Now that we have determined that the majority of our focus should be on the Multiple Choice sections, how do we approach these questions? Fortunately for us, the brains behind the SAT stack the questions so that the “easiest” questions are at the beginning, followed by “medium” and finally a few “hard” questions at the end of each section. So while our main focus is to get as many of the multiple choice questions correct as possible, we can break that down as well.
Let’s take a look at the different difficulties of questions so we can identify which ones would be classified as easy/medium/hard. If you haven’t found them already, College Board has 8 practice tests that are actually old SATs. There isn’t much better practice than to look at actual test from the past.
If we take a look at the practice exam #7, here are three different questions. They all test the same ability, but it should be pretty easy to see how the difficulty changes.
All of these questions have similar instructions, “Which of the following is an equivalent...”. Hopefully you can see the varying difficulty and we can now use this to our advantage.
In the first math section(section 3), there are 15 multiple choice questions. For this tactic, we are going to focus on the first 12 questions asked. These should encompass all of the “easy” and “medium” level questions. Once you get to question 12 and beyond, start asking yourself,
“Do I know what they are asking for in this problem?”
If you have no idea, that is a good sign that you are at the “hard” section of questions. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t know how to do the questions moving forward in this section. It is much more important that we focus on nailing those first 12. If you can answer questions like #13, then that is just gravy!
***One item to point out here, many students have issues with timing in section 3. The obvious reason is that we only have 25 minutes to answer 20 questions. Don’t focus on that. Remember, our big goal here is to get those first 12 questions right. Focus on knocking the first 7-12 out as quickly as possible with as much certainty as possible. From there we should work through the last 5-8 questions, but not get so focused on one question that we don’t get to finish the exam. In this last 5-8 question portion we should read the question, if it is something we know how to do GREAT, but if not, try to get it down to 2 possible answers . For questions where you don’t even know where to start, just skip it and make sure that you leave yourself enough time to come back and make an educated guess.
You want to do the same thing on the second section(section 4), just understanding that there are 30 multiple choice and 8 fill in the blank. Using the same logic as we did on section 3, we really want to focus our time on the first 24 questions. Again, this should be all of the “easy and medium” difficulty level questions. If we follow this strategy, then we should be sitting with 36 total correct questions (12 from section 3 and 24 from section 4). This means that to reach our goal of 600, all we have to do is get 2-3 correct answers out of the following 22 questions! Considering that the first 2 questions of each of the fill in the blank sections are “easy”, I hope you can see how we’ve set ourselves up to win!
One big note before we finish up, what is “easy” for some will be “hard” for others. The great news is that an "easy" question gives you the same number of points as a "hard" question. I’ll talk about this a little later on, but please understand that you should be focusing on answering whatever questions YOU find easiest!