SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

Process of Elimination on the SAT: 11 Key Tips

Posted by Ellen McCammon | Apr 14, 2016 10:00:00 PM

SAT Strategies

 

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With the guessing penalty eliminated for the redesigned SAT, you should guess on any question you can’t answer, because you won’t be penalized for wrong guesses. However, that doesn’t mean that guessing completely randomly is a good idea. You should always use the process of elimination as much as you are able to increase your chances of getting the right answer.

In this article, I’ll explain how eliminating incorrect answers helps you, and then go over some specific strategies you can use to eliminate wrong answers on Reading, Writing, and Math.

 

How Eliminating Incorrect Answers Helps You

The guessing penalty may be gone, but that doesn’t mean you should throw careful thought to the wind and randomly choose an answer on any question you are remotely stumped on.

If you guess randomly on an SAT multiple-choice question, which has four choices, your chances of guessing the correct answer are 25%. If you can eliminate one wrong answer, those chances jump to 33%. If you can eliminate two, those chances jump even higher, to 50%. This means that even if you can’t definitively identify the correct answer, eliminating wrong answers will be a huge help.

In the next sections, I’ll present some strategies on eliminating wrong answers for each of the multiple choice sections—Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. Math actually has two multiple choice sections—no-calculator and calculator—but the elimination strategies are pretty much the same for both.

Every practice problem comes from this free practice test released by the College Board. Look there for the complete passages for the Reading and Writing sections.

 

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STRATEGY!

 

4 Strategies to Eliminate Wrong Answers on Reading

Here are four main strategies to eliminate wrong answers on Reading: plugging answers into the passage, honing in on modifiers, applying abstract answers to the passage, and leveraging “find the evidence” question pairs. For each strategy, I’ll present a practice question with an explanation to show the skills in action.

 

Strategy #1: Plug It In

You’ve probably heard “plug it in” most commonly as an elimination strategy for math tests. But you can do it on other kinds of multiple choice questions, too. For Reading, this strategy comes into play for any question that asks you to define a word or phrase in the passage. You can replace the word in question with each of the answer choices in turn—essentially plugging the answers back into the passage in place of the original word or phrase—and then eliminate the ones that don’t make sense in context.

 

Example:

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The short paragraph that contains line 2 reads, “Akira came directly, breaking all tradition. Was that it? Had he followed form—had he asked his mother to speak to his father to approach a go-between—would Chie have been more receptive?”

If we replace “form” with choice (A), “appearance,” we get, “Had he followed appearance.” This clearly doesn’t make sense. How do you “follow” appearance? Eliminate it.

If we replace “form” with choice (B), “custom,” we get, “Had he followed custom.” This sounds much better; “following custom” is a logical phrase that refers to sticking to tradition. Keep it.

If we replace “form” with choice (C), “structure,” we get “Had he followed structure.” How do you “follow” structure in this context? He’s not building anything; he’s asking for Naomi’s hand in marriage. Eliminate (C).

Finally, if we replace “form” with (D), “nature,” we get “Had he followed nature.” This doesn’t make sense, either—not only is it an awkward-sounding phrase, it doesn’t make sense in the context of the passage. There’s nothing “natural” about marriage customs; they are created by people. Eliminate (D).

By “plugging in” the answers, we can eliminate the wrong choices one by one and determine that (B) is actually the only choice that makes sense. This is a strategy that works for any reading questions that ask you to define a word or phrase in context.

 

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Plugging it in: the next best thing when you don't have a dictionary.

 

Strategy #2: Hone in on Modifiers and Descriptors

Answers on SAT reading questions often contain descriptive modifiers, seen in phrases like “impassioned plea,” “desperate request,” and so on. It might be tempting to sort of gloss over the sea of modifiers when you are scanning responses, but don’t! You can use these modifiers to help you eliminate incorrect answers. The modifiers are often what most differentiates one answer choice from another.

 

Example:

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As you can see, there are all kinds of descriptive modifiers in these answers. Choice (A) has “careful,” “traditional; (B) has “detailed,” “meaningful,”’ (C) has “definitive,”; and (D) has “cheerful” and “amusing.”

Let’s hone in on the modifiers in the above question for practice. Choice (A) describes the development of the passage as a “careful analysis of a traditional practice.” Certainly a “traditional practice”—using go-betweens to propose marriage—is a major subject of this passage. But is there careful analysis of this practice? “Careful” implies that the analysis is methodical or systematic, while this passage is only concerned with relating one anecdote. This is not “careful.” We can eliminate (A) based on this modifier.

