Want Higher Scores on the SAT and ACT Tests? Master Answer-Choice Elimination.

Although content mastery is the best way to get a great score on the SAT and ACT tests, there are key testing strategies that perfect-scorers use to tilt the odds in their favor.

Some of these strategies are secret, and others are well-known. But, one of the oldest and most dependable testing strategies of all time is Answer-Choice Elimination.

Answer-Choice Elimination is a classic strategy that will be used on standardized tests and multiple-choice quizzes for the rest of time.

But, don’t underestimate the power of this technique just because everyone already knows about elimination. That doesn’t mean that every student is using this strategy correctly.

In a recent article, I’ve referred to another of my favorite strategies for the SAT and ACT tests, a technique known as “Pre-Answering.”

Now, in this article, I’d like to give a professional SAT / ACT tutor’s view on Elimination as a strategy for SAT and ACT testing.

By the time you’re done reading, you’ll understand how a perfect-scoring tutor uses Elimination at a higher level than most students.

Let’s dive right into the Elimination methods I use to get a perfect score on the SAT and ACT….


Here’s How to Properly Do Elimination on the SAT and ACT Tests.

On the SAT and ACT tests, proper use of the Elimination strategy actually begins before you start crossing answers off.

Here’s what I mean: you must Pre-Answer the question before you begin using elimination, for maximum effectiveness. Otherwise you’ll just be eliminating answer choices based on your “feelings.” Experience proves that this is risky, and will cost you points on both the ACT and the SAT tests.

So, before you attempt to eliminate, begin with a solid pre-answer to the question - and write it down.

Now, as you move onto the Elimination phase, it’s important NOT to go with your feelings. Instead, you must identify the error in *each* answer choice that you eliminate.

If you just eliminate an answer choice because you “don’t feel like it’s this one,” then you might as well be guessing - it would at least be faster. The true power of the Elimination strategy only emerges if you identify and name at least one specific error with each answer choice you eliminate.

Remember that any error, no matter how minor, makes the whole answer choice wrong! As you develop your skills of Elimination on the SAT and ACT tests, you’ll get faster and faster at spotting they specific errors hidden in each answer choice. Once you see them, you can’t un-see them.

It just takes practice and mastery of the underlying material to reach the point where you can spot the errors rapidly and efficiently. This is the key to being accurate but still finishing on time.

Note: As a strategy, Elimination is much less effective on Math questions. Although there is a (limited) use for elimination on Math, it’s better to just *know how to do the math question*. Techniques you learn from your math teacher or tutor will be more reliable than any gimmicky trick or strategy.

So, instead of trying to forcibly eliminate your way to correct Math answers, study your ACT Math and SAT Math skills. Save the heavy-duty usage of the Elimination technique for the Verbal sections.


Why Does Elimination Work So Well on the SAT and ACT Tests?

Why does Answer-Choice Elimination work so well on the SAT and ACT tests? What makes this strategy so important that every good tutor will swear by it?

Well, the answer to that question has to do with the very design of these tests.

There is a fundamental truth about the design of the SAT and ACT tests: they are designed to trick you. This is most true in the verbal sections, especially the Reading sections of the ACT and SAT.

In the Verbal sections, the SAT and ACT deliberately use words to lure and distract you. Fake answer choices are carefully crafted with deceptive keywords. Many times, the wrong answer is actually true - it’s just not relevant. 

All of these crafty answer-choice designs conspire to draw your attention away from the true answer and into a web of lies.

See, the SAT and ACT are different than most other tests you take in high school. Most of your teachers in high school classes don’t want to trick you, they just want to test you. But, the SAT and ACT want to trick you and test you.

Take all of these reasons together, and you start to grasp why Elimination is such a vital strategy for a great SAT and ACT score - even if you don’t normally need to use so much elimination to succeed in tests for other school classes.


Avoid Common Mistakes in Elimination on the SAT and ACT Tests.

Many students believe they have already mastered the use of Elimination on the SAT and ACT Tests.

Oftentimes, this is far from true.

Below are some common mistakes and oversights that I see high school students make when they try to use Elimination as a strategy.

Are you making any of these common mistakes when using Elimination on the SAT or ACT test?

  • Trying to eliminate before you Pre-Answer.
  • Failing to confirm your final answer.
  • Being unwilling to start the process over - even if your final answer seems flawed.
  • Not eliminating ALL choices - switching into “picking my favorite answer” mode before the Elimination stage is truly complete.
  • Failing to identify *specific* words, phrases, and key ideas that make each answer choice wrong - instead, just going off vague feelings such as “I don’t like this answer” or “I don’t really think it’s this one.”
  • Spending unnecessary time using Elimination on easy questions when it’s NOT necessary - due to lack of practice and experience.
  • Depending too much on Elimination strategies in the *Math* sections - it’s much better to just know how the math problem is supposed to work.

It’s alright not to be perfect, but you should make every effort to notice these mistakes in your own work, and to improve them.

Elimination is a fantastic strategy for higher SAT and ACT scores, but it has downsides as well. You must understand the strengths and weaknesses of the Elimination strategy through hours of practice.

Every powerful technique has corresponding limitations. The only way to confidently work past those barriers is to gain experience through mindful practice. Understand this as you practice Elimination on the SAT and ACT tests.


Master the ACT and SAT Test Content, Too.

As a long-time professional SAT and ACT prep tutor, I believe in the value of strategies like Elimination and Pre-Answering. But, I believe far more in content mastery and consistent practice.

In other words, you’ll raise your test scores more with study and practice than with sneaky tricks and strategies.

Even the Elimination strategy works best when you already understand the Reading or Grammar material. Mastering the fundamentals takes - you guessed it: careful preparation, study, and hours of practice.

Here are some links to key articles to get you going on your SAT and ACT prep:

Comparing the SAT and ACT Tests

Key SAT Prep Articles

Key ACT Prep Articles

If you master the test content, then practice your strategies, you’ll be unstoppable!


In Summary, Elimination is a Powerful Strategy with Several Weaknesses.

To recap: the best way to beat the SAT and ACT tests is with the proper blend of content mastery, key strategies, and practice.

Elimination is one of those key strategies. Nearly every perfect-scorer will blend Elimination into their approach as they dominate the SAT or ACT test.

The Elimination strategy does not work alone. Combine it with a Pre-Answer for maximum effectiveness.

Be sure to avoid the common mistakes of high school students who believe they already know everything there is to know about Elimination tactics. There are actually many subtle nuances to the proper use of Elimination. Like any powerful technique, you must fully understand and master its weaknesses before you gain the full benefit of its strength.

Finally, we reviewed the importance of content mastery. No trick or strategy can possibly overcome the huge amount of material you will be tested on during the SAT or the ACT. It’s far more important to understand the underlying material so that you can get easy and medium questions quickly. Time-consuming strategies should be used for additional accuracy on hard problems.

It’s entirely possible to improve your SAT or ACT score by a huge amount. Don’t underestimate the impact of proper preparation. You too can get into your favorite college, win scholarships, and destroy testing anxiety! It just takes some time with a good SAT or ACT prep book, your pencil and your calculator.

Study With Us for Higher SAT and ACT Test Scores!

If you’re striving for higher scores on the SAT and ACT tests, we can help!

At Love the SAT Test Prep, we teach 1-on-1 SAT Tutoring and ACT Tutoring to high school students in the Austin, TX area. If you prefer a small-group setting, we also offer SAT Prep Classes and ACT Prep Classes in Austin.

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Contact us today for advice, and be sure to leave a comment below the article!


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