The Power of POE


There is no guessing penalty on the current SAT.  Gone are the days when guessing wasn’t such a great idea. If you got it wrong then you lost 1/4 of a point. On the new and improved SAT, if you guess and get it wrong, then you don’t lose any points. Basically, you’re only scored on the answers you get right. All your right answers receive a score of one point. Wrong answers are ignored, much like a wicked step child. However, this does not give you the right to declare open season for guessing on the SAT.  You should look at each answer choice in a logical way, as I’m sure you do, and use the process of elimination.

The guessing penalty may be gone, just like the poor misunderstood Buck Barnes in Avengers: Infinity War, but that doesn’t give you permission to grab your cross bow, put on a blind fold, and hope to shoot an apple off your friend’s head. What could go wrong? Since there are four answer choices, if you decide to guess randomly, then you have a 25% chance of hitting on the right answer. If you can eliminate one answer choice, then your possibility of getting the right answer has now increased to 33%. If you can eliminate two answer choices, now you are getting closer to the prize. You now have a 50% chance of getting the right answer.  Did someone say “heads or tails?” You will usually be able to eliminate three out of the four answer choices. You will be left when one lone choice. You may not necessarily know why it is the right answer, but you do know it’s better than the other three you just kicked to the kerb.

4 Ways to Eliminate Wrong Answers on Reading

Strategy #1: Plug It In

Your math teacher probably tells you to “Plug it in” all day, every day, until the cows come home. Now you can tell him that he is not the only show in town, move over math problems, hello, reading questions. For example, questions that ask you for the meaning of a word in the passage. You can now replace the word, in the passage, with each of the answer choices. Thus, eliminating the ones that don’t make sense in context with the passage.


Strategy #2: Make Modifiers and Descriptors your friends

Answer choices in the SAT reading section usually contain descriptive modifiers, like “strangely pathetic,” “desperate search,” etc. Underline these modifers in each answer choice. For example:


The descriptive modifier “careful” in answer choice one, implies that the analysis is thorough and planned out. So, you have to look at the passage and decide if it is a very thorough, systematic analysis of a traditional practice.  For choice B. you have to look at the the passage and determine if it is a “detailed description”. Is it full of specific detail? For choice C is there “definitive response” to a series of questions? and lastly, for choice D, is there a “cheerful recounting” going on. Is there a cheerful, upbeat tone?


Strategy #3: Apply an Abstract Answer to the Passage

SAT reading answer choices are often broad and vague. For example, the answer choice might say “one character,” or “an event” instead of mentioning the character or event by name.  So, the eliminate these vague answers, you will simply substitute the vague with specific. For example, substitute “a character” with a specific name of a character in the story or “an event” with something specific that happens in the passage. This will help you see the answers which don’t work.


Answer choice (A) says that, “one character argues with another character who intrudes on her home.” So, then you would replace “one character” with that character’s name and “another character” with the other character’s name. Then you have to decide if the visit is an intrusion, is it a negative thing?

Answer choice (B) says  “one character receives a surprising request from another character” Based on what you know of the character’s and visit, does it seem like it was a surprise?

Answer choice (C) says that “one character reminisces about choices she has made over the years.” You have to think about who is narrating the passage and and who might be or might not be reminiscing.

Answer choice (D) states, “One character criticizes another character for pursuing an unexpected course of action. Replace “one character” and “another character” with the names of the characters from the passage. Do you think one character has a negative outlook on the actions of the other character?

Moral of the Story

You should answer every question on the SAT reading. Think logically about each answer choice to avoid guessing.

Here’s to your success!

John Dolan






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