In answer (B), the passage is described as a “detailed description of a meaningful encounter.” The description here can definitely be described as “detailed.” The conversation is brief, but the passage is over a page long. It’s also about a marriage proposal, which is usually significant and emotional, so it seems reasonable to describe the encounter as “meaningful.” Let’s keep (B) in the running.

Choice (C) describes the passage as “a definitive response to a series of questions.” Well, one question is definitely being asked here—Akira is asking for Naomi’s hand. But is there a definitive, or final, response? Chie gives no answer, so no. (C) can be eliminated.

In choice (D) the passage is termed “a cheerful recounting of an amusing anecdote.” This passage concerns a serious matter, that of a marriage that could involve Chie’s daughter moving to another continent. So it’s not really appropriate to call this anecdote “amusing” or the recounting of events “cheerful.” Eliminate (D).

By focusing on the modifiers and descriptors, we can eliminate answers in turn until we are left with the correct answer, (B). It’s important to pay close attention to these words since they are often what really separates the answers from each other!

 

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Don't let modifiers cloud your judgment—use them!

 

Strategy #3: Apply an Abstract Answer to the Passage

What do I mean by this? Well, lots of SAT reading questions have answer choices that are written in the abstract: instead of identifying a specific character, answers will say “one character,” or “a character”; instead of identifying a specific event, answer choices will say “an event,” or “a moment,”; and so on. The general, vague-sounding way these answers are phrased can make it hard to confidently eliminate answer choices.

You can get around this problem by explicitly applying the general, abstract statements in the answer choices to concrete elements of the passage. This makes it much easier to spot answer choices that don’t fit.

 

Example:

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In this question, all of the answer choices are presented as abstract statements, describing “one character” and “another character” without linking these pronouncements to specific characters that appear in the passage. If you can apply these vague, nonspecific answer choices explicitly to elements in the passage, in this case by identifying which characters are being referred to, it will be much easier to spot incorrect answers.

Answer choice (A) says that, “one character argues with another character who intrudes on her home.”  Well, the scene takes place in Chie’s home, and the only character who does not live there is Akira. We could rewrite this choice, then, as “Chie argues with Akira, who intrudes on her home.” But they don’t argue, and Akira is hardly an intruder—he is announced with a calling card, and Chie goes to meet him. So we can eliminate choice (A).

Answer choice (B) says that one character receives a surprising request from another character. Who makes a request in this passage, and of whom? Well, Akira requests Naomi’s hand in marriage from Chie, her mother. So we could rewrite this answer as “Chie receives a surprising request from Akira.” This seems reasonable; we will keep this choice in mind.

Answer choice (C) says that “one character reminisces about choices she has made over the years.” Since “she” is used, it would have to be either Chie or Naomi reminiscing. Naomi is only 18, so it wouldn’t make much sense for her to be reminiscing about her choices “over the years.” That leaves Chie. So stated in concrete terms, choice (C) would read, “Chie reminisces about choices she has made over the years.” But that’s not a good description what happens in the passage—it doesn’t mention either Akira or Naomi at all, who are also key players here. (C) can be eliminated.

Answer choice (D) states, “One character criticizes another character for pursuing an unexpected course of action.” Well, from the passage we know that Akira is doing several unexpected things. He shows up at a time when he is not expected, and he is going to America, and he is asking for Naomi’s hand. So he may be “pursuing an unexpected course of action.” The only character he interacts with substantively in the passage is Chie, so we would have to rewrite this answer choice as, “Chie criticizes Akira for pursuing an unexpected course of action.” But Chie doesn’t really criticize Akira—the only things she says to Akira are to congratulate him for his position in America and to ask whether Naomi knows he wants to marry her. (D) can be eliminated. 

With that, we’ve eliminated every answer but (B). (I swear it’s only a coincidence that all of these sample questions have B answers!) By rewriting answer choices that are offered in general or abstract terms so they are more concretely linked to the passage, we can more easily eliminate wrong answers.

 

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SAT Reading: the floral edition.

 

Strategy #4: Leverage "Find the Evidence" Question Pairs

"Find the Evidence" question pairs are a new question type on the revised SAT. These question pairs will first ask you something about the passage and then to find evidence that supports your previous answer in a follow-up question. Sometimes you can leverage these “find the evidence” pairs to eliminate wrong answers.  Because you know that the answers have to go together, you can eliminate from the first question question answers that don’t have a corresponding piece of evidence in the second question.

