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The SAT. Basic Information.  The test is 3 hours and 45 minutes, divided into 10 sections One 25 minute Essay section, requiring you to present your viewpoint on a topic (always first) Two 25 minute Math sections, containing multiple choice questions and “grid ins”

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basic information
Basic Information

 The test is 3 hours and 45 minutes, divided into 10 sections

  • One 25 minute Essay section, requiring you to present your viewpoint on a topic (always first)
  • Two 25 minute Math sections, containing multiple choice questions and “grid ins”
  • Two 25 minute Critical Reading sections, made of up sentence completions and reading comprehension questions
  • One 25 minute Writing section, containing error identification questions, improving sentences questions, and improving paragraphs questions
  • One 20 minute Math section, including only multiple choice questions
  • One 20 minute Critical Reading section
  • One 10 minute Writing section, containing only improving sentences questions (always comes last)
  • One 25 minute experimental section (could be Writing, Math or Critical Reading)
  • Each subject area is scored on a scale of 200 to 800 points, with a high score of 2,400
  • Average score is 500 per section
  • Essays rated on a scale of 1-6 and graded holistically (two readers, unless the scores differ by more than one point)
  • Raw score on SAT = number of questions right minus a fraction of the number you got wrong
    • Every blank question = 0 raw points
    • Every correct question = 1 raw point
    • Every incorrect question (with 5 answer choices) = -1/4 raw point
    • Every incorrect “grid-in” question = 0 raw points

So, should I guess?

Statistically, the odds are in your favor if you can eliminate at least ONE of the answer choices, but this will really depend on your own pacing strategy and your personal order of difficulty. (POOD!) Which kinds of questions are you best at answering? Those are the ones you should tackle first.

joe bloggs
Joe Bloggs

Are the people at ETS geniuses?

No way. But they are mind readers. The SAT is designed by a bunch of regular Joes who have figured out how the average student thinks and are setting out to trick this average student. Let’s call him Joe Bloggs.

general strategies
General Strategies
  • Memorize directions
  • Mark the heck out of your test book.
  • Transfer answers to your test book once you have finished the section.
  • Remember, the answer is there – you just have to find the right one.
  • Speak for yourself! Come up with your own answer before you even look at the answer choices.
  • Look for wrong answers instead of right ones.

1. The capital of Azerbaijan is:

A. Washington DC

B. Paris

C. Tokyo

D. London

E. Baku

2. The capital of Quitar is:

A. Paris

B. Dukhan

C. Tokyo

D. Doha

E. London

grammar generally
Grammar, Generally
  • Not always in a noticeable order of difficulty. Establish your own criteria for what qualifies as a hard question, and leave those until last (two-pass system).
  • Cover six areas of grammar knowledge: sentence structure, verbs, nouns, pronouns, prepositions, and other little things (faulty comparisons, misplaced modifiers, adjectives/adverbs, and diction).
    • Run through this list on every question. If you can’t find anything wrong in any of these categories, it’s probably correct as written.
  • Trim the fat! Often these questions will contain extra phrases that distract from the meat of the sentence. Cross these out as you go.

Math, (A) developed over 2,000 years ago, (B) have been a favorite (C) of teachers and school children (D) alike for generations. (E) No error.

  • Golden Rule: Don’t trust your ear!

The (A) inconsistencies in the witness’s testimony (B) notwithstanding, the jury had no choice but to conclude that the suspect (C) was not guilty of the charges (D) leveled against him. (E) No error.

error ids
Error IDs

(A) This is an (B) example of an error ID question (C) that (D) has no error. (E) No error.

  • Never more than one error per sentence.
  • Error always underlined.
  • About 20% of questions are correct as is.
  • Short – you should be able to eliminate at least one answer choice, so do these question types first, read the whole question, and try to guess on all of them.
improving sentences
Improving Sentences

This is an example of an improving sentences question that does not contain an error.

