SAT Multiple Choice Strategy: Picking the Low-Hanging Fruit

For the most part, questions on the SAT are put in a pretty specific order. With the exception of the passage-based critical reading, each group of questions of the same type is ordered from easiest to hardest.

So what does that mean for you when you take your SAT?


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Taking each SAT section backwards is a bad idea

There are some of you out there who may be surprised by this. The (mistaken) logic goes something like this: “I should spend my time on the difficult questions while I have less time pressure, because if there’s only a few minutes left I won’t be able answer those.” And while that might give you some points on difficult questions that you might miss otherwise, it ignores the simple and critical fact that the time you spend working on the end of the section comes out of the time you could spend knocking out correct answers in the beginning of the section.

Every question in a given section is worth the same amount of points in your overall SAT score. If you get the answer to question 1 wrong, it hurts you just as much as a wrong answer to question 20.


SAT questions ripe for the plucking

If you were picking apples, and you had five minutes to get as many as you could, would you start by getting a ladder and going to the top of the tree? No you wouldn’t, would you. It’s hard to pick apples with one hand, leaning over the top rungs and trying to keep your balance. Instead, you’d run around the trunk with one hand in the air and a basket in the other, knocking ripe, low hanging apples into the basket. Maybe you wouldn’t get to the ones in the top of the tree, but you’d get a lot of apples, and that’s the point.

The SAT is an apple-picking contest. Get all the low-hanging fruit, and make sure you don’t make avoidable mistakes like answering the wrong question. Spend exactly enough time you need on each of those easier questions to be sure you didn’t fall for any obvious traps. You can worry about the difficult problems once you’ve already got a basket half-full of SAT apples.



  • Lucas Fink

    Lucas is the teacher behind Magoosh TOEFL. He’s been teaching TOEFL preparation and more general English since 2009, and the SAT since 2008. Between his time at Bard College and teaching abroad, he has studied Japanese, Czech, and Korean. None of them come in handy, nowadays.

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!


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