 

Example:

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To make explaining this example a little clearer, here are the complete “evidence” answer choices for question 14 written out:
  1. Many relish the opportunity to buy presents because gift-giving offers a powerful means to build stronger bonds with one’s closest peers.
  2. People buy gifts that recipients would not choose to buy on their own.
  3. Research has found that people often struggle to take account of others’ perspectives.
  4. Although a link between gift price and feelings of appreciation might seem intuitive to gift-givers, such an assumption may be unfounded.  

If you’re stumped by the first question in an evidence pair, try to match answers from the first question to “evidence” answers from the second question in the pair. If there’s no matching evidence in the second question, you can confidently eliminate the answer from the first question. You may not always be able to eliminate all answers this way, but all eliminations help!

Let’s work through the above example. In question 13, answer choice (A) states that people value gift-giving as a “form of self-expression.” Is there any matching evidence in question 14? Answer choice (B) says that gift-givers buy gifts that recipients might not buy on their own, but that’s not the same thing as a gift functioning as “self-expression.”

Similarly, for choice (C), the fact that people “struggle to take account of others’ perspectives” doesn’t necessarily mean that people are expressing themselves when they buy gifts. There’s not really matching evidence in question 14, so we can eliminate choice (A) from question 13.

Moving on to the next answer choice for question 13, choice (B) says that people value gifts as “an inexpensive way to show appreciation.” Are there any answers in question 14 that support this? None of the answer choices mention price except for (D), which says that gift-givers assume price and level appreciation expressed are linked.  The idea that gift-givers give more expensive gifts to show more appreciation directly contradicts the idea that people use inexpensive gifts to show appreciation! So there’s no evidence to match (B) and we can eliminate it from the running for question 13.

Question 13’s choice (C) suggests that people value gifts because givers are required to reciprocate. There’s nothing about reciprocating, or giving gifts in return, in any of question 14’s evidence answer choices. Eliminate (C).

This leaves us with choice (D) for question 13, which states that people value gifts as a means to strengthen relationships. When we scan question 14’s answers, we can see that answer choice (A) states that people value gift-giving as a chance to build stronger bonds. This matches up perfectly with answer (D). So (D) for question 13 and (A) for question 14 are the correct answers!

It might seem a little tedious to use this matching strategy, but it pays off: we got two "sure bet" right answers this way! Note that you won’t always be able to eliminate all wrong answers with this strategy—sometimes the question writers like to have a couple of matching evidence pairs to stump you.

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Elementary, my dear Watson.

 

That sums up my four helpful strategies to eliminate answers on the SAT Reading section: plugging in the answer choices when you are asked to define a word or phrase, honing in on descriptive modifiers, linking abstract answer choices to specific characters and moments in the passage, and leveraging evidence-based question pairs. Note that you might sometimes want to use a combination of strategies to eliminate answers for a given question if it’s appropriate to do so. Now on to Writing!

  

Three Strategies to Eliminate Wrong Answers on Writing

Because good things come in threes, I have three helpful strategies to eliminate wrong answers in writing.  First up is my perennial favorite, plugging in the answer. Then I’ll cover spotting common grammatical errors, and finally, using topic sentences. 

Once again, you can (and should!) use multiple strategies to eliminate wrong answer choices on the test. I’ll mostly focus on one strategy per example question, but occasionally I might mention another strategy in my explanation where appropriate.

 

Strategy #1: Plugging in the Answer

It’s our favorite strategy, plugging in the answer! Yes, this is going to appear as an elimination strategy for all three SAT section types. That’s because it’s effective for any question where you can replace something in the passage (or question) with each of the answer choices and see how it works out.

This strategy is helpful for tons of questions on writing: not just on questions where you need to choose the correct word or phrase to complete a sentence, but also on paragraph completion questions where you need to choose where it makes the most sense to place a sentence. It’s a very versatile technique.

 

Example:

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The sentence that goes with the above question is “Because consumers reap the nutritional benefits of Greek yogurt and support those who make and sell it, therefore farmers and businesses should continue finding safe and effective methods of producing the food.”

We don’t need to “plug in” answer choice (A), NO CHANGE, as it’s already plugged in to the sentence, but we can read it aloud to ourselves to see how it sounds. It’s very awkward to have “therefore” in the middle of the sentence. If it sounds awkward, it’s usually wrong. Even if you don’t know the specific grammatical rule at play, you can always be sure that the SAT prioritizes writing that is clear and straightforward. So if something sounds weird to you, odds are it’s a wrong answer. Eliminate (A).

