How to Pre-Answer: A Secret Strategy of Perfect-Score SAT and ACT Tutors.
A lot of students and parents are looking for the “easy button” to make getting a near-perfect score a sure thing.
The shocking truth is, I don’t really have that many secrets. I succeed on the SAT and ACT because of common sense and a lot of practice.
But, it’s true that I have one secret weapon in my bag of tricks… and that’s the power of a consistent strategy.
This strategy, which I call “Pre-Answering,” has helped me escape some of the hardest SAT test questions ever written. For dealing with the hardest ACT questions, this strategy is also indispensable.
I notice that very few high schoolers are mature enough to use this strategy. Yet I, as a pro tutor, use it on a daily basis. So, if you want a major advantage on your competition, keep reading….
The Basics of Pre-Answering on the SAT and ACT Tests:
Pre-Answering is an SAT and ACT strategy based on the idea that I can create a better, more honest answer choice than the test-makers will give me.
And it’s totally true. The answer choices on the SAT and ACT tests are designed to be misleading and deceptive. That’s why it’s a mistake to always look at the answer choices first. After all, only one of them is true - the other answer choices are complete lies!
So, instead you read the question, you think over the reading, you create your own answer, and you write it down next to the question.
You must write down your pre-answer. It’s not good enough just to think about the answer. You must pick up your pencil and write your answer down!
Pre-answering is a commitment to the truth. It’s based on the belief that every SAT and ACT test question has a right answer - independent of the choices you’re given to pick from.
Pre-answering is the belief that you *can* respond to a multiple-choice question as if it was a free-response question. You can create your own response to the question, free of the tyranny of deceptive answer choices given by the SAT or ACT test.
And, here’s the really good news: this strategy works. Pre-answering avoids many of the traps set by the SAT and ACT. Pre-answering also strengthens your critical reasoning skills and increases your confidence and deep-level understanding of these crucial tests. At this same time, using a consistent and dependable strategy will minimize any testing anxiety you feel.
Pre-Answering for SAT and ACT Reading Questions:
Why the Reading sections? Well, I noticed that my students often fell for traps set in these sections. Usually, this trap happened when they were down to the two best answers to a Reading question.
The problem was, students were NOT very accurate when choosing between the two best answers. The test-makers had developed answer choices that were the perfect distractions.
The people who make the SAT and ACT Reading tests have been doing it for years and years. They understand the common mistakes and thinking patterns of teenagers, and exploit them.
Nowhere is this more obvious than the SAT Reading test, where the trick answers have been carefully crafted and designed to get your attention. Even the wrong answers are full of tempting keywords, relevant concepts, and partial truths. Luckily, the pre-answer technique makes these deceptions far more obvious, and easier to avoid.
So, if you’re looking for the first place to apply the pre-answer technique, try the ACT and SAT Reading sections!
Pre-Answers Are Also Highly Effective on ACT Science.
Good news: this pre-answering strategy is effective beyond the SAT and ACT Reading tests! The Pre-Answer technique is also very useful in the ACT Science section.
One of the key features of hard ACT Science questions and answers is that they are complex, detail-focused, and multi-step.
Pre-answering is the perfect technique to reduce complexity and to break the multi-stage Science problem down into manageable portions.
And, the ACT Reading section is similar to the SAT Reading section. So by extension, the SAT Reading, ACT Reading, and ACT Science sections are all cousins of each other. They all require similar skills. And the Pre-Answer technique is quite useful for all of them.
Better yet, the wonders of the pre-answer strategy don’t end with Science and Reading…
Pre-Answering Works on ALL Sections of the SAT and ACT Tests!
Here’s another great thing about the Pre-Answer strategy: it actually works equally well on different sections of the tests. SAT Math and ACT Math, ACT English, and SAT Writing & Language tests are all good places to use this strategy.
Literally all sections of the SAT and ACT test can benefit from the Pre-Answer technique.
Don’t confine your usage of this strategy to just the Reading and Science sections. Try it out on other parts of the ACT and SAT tests as well.
I particularly recommend trying the Pre-Answer technique on your weakest sections of the SAT and ACT. Use pre-answering as a practice technique to gain deeper insight into parts of the test you struggle with.
The more often you pre-answer, the more quickly you will gain a true understanding of the SAT and ACT tests. The tests’ designs, the repetition they use in their questions, and the traps they lay - all will become clear when you practice using pre-answering.
This is the sort of technique regularly used by professional SAT and ACT prep tutors (like me!) Copy the professional perfect-scorers with a dependable strategy, instead of imitating the amateurs who use trial-and-error to stumble towards a mediocre test score.
Combine Pre-Answering with Content Mastery and Practice for Ultimate Test Scores.
The biggest weakness of pre-answering is the additional time it takes. Since time is valuable on the SAT and ACT tests, you don’t want to use pre-answering on every single question. It will take too long.
So, you have to be ready to deal quickly with a variety of easy and medium problems. This opens up the time for you to use pre-answering and elimination techniques on the hardest questions.
In other words, you really have to master the content and material that will be on the test. Whether you’re taking the SAT or the ACT test, you must know what material you’ll be tested upon.
If you can quickly put together the basics and fundamentals, you can get a lot of easy and medium questions quickly and confidently. Then move on to the hard questions, where you’ll need to dig deeper and use the advanced special tactics you’ve learned.
Practice makes perfect. In addition to strategizing and mastering the test content, be sure to invest the hours of practice it will take to massively improve your SAT and ACT scores. This effort will pay itself back when you get your top picks for colleges and scholarships.
Pre-Answering: A Favored Technique of SAT and ACT Tutors.
I hope this article has made clear my passion for the pre-answering technique on the SAT and ACT tests.
Use the pre-answer strategy. Create your own answer and *write it down* instead of trying to guess between the deceptive answer choices.
Commit to the belief that there will be truth behind your free-response. Commit to the focus it takes to create a good pre-answer. This truth and focus are powerful weapons against the deceptions of the SAT and ACT test questions.
There’s no doubt in my mind that proper use of the pre-answer technique increases overall scores, confidence, and deep-level understanding of the ACT and SAT.
As a practice technique, pre-answering is invaluable. As a strategy to crack the hardest test questions, it is nearly unmatched.
However, it requires practice and experience to be truly effective. Make sure to set aside some time to get used to the idea of pre-answering and to develop a personal feel for its strengths and weaknesses on the SAT and ACT.
Study Pre-Answering with Us and Master the SAT and ACT Tests!
Pre-answering is one of many score-raising techniques and topics we teach our students at Love the SAT Test Prep.
If you’re studying for the SAT test or the ACT test to get into your favorite college, we can help!
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