The SAT is a reasoning test, at least to some degree. People make certain common mistakes when reasoning, particularly when under stress. We revert to using 'low effort' thinking, like picking answers that have something (a word or an idea) that sounds familiar. The test writers know of these common mistakes and write wrong answer choices that reflect them. They call these wrong answer choices 'distracters'. So, for example, a CR distracter may repeat a prominent word from the passage in a wrong answer, while the correct answer choice will use a synonym for that word. Similarly, a distracter may use the topic sentence of the last paragraph as a wrong answer choice in a question asking for the main idea of the entire passage. The word stands out, the idea is fresh in your memory, so you pick them.
Your vulnerability to these distracters can vary. If you are warned about them, if you are relaxed and vigilant, you may easily indentify them as wrong choices. On the other hand, if you are tired or in a hurry, you may fall prey easily.
You may have some personal triggers that cause you to slip into low effort thinking. High emotions, overconfidence, fatigue, ambiguous answer choices, other distractions in the room, even liking or disliking the subject of the passage, whatever. If you can identify them, you may be able to be on your guard. Learn about the kinds of distracters, analyze your 'I can't believe I did that' moments looking for triggers, be aware of your own emotional state as you take the test, and always ask yourself whether you picked an answer because of something you know or because of something you felt.
Last edited by Wood5440; 07-14-2012 at 01:31 PM.