If we plug answer choice (B) into the sentence, we get, “Because consumers reap the nutritional benefits of Greek yogurt and support those who make and sell it, farmers and businesses should continue finding safe and effective methods of producing the food.” This sounds pretty natural and clear. On SAT writing, if it sounds natural, there’s a decent chance it’s the correct answer. (If you do know the grammar, you’ll know that this sentence is correct because we have a dependent clause beginning with “because” linked with a comma to an independent clause, starting with “farmers.”) Either way, keep (B).

If we plug in answer choice (C), we get, “Because consumers reap the nutritional benefits of Greek yogurt and support those who make and sell it, so farmers and businesses should continue finding safe and effective methods of producing the food.”  This one sounds awkward, too. “Because” beginning the sentence and then “so” right in the middle of the sentence sounds redundant and weird. Get rid of it! Eliminate choice (C).

With answer choice (D) plugged in, the sentence reads as, “Because consumers reap the nutritional benefits of Greek yogurt and support those who make and sell it: farmers and businesses should continue finding safe and effective methods of producing the food.” This sounds sort of okay. Let’s keep it for now.

After plugging in answer choices we’ve eliminated choices (A) and (C) since they sound awkward right off the bat. So now we have answers (B) and (D) left to choose from.

To get the right answer here, it would be helpful if we knew the rules for colon usage: colons should only be used to separate two independent clauses where the second one logically follows the first, or to begin a list. So answer choice (D) doesn’t qualify; this leaves (B) as the only viable answer choice.

But even if we didn’t know that, if we could determine that choice (B) definitely made a correct sentence, we could be pretty sure that it was the correct answer. There is only ever one indisputably correct choice on the SAT, so if one answer is definitely right, all the other answers have to be wrong.

 

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Plug in those answers like your electric guitar!

 

Strategy #2: Spotting Common Grammatical Errors

If you have a solid understanding of some common grammatical errors, you can often eliminate at least some answers to any question on the writing section easily because they contain a common error.

 

Example:

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 We don’t even need to look at the sentence in the passage this question is referring to in order to start eliminating answers: choices (B) and (D) both use apostrophes improperly in a plural word. Apostrophes are only appropriate to indicate possession (like “Cady’s bike”) or create contractions (like “can’t” and “won’t”). By knowing this common grammatical error and being able to spot it, we just upped our chances of guessing the correct answer from 25% to 50% in one fell swoop.

We’re now left with (A), “No Change,” and (D), “could have polluted waterways.” We can plug these last two choices into the sentence to find the correct answer.

With choice (A), the sentence reads, “If it is improperly introduced into the environment, acid-whey runoff can pollute waterways, depleting the oxygen content of streams and rivers as it decomposes.” This sounds pretty good. Let’s leave choice (A) in the running.

What about if we plug in choice (D)? Then we have the sentence, “If it is improperly introduced into the environment, acid-whey runoff could have polluted waterways, depleting the oxygen content of streams and rivers as it decomposes.” If this sounds awkward, it’s because it is. This is the wrong answer because it introduces a new, non-matching verb tense into the sentence. But what you mostly need to know is that it sounds awkward and wrong, which in writing is generally a good reason to eliminate an answer. Goodbye to (D)!

This leaves us with (A), “No change,” as the correct answer. Hurrah!

In addition to improper apostrophe use, some other common grammatical errors you might use to eliminate answers on the writing section include:

  • Incorrect idiom phrases (like “could of” instead of “could have”)
  • Incorrect pronoun usage (phrases like “whom goes” instead of “who goes”)
  • Modifier errors: adjectives/adverbs appearing in the wrong place in a phrase and/or in the wrong form (like “teach in a way more effectively” instead of “teach in a more effective way” or even just “teach more effectively”).

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Hopefully there's not an explosion every time you find an error.

 

Strategy #3: Using Topic Sentences

On questions that are primarily about argument quality or the structure of a piece, topic sentences are your best friends. They help clue you into the structure of a written piece and help you know what details are most important. You can use these clues to eliminate answers.

 

Example:

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This question is asking us to choose the sentence part that will provide the most relevant detail. For a detail to be relevant, it needs to be related to the topic of the paragraph it’s contained in. How do we know what’s most relevant to a particular paragraph? The topic sentence.

So scan back up to the topic sentence of this paragraph:  “The main environmental problem caused by the production of Greek yogurt is the creation of acid whey as a by-product.” This paragraph, then, is about environmental problems associated with the whey by-products of Greek Yogurt. Do any of the answers seem relevant to this topic?

