The SAT consists mostly of multiple-choice questions, except for the essay and some mathematics questions that require an answer grid. Each multiple-choice question has 5 alternative answers. Four of them are distractors, and one alternative is the correct answer.
It is very important to follow directions exactly when taking the SAT or any other standardized test. Study the directions for each type of test as part of preparation before taking the SAT. Bring several Number 2 pencils and erasers on the day of the test, and remember to fill in the bubbles on the answer sheet completely, so that the machine will read the answers that are chosen. Use the approved calculator for the math portion, and practice with it before the test so that it is familiar. The essay portion must be written legibly in pencil, so that it can be scanned.
Most of the questions are in multiple-choice format, with 5 possible answers for each question. All the math questions in multiple-choice format range from easy to hard. The multiple-choice questions on the critical reading portions refer to that reading portion alone. The advantage for students using the multiple-choice format is that the correct answer is already one of the alternatives.
Raw scores on the SAT are calculated so that each correct answer receives a full point, each incorrect answer subtracts ¼ of a point, and each unanswered question receives no points. That formula is supposed to discourage students from random guessing. However, students can narrow the field by eliminating distractors that are clearly incorrect. Suppose a student can confidently state that 2 of the 5 possible alternatives on a question are incorrect. The probability of getting any one of the three alternatives correct is 33%, which is already higher than the 25% incorrect-answer penalty. If 3 alternatives can be eliminated, the probability is 50%. Skillful preparation for the SAT ensures students can eliminate alternatives, and thus raise their SAT scores.
Choosing the Best Answer
Students can use their answer books as scratch paper during the test, and are encouraged to do so. That way, they can draw diagrams for geometry problems, cross out incorrect alternatives, underline key words in sentences; and do anything to help choose the best answer for every question. Students can also circle questions in the answer book that stump them, as a reminder to go back and try again if there is extra time. During SAT preparation, individual students can learn the methods and strategies to help them achieve the best scores possible on the SAT, and get into the colleges of their choice.
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