(A) that does not contain

(B) that has not been containing

(C) which has not been contain

(D) which is not being with

(E) about which there is nothing to indicate it being with

  • Answer choice A is always reprint of the underlined section. Don’t bother rereading it. Approximately 20% of the questions will be A.
  • POE works particularly well on these questions. If you decide any portion of the underlined section contains an error, eliminate A immediately, and any other answer choice that doesn’t eliminate the error. Also eliminate any answer choices that change the meaning of the original sentence.
  • If you can’t figure out what the error is, check all the answer choices to see what exactly is being fixed in each choice.
  • KISS: Keep It Short and Simple. Concise answers are always preferable. When you’re down to two answer choices that seem error free, choose the shorter, less ambiguous one.
  • Make sure your answer choice addresses ALL the problems in the underlined portion, and doesn’t introduce any other additional error to the sentence.
improving paragraphs
Improving Paragraphs
  • Require you to make corrections on the first draft of a student essay
  • 3-4 paragraphs long; each paragraph contains numbered sentences.
  • Skim essay for structure (read the first and last paragraph and the first sentence of each body paragraph) and then go straight to the questions.
  • For many of the questions, the sentences that you need to fix are reprinted right under the question, so you won’t need to go back to the essay to answer it.
  • Hint: Pay attention to the logical flow of ideas here. You want to make sure that each part of the essay leads naturally to the next. And avoid wordiness at all costs!
three question types
Three question types…
  • Revision questions – ask you to revise a sentence much like the Improving Sentences questions.

In context, which is the best way to revise sentence 6

(reproduced below)?

Part of the problem is my skating, as in I’m not very good at it.

(A) One of the problems was my limited skating ability.

(B) Not skating well was a big problem of mine.

(C) A problem was that my skating needed to be better than it was.

(D) Of my problems, I would say that my bad skating was the biggest.

(E) Skating, I’m not very good at it, was part of my problems.

three question types1
Three question types…
  • Combination questions – ask you to combine two or more sentences to improve the quality or flow of the paragraph.

Which of the following represents the most effective way to combine sentences 18 and 19 (reproduced below)?

The coaches at the camp really helped me a lot. They told me exactly what I needed to do to be better.

(A) The coaches who helped me a lot told me exactly what I needed to do to be better.

(B) Those coaches at the camp who told me exactly what I needed to do to be better were the ones who helped me the most.

(C) Helping me a lot was the coaches, telling me exactly what I needed to do.

(D) By telling me exactly what was needed to be done by me the coaches helped me a lot.

(E) The coaches at the camp really helped me by telling me exactly what I needed to do to get better.

three question types2
Three question types…
  • Content questions – test you on the content of the passage, usually by asking you what should immediately follow or precede the passage, how to describe the passage as a whole, or which sentence should be inserted into the passage.

Which of the following sentences, if added after sentence 4, would best serve to link the first paragraph to the second paragraph?

(A) I found it quite odd that I ended up loving hockey.

(B) I wanted to be more than just a passionate hockey fan, though.

(C) My brothers loved baseball, while my sisters were bigger fans of football.

(D) Perhaps it was my uncle, a big hockey fan, who helped me to love the game.

(E) Actually, hockey is not a very popular sport in the United States.

error checklist
Error Checklist
  • Is there an underlined noun? If so,
    • Does it agree in number with any other noun to which it refers?
  • Is there an underlined pronoun? If so,
    • Does it agree with the noun/pronoun it represents?
    • Can you tell to which noun it refers or is it ambiguous?
    • Does it use the right case (subjective or objective)?
  • Is there an underlined preposition? If so,
    • Is it the right one?
  • Is there an underlined verb? If so,
    • Does it agree with its subject?
    • Is it parallel in structure to the other verbs in the sentence?
    • Is it in the proper tense?
sentence completions
Sentence Completions

1. Even though it is a dead language, rather than fading away, Latin is now being __________.

A. forgotten

B. excavated

C. mortified

D. revitalized

E. altered

Step by step:

  • Cover up answer choices.
  • Reread the sentence.
  • Underline the clue.
  • Come up with your own word or phrase to go in the blank.
  • Use POE.
  • Every sentence completion will have in it a short, descriptive phrase that tells you what word goes in the blank (remember, ETS has to be able to justify the correct answer). UNDERLINE THE CLUE IN THE SENTENCE.

1. The woman told the man, “You’re very _______.” 2. The doctor told the man, “You’re very ________”

A. rich A. rich

B. correct B. correct

C. preposterous C. preposterous

D. cloistered D. cloistered

E. sick E. sick

 If you’re having trouble finding the clue, ask yourself two simple questions:

A. What is the blank talking about?

B. What else does the sentence say about its subject?

1. Shaquille O’Neil is such a physically intimidating basketball player that his opponents focus on his _____ and thus underestimate his surprising quickness.

