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Question

Dear Mitch, 

I am taking the SAT exam for the last time this June. 

I'm tired of going through the study books and I already took one after-school class they gave at my church.  My score the first time I took it wasn't very good, the second time it was better, but my guidance counselor wants me to take it one more time, thinking I do better each time.  But I just won't study for the test anymore (I really don't have time this semester).  So is there one piece of advice you would say is the most important thing to remember when I'm taking it next time that could still help even if I'm not going to study any more? 

If you do have any piece of advice like that, it would be great.

Thanks, 

Glenn G.

Chanhassen, MN

Answer

Dear Glenn G., 

Yes, I think I do have one thought which comes to mind above the others (or maybe I have two, but you asked for one, so here it is):

In the math sections, I would say that the most helpful strategy that comes to mind (and this applies to all the multiple choice questions), is to never lose sight of the fact that it is a lot harder to come up with an answer to a problem on your own than it is to select the correct answer from a short menu of possible answers.  Before trying to work out the math problems, remember that the multiple choice ANSWERS do not appear on the paper when you are done calculating, just so that you can see if your answer is there –

NO!, the choices are there the whole time and should be considered PART of the question, to be read as part of the whole, to guide you toward the way the math might go, and to give you a few quick possibilities for you to try.  Plug them in.  One at a time, just try one after another after another to see which one makes the math story at the top of the question work. 

Usually, it's best to start with choice C.  Why?  Because usually, the choices are listed in either ascending order or descending order, and by beginning at the answer possibility that is in the center you avoid having to try ALL the answers; instead you just go up or down trying the remaining two, depending upon if your 'wrong answer' turns out to produce a result that is too high or too low. 

Just a few minutes of practice will show you exactly what I mean. 

Also, even if the problem is so foreign to you that you still do not know how to go from any of the possible answers to the actual question, often the potential answer's mere place value or number of digits or denominator, or power of exponent, etc., will tip you off to which ones cannot be correct...

Good luck! 

Hope this helps,

Mitch 

P.S. Perhaps soon I will give one particularly useful strategy for the verbal section as well.