Test Tactics


Learn the section directions now. Use the time saved during the test to work on questions.

  • Answer easy questions first. Mark skipped questions in your exam book so you can quickly return to them later.
  • Guess…if you can eliminate at least one choice.
  • You can write in the test book: cross out wrong answers; do scratch work.
  • Take care when filling in the answer grid for the student-produced response questions.
  • Avoid stray marks on the answer sheet. A machine scores your test and can’t distinguish between a correct answer and a careless doodle.
  • Easy questions usually precede hard ones.
  • Mark only one answer per question.
  • Skip any question if you haven’t the faintest idea about the answer. You don’t lose points.
  • Understand the scoring! You get a point for a right answer. You lose a fractional point for a wrong answer. There is no deduction for omitted answers, or for wrong answers in the math section’s student-produced response questions.
  • Keep checking that you are placing your answer in the correct section and number on the answer sheet.
  • Don’t spend too much time on any one question. You should spend only seconds on the easiest questions, and hesitate to spend more than 1-2 minutes on even the hardest ones.
  • Practice, practice, practice!
  • Remember that the SAT consists of a series of small, timed, mini-tests. Keep track of the time you’re allotted for each one and how much time remains.
  • Bring a watch to the test center. You can’t be guaranteed that there’ll be a working clock there.
  • Don’t change an answer unless you’re sure you made an error.
  • Read the words in the question carefully. Be sure to answer the question asked and not the question you recall from a practice test.
  • Know the Question Types to Expect on the SAT I: * 19 sentence completion * 40 reading comprehension * 35 math multiple-choices * 10 student-produced responses


  • Before looking at the answers, try to complete the sentence with words that make sense to you.
  • Don’t rush your selection. Consider all the answers to make the best choice.
  • Use the context of nearby words to figure out unknown words.
  • Don’t overlook the reversing effect of negative words (like not) or prefixes (like un-).
  • If you’re really stuck for the meaning of a word, try to think of other words that have similar prefixes, roots, or suffixes.
  • Eliminate choices in double-blank questions if the first word alone doesn’t make sense in the sentence.
  • Let transition words (like although and likewise) help suggest the best answer.


  • You should base your answers to the questions solely on what is stated or implied in the passages.
  • Read the italicized introductory text.
  • Skip questions you don’t know. Return to them after answering other easier questions.
  • First and last sentences of each paragraph are critical.
  • Find the right spot in a passage by using any line reference numbers that appear in the questions.
  • Answer questions on familiar topics before unfamiliar topics.
  • Read the passages before reading the questions.
  • Don’t waste time memorizing details.
  • Passage content comes from the Humanities, Social Science, Science, and Literal Fiction.
  • Some passages are presented in pairs. Read the brief introduction first to see how they relate.
  • Spend more time on answering the questions than on reading the text.


  • Write a short (about 250-300 words), persuasive essay on an assigned topic.
  • Keep in mind the structure of an essay – 5 paragraphs consisting of an: Introduction, Body (about 3 paragraphs), Conclusion
  • The alloted time frame is 25 minutes. Read the essay question quickly and think about the topic (about 5 minutes). Allow most of your time (about 15 minutes) to write the essay. Spend the remaining 5 minutes reviewing and editing your work.
  • Introductory Paragraph should state the position that is being taken. It should also state about 3 points that support this position.
  • The Body Paragraphs should expand the points that you present with specific detail and examples.
  • The Concluding Paragraph should summarize your point of view by restating the thesis statement in a revised format.
  • Keep your writting simple.
  • Avoid wordiness.
  • Avoid slang.


Usage, Sentence Correction, and Paragraph Correction

  • Think about the question before you answer it.
  • Move around within a Section.
  • Usage & Sentence Correction questions are based on individual sentences. They test basic grammar, sentence structure, and word choice.
  • Paragraph Correction questions are based on 2 brief passages, with several questions per passage.
  • Read the questions carefully.


  • Guess if you can’t figure it out. There is no penalty for wrong answers in this section.
  • Negative numbers are not possible as answers in this section. If your answer comes up negative, do it again.
  • You may begin to enter a short answer in any column. For instance, .6 can be entered in columns 1-2, or 2-3, or 3-4.
  • If an answer is a repeating decimal (like .33333333), just enter as many decimals as will fit in the grid (.333).
  • You may enter an equivalent decimal for a fraction as your answer, but why waste the time evaluating the fraction?
  • Do not try to enter mixed numbers. For example, if your answer is 3 1/2, enter it as 3.5 or 7/2.


  • Read the question well. Be sure to select the best answer for the variable, value, or expression that is requested!
  • Learn in advance all of the critical definitions, formulas, and concepts that appear in common questions.
  • Remember to use the test booklet for scratch work, as well as for marking up any diagrams/graphs.
  • Early questions in this section are easier. Spend less time on them.
  • Don’t get carried away with detailed calculations. Look for a trick or a shortcut if the question seems time consuming.
  • When a question contains a weird symbol, just substitute the accompanying definition when figuring out the best answer choice.

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