With choice (A), “No Change,” the complete sentence reads, “They can add it to livestock feed as a protein supplement, and people can make their own Greek-style yogurt at home by straining regular yogurt.” Well, making your own yogurt might have something to do with sustainability, which might be relevant to environmental problems. We’ll leave this answer in for now.

Choice (B) discusses converting Greek Yogurt by-products into gas to use as fuel. This seems like it could be related to the environment because it’s about recycling the whey by-products. Leave in (B).

Choice (C) mentions that a different kind of whey is more desirable for human consumption. Does this have anything to do with the environment? Nope. Say goodbye to (C).

Choice D) just further elaborates on the nutritional value of the yogurt-based supplement for livestock. That’s not particularly relevant to our overall topic of the whey by-product and the environment. Eliminate (D).

We are now left with two answers: choice (A), which discusses people making their own Greek yogurt, and choice (B), which discusses some further options for Greek yogurt whey by-product disposal. If we look at the sentence that comes before this one in the passage, it says, “To address the problem of disposal, farmers have found a number of uses for acid whey.” People making their own yogurt, as in (A), doesn’t seem as relevant to alternate uses for acid whey as using the whey for electricity. So we can eliminate (A), leaving us with (B) as the best answer.

Thus, topic sentences are a key tool to highlight what’s most important in a given paragraph when we are trying to eliminate wrong answers. Thanks, topic sentences! 

 

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This delicious yogurt has a dark secret...dastardly whey by-products!

 

Four Strategies to Eliminate Wrong Answers in Math

Math is the subject where you may feel the most lost on questions if you don’t have any idea what the answer is. But you can guess effectively even if you don’t fully understand a question. My four strategies for eliminating answers on SAT Math questions are plugging it in (of course!), testing the models, replacing variables with real numbers, and paying close attention to signs.

 

Strategy #1: Plug It In

Ah, yes, the mother of all answer-eliminating strategies when you are stumped on an algebra-related problem on a math test. Take the given answer choices and plug them back into the equation(s) to see if they work.

 

Example:

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This one has two equations, but don’t be stumped by this. The solution has to work in both equations, so plug the values into the top equation first. If it doesn’t work there, eliminate the answer choice; if it does, move on to the bottom equation.

Let’s try answer choice (A), in which $x=-5$ and $y=-2$. Plugging these values in to the first equation gives us:

$$3(-5)+4(-2)=$$
$$(-15)+(-8)=-23$$

That matches the top equation’s solution of -23, so we’ll move on to the bottom equation. In the second equation, we get:

$$2(-2)-(-5)=$$
$$(-4)-(-5)=$$
$$(-4)+5=1$$

That does not match the bottom equation’s solution of -19, so we can eliminate (A) as a choice.

On to answer (B), in which $x=3$ and $y=-8$. Plugging these values in to the first equation gives us:

$$3(3)+4(-8)=$$ 
$$9+(-32)=-23$$

This matches the top equation’s solution of -23, so we’ll move on to the bottom equation. In the second equation, we get:

$$2(-8)-(3)=$$
$$-16-3=-19$$

That does match the bottom equation’s solution of -19. (B) is the correct answer! If you want to double-check, you could plug in the next answers to make sure they are wrong. I won’t go through that here, though. 

So you can see that just so long as you know where to put the numbers, plugging the answer choices back into the equation is a very effective answer-eliminating strategy.

 

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Where do all the numbers go?

 

Strategy #2: Test the Model

On the revised SAT there are a variety of questions about mathematical modeling—creating and understanding equations that model real-world situations. On these questions, you can often use the model to eliminate incorrect answers (and/or to find the correct answer).

 

Example:

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You don’t actually need to understand exactly what the different terms in the model mean to answer this question, you just need to be able to plug numbers into the model and identify the resulting pattern.

Since you are trying to find the estimated increase of the boy’s height every year from 2 to 5, just “run” the model from years 2 and 5 and see what the height increase is from year to year.

At year 2, that would be $h=3(2)+28.6$ or $34.6$

At year 3, that would be $h=3(3)+28.6$ or $37.6$

At year 4, that would be $h=3(4)+28.6$ or $40.6$

At year 5, that would be $h=3(5)+28.6$ or $43.6$

See a pattern? Every year, the boy’s height is increasing by 3 inches. So the answer is (A), 3. You can eliminate all the other answers. 

