I've analyzed dozens of SAT Critical Reading Tests and I've made some interesting discoveries about the questions and their answer choices. With the October test coming up, I thought I'd post what I've learned about both the right and wrong answer choices.
THE RIGHT ANSWER
1. The right answer paraphrases the passage.
The right answer paraphrases the passage. It uses synonyms for the adjectives and verbs that are used in the passage. Even some of the nouns may be replaced with synonyms, although you should not discount an answer for using the same nouns that were used in the passage. After all, there are only so many ways you can say spaghetti or elephant or pants! If a noun does not have many recognizable synonyms, the test makers will reuse the word in the answer choice. But since adjectives and verbs have many alternatives, they will likely be replaced with different words.
While the United States was fighting the War of 1812 with Britain, a series of violent incidents occurred when authorities entered Seminole territory to recapture runaway slaves, which aggravated the Seminole and increased hostility.
According to the passage, the hostility between the United States and the Seminole was intensified by which of the following?
The correct answer, choice (B), is a reworded version of the underlined portion. Authorities becomes officials, entered becomes invading, Seminole becomes Native American, recapture becomes reclaim, and escaped becomes runaway.
2. The right answer includes ALL of the ideas from the line reference.
The right answer will also include all of the important ideas from the cited line reference, unlike some wrong answers that only provide a portion of the information. Study another example:
Melner attributes the decline in school enrollment to several factors. For one, families are moving out of the area to find work. For another, lackluster test results cause some existing and most new families to choose other districts.
According to the passage, enrollment in the school district has decreased because of families
(A) Wrong answer
(B) Wrong answer
(C) Wrong answer
(D) Wrong answer
(E) emphasis on jobs and performance
The correct answer includes both moving out of the area to find work (emphasis on jobs) and lackluster test results (emphasis on performance). Wrong answers often address only one a portion of the line reference, while the right answer includes all of the important ideas.