Know the Traps!

When it comes to the Critical Reading section of the SAT, what may help in your attempts to find the right answer is to know what the wrong answer may commonly look like.

There are a few basic “traps” or wrong answers that may look deceptively right on the passage-based questions. College Board may simply give you T.M.I. (too much information) on a wrong answer. It may be a reversal of the actual facts. On the other hand, it may directly contradict the actual answer in the text or give you an answer that is completely irrelevant, that was never at all mentioned in the text.

For instance, let’s consider a question that asks why I might be investing in some commercial real estate. Now, the real answer is that it is a building that my girlfriend likes. Under T.M.I., the trap answer might state that my girlfriend likes it because it is her favorite place to shop. That it was her favorite place to shop was never stated in the passage and therefore this answer is wrong. The wrong answer might be that I like that building and my girlfriend gave me some money to invest. So, you see, one of the trap answers reversed the truth of the situation. An example of a direct contradiction might contain that she actually hates the building and wants it torn down. Another frequent trap is when you are presented with something that is actually true but is unmentioned in the passage. Remember, unless something is common sense such as “the sun rises in the east”, you must act as if you do not know it, if it is not in the passage. If you don’t know it, it cannot be a valid answer.

Some other tips: eliminate four wrong answers before you pick the right one and read the questions first for difficult passages. When you are stuck between multiple answer choices, try to figure out any problem that one of them may have, however minor, before proceeding. The wrong answers are always the wrong answers for very real reasons.

As for dual passages, the pairings follow a set of patterns and readers need to be aware of this. For instance, probably the most classic type of pairing is when you have one writer taking one view and the other author disagreeing with it. Also, in the pair, each passage may focus on different aspects of the same event. Knowing these differences should help you predict the right answer, especially on questions that deal with both passages.

For maximum improvement on the Critical Reading section, I would recommend enrollment either in a ScoreMax course or a one-on-one personal training program at ICON+, Singapore’s pioneer prep specialist.