Of course, if you understand the way the model works, you’ll know that the boy’s average estimated height increase per year is 3 because 3 is the coefficient in front of $a$, the boy’s age. But even if you don’t, you can still answer this question with math answer-elimination techniques!

 

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Go math go!

 

Strategy #3: Replace Variables With Real Numbers

Replacing variables with real numbers in math problems often makes them easier to conceptualize. Obviously, you can’t do this when you are solving an algebra problem with a specific solution, but if you’re working with an expression, it’s a solid strategy. Note that it’s best to pick an easy-to-manipulate number that’s not 0 or 1.

 

Example:

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For this problem, the first part says that $x>3$. So be sure to pick a number greater than 3 to represent $x$!

We need to find the answer that is equivalent to the expression

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Let’s pick the number 5 to stand in for $x$. Then we have

$${1}/{1/(5+2)+1/(5+3)}$$

which simplifies to

$${1}/{1/7+1/8}$$

which further simplifies to  $${1}/{15/56}$$

which = $$56/15$$

Given that this term simplifies to $56/15$ in fractional terms, we can eliminate answers (C) and (D) without testing them because those clearly won’t equal $56/15$ if we substitute 5 for $x$.

That leaves us with (A) and (B) to test.

If we replace $x$ with 5 for answer (A), we get

$${2(5)+5}/{5^2+5(5)+6}$$

which = $15/56$.

This isn’t quite right—we are looking for $56/15$! We can eliminate choice (A).

But answer (B) is just answer (A) with the numerator and denominator flipped. So that would be $56/15$ with 5 standing in for $x$. That’s our answer! (In an unrelated note, I’m apparently really, really good at picking sample questions with (B) as the answer.)

Thus, replacing variables with real numbers can help you choose an answer if you are having trouble manipulating the variables. Just be sure you choose a number that makes for relatively easy math and that you’re internally consistent—i.e. don’t start out substituting 10 for $x$ and then start substituting 8 for $x$ later in the same problem.

 

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Illuminate the answer by plugging in some real numbers!

 

Strategy #4: Pay Close Attention to Signs

Paying close attention to positive and negative signs is hugely important when you are trying to eliminate answers that are clearly wrong on the Math test.

 

Example:

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Let’s say you have no idea how to approach $i$ even with the helpful info that it is the square root of -1. That doesn’t mean all is lost on this question! 

You can see from the answers that the first term of the answer is either -1 or 15. You are trying to add $(7+3i)$ and $(-8+9i)$. Even if you have no idea how to deal with the imaginary number terms, you know you have a positive 7 and a negative 8! 

Would it make sense for $7+(-8)$ to lead to a first term of positive 15? no! The 7 is positive and the 8 is negative, so how would you reach 15?  You can eliminate the answer choices that start with 15, choice (C) and choice (D).

This leaves you with choices (A) and (B). So how to choose between them? Well, you have a positive $3i$ and a positive $9i$. Does it make sense for these to add up to $-6i$, like in (B)? Do two positives ever add up to a negative? No! Eliminate (B).

This leaves choice (A) as the answer.

By thinking carefully about the positive and negative signs in the question and our answer choices, we were able to eliminate answers without needing to understand what $i$ meant at all!

 

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Follow the signs.

 

That wraps up my math answer eliminating strategies: plug in answers, test models, replace variables with real numbers, and pay attention to signs!

 

Key Takeaways

With the guessing penalty gone, you should answer every multiple-choice question on the SAT. But don’t just guess randomly—guess smart!

These are my best answer-eliminating strategies for each section:

 

Reading

  1. Plug the answer choices into the passage
  2. Hone in on modifiers
  3. Link abstract answers to concrete elements of the passage
  4. Leverage “find the evidence” question pairs

 

Writing

  1. Plug the answer choices into the passage
  2. Spot common grammatical errors
  3. Use topic sentences

 

Math

  1. Plug the answer choices into the problem
  2. Test the model(s)
  3. Replace variables with numbers
  4. Pay attention to signs!

 

With these elimination strategies in mind, you can up your guessing game so instead of picking random answers, you’re guessing strategically when you don’t know the answer to a question.

 

What's Next?

Wondering what to expect on SAT test day? Let us tell you!

If you're worried about SAT Math, see our key tips for success. More concerned about SAT Reading? See our 5-step process. If SAT Writing is your primary concern, see our key tips for SAT Writing and Language

 

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Ellen McCammon
About the Author

Ellen has extensive education mentorship experience and is deeply committed to helping students succeed in all areas of life. She received a BA from Harvard in Folklore and Mythology and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Columbia University.



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