not know how to handle.  When this happens, it is that students know how to handle this situation as this one question could make the difference of being admitted to the post-secondary school of choice. In order to master this skill, the following points should be considered.

  • Process of Elimination

Usually, the student should be able to rule out a number of obviously incorrect answers. This may leave them with a possibility of two or three correct answers. Hence whenever the student is unsure of the answer, they should consider this process of elimination because by eliminating even two options will greatly increases the student’s chances of guessing correctly.

  • Know the Penalties

The ACT test does not penalize the student for wrong answers. In light of this, the student should guess to their hearts content on the questions that they do not directly know because even if that guess is wrong there is no consequence. Remember to utilize the process of elimination!

The SAT test does penalize students for wrong answers. Such a penalty varies for each question type but for the average question, the student will be penalized by one fourth of a point. Hence it is evident that the student should take caution when guessing on the SAT test. A general rule of thumb is to only guess on the SAT test when it is possible to rule out at least one wrong answer. This is so because this elimination greatly increases the chance of a correct guess. If this elimination is not possible, the student may consider leaving the answer blank.

  • Last Resort Knowledge

If the student has decided to guess and has not been able to eliminate any of the possibilities, they may wish to consider the following tips (notice that these tips are merely guidelines).

    • Look for grammatical cues. For example, if the question ends with an indefinite cue such as “an”, then the answer is more likely to start with a vowel.
    • Look for verbal repetitions. If there is a possible answer that repeats key terms found in the questions, it is more likely to be correct.
    • Usually, the answer is “hidden” in either the second or the third option (out of four). Equivalently it can be hidden in the second, third or fourth answer (out of five).

As Uncle Ben in “Spider Man” once said: “With great power, comes great responsibility”. Now that the student has the power of guessing, they must use it responsibly. This means to only guess when it is the best option given the circumstances.

Test Prep Academy is the premier SAT/ACT services company for high school students. We offer instructional programs and curriculum for students preparing for the PSAT,  ACT, and SAT.

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