  • Speak for yourself!

 Cover up the answer choices so you don’t fall for any of the ETS traps.

5. The policy of benign _____ was based on the belief that citizens were better off when the government kept out of their daily affairs.

A. regulation

B. engagement

C. neglect

D. democracy

E coercion

Come up with you OWN word for the blank. It doesn’t have to be a sophisticated word, or the perfect word – any will do.

 HINT: Recycle the clue! Put the clue itself in the blank.

  • THEN you can look at the answer choices to see which of the words best matches up with the one you have come up with.
trigger words
Trigger Words
  • Single, revealing words that lets you know exactly where the question is heading.
  • Either change the direction of the sentence or keep it the same.

I really like you, but ____________________.

I really like you, and ____________________.

Common Triggers

Same direction: because, and, since, in fact, colon (:), semicolon (;).

Change direction: however, although, though, but, in contrast to,

rather, despite, yet.

and then there were two
“And then there were two…”
  • Two blanks are twice as easy! You get two chances to use POE. Just take it one blank at a time.
  • Follow the same process, keeping in mind that there will be a clue for EACH blank.
  • Fill in whichever blank seems easier to you first, and use POE to eliminate any answer choices that are not close to yours (draw a line through the blank so you don’t get confused. Then do the same thing for the other blank. Remember, if one of the words doesn’t work in a blank, it doesn’t matter what the other word is – the answer is out.

5. While the _____ student openly questioned the teacher’s explanation, he was not so _____ as to suggest that the teacher was wrong.

    • complacent…suspicious
    • inquisitive…imprudent
    • curious…dispassionate
    • provocative…respectful
    • ineffectual…brazen
tricky tricky
Tricky, Tricky
  • Sometimes, one of the clues in a two-blank sentence turns out to be the other blank. But don’t worry, ETS has inserted another way for you to find the answer.

6. Most of Rick’s friends think his life is unbelievably _____, but in fact he spends most of his time on _____ activities.

A. fruitful…productive

B. wasteful…useless

C. scintillating…mundane

D. varied…sportive

E. callow…simple

word charge
Word Charge
  • On difficult sentence completions, you may find it hard to determine what the word in the blank is supposed to be. However, you WILL usually have an idea if the word should be a good word (positive) or a bad word (negative).
  • Use +/– signs to help you keep track of this.

8. Ruskin’s vitriolic attack was the climax of the _____ heaped on paintings that today seem amazingly _____.

    • criticism…unpopular
    • ridicule…inoffensive
    • praise…amateurish
    • indifference…scandalous
    • acclaim…creditable
biiiiiiiig hint

Remember that the Sentence Completions are presented in order of difficulty!

reading comprehension
Reading Comprehension

- A reading passage followed by a series of questions related to it.

- Not in order of difficulty.

- May have one or two passages

- Numbers of questions also varies.

Hey, yo, don’t be like Joe!

  • Joe wastes time reading stuff he doesn’t need.
  • Joe doesn’t make sure he knows what the questions are really asking.
  • Joe reads carelessly when looking for the answer to a question.
  • Joe looks at the answer choices before he has any idea what the answer should look like.
  • Joe falls for trap answers designed just for him.
basic reading comp strategy
Basic Reading Comp Strategy

Before you even start, make sure you are familiar with the directions. Then…

  • Read the blurb.
  • Work the passage (this may mean either skimming or going right to the questions, and using line references to your advantage).
  • Select a question – this will generally be in the order that they appear, but also based on your personal order of difficulty.
  • Read only what you need.
  • Answer the question using your own words.
  • Process of elimination (eliminate the 4 WORST answers).
dual passages
Dual Passages
  • First, do questions about the first passage.
  • Then, do questions about the second passage.
  • Finally, do questions about both passages.
  • Chronology still counts, but questions about both passage can pop up anywhere – skip these questions until you’ve answered all the single-passage questions.
  • If all of the questions relate to both passages, skim both passages before going to the questions.
  • Remember, if a question is about what is supported by BOTH passages, make sure that you find specific support in both passages.
  • If the question asks how one author would respond to the other passage, make sure you find out exactly what the author of the other passage said about this topic.
shorter passages
Shorter Passages
  • No intro blurb, so your strategy involves one less step – go directly to the passage and skim it.
  • Remember, these passages aren’t any easier than the rest of the passages, and can often be a time suck.