University of Virginia

SAT Tricks

The SAT is challenging enough without some of the well-documented traps that were more prevalent in the past.  However, as with many multiple choice tests, there are things to be aware of that can help you from making some silly mistakes.

Jon Siegelman has a good post on a few of these which is worth reading and considering.  Here’s one takeaway.  At the beginning of each section on the SAT are the easy questions, the hard questions come at the end.  Let’s say you see a question like this:

Q:  Joanne drives to work at an average speed of 20 miles per hour, and returns home along the same route at 50 miles per hour…

Mr. Siegelman says  “If it’s anywhere near the end of the section, don’t answer 30 miles per hour.”

What he is saying is that your brain will give more weight to “30” as the correct answer because you have been conditioned that way, “Hm, 30 is the average between 20 and 40, that must be it!”  But since it is at the end of the section, it is a hard question and 30 is the “easy” answer.  Avoid it. 

We suggest that you don’t look at the possible answer choices until you have calculated your own answer so you don’t get accidentally “attracted” to one of the choices.  Let one of the answer choices validate what you came up with on your own.

That’s not to say obvious answers are not ever correct; in fact, Mr. Siegelman notes they are routinely correct earlier in the sections.  Not every question is a trick, but when you are dealing with the hard questions, don’t jump to conclusions.