Introduction to the SAT Reading Test
It's very tempting to eliminate difficult words that you don't know. They aren't nice, they're scary. You don't like really hard words. That's natural.
An easy sentence completion will have an easy answer, so on those questions you don't have to worry about words you can't define. But on medium or difficult sentence completion, never eliminate a word you can't defineat least not initially. Sometimes you'll have to choose between two or more words you can't define. In that situation of course you'll have to eliminate a word you can't define, but initially any difficult word should be treated as a "maybe."
An exception to this rule is that you can eliminate a word you can't define if you know that it's a positive word, say, but the question calls for a negative answer. We'll consider this exception shortly but our general principle stands: on medium and difficult questions, don't eliminate a word you can't define.
In your head, the rhythm of process of elimination should sound something like the following: Could be (A). Definitely not (B). I don't think it's (C), but maybe. Not (D). Not (E). It's either (A) or (C), I'll focus on (A). Oh, it can't be (A) either. I guess the answer is (C) after all.
That's the rhythm you want to establish on all the sentence completion and reading questions, even the easy ones: not-this-not-this-maybe-that-not-that-not-that-I-guess-the-answerr-is-that.
Overconfidence Causes Many Mistakes on the SAT Reading Test
Most students get scared on the SAT, but ironically they don't get scared enough about the right thing. Students should be scared about being overconfident. Overconfidence is thinking you know what a word means when you don't. Overconfidence may even happen to you from time to time.
Being overconfident won't happen to you on an easy word like apparent or controversy. You know what these words mean, no problem.
And you won't get overconfident on difficult words, either. On hard words like anarchy, reticent, and parsimony, at least you know where you stand. Either you looked up a hard word in a dictionaryin which case you know what it meansor you haven't looked it upin which case you at least realize that you don't know what it means.
If it's not easy words that you have to be on guard against, and it's not hard words, then which type of word should you be most careful about?
Medium Words Are the Trickiest
You're most likely to be overconfident about words of medium difficulty. Medium words are sneaky because nobody ever looks them up. We hear them and read them all the time. Sometimes we even use medium words correctly, even though we don't know precisely what they mean. And because most students do not know what medium words mean, they often either choose them incorrectly or eliminate them incorrectly.
The following drill will give you some experience trying to define some medium difficult words.
Defining Medium Words Drill
Write a brief definition of the words below. Write a definition rather than supplying synonyms or words associated with the medium word. No credit for merely using the word in a sentence.
Compare your definitions with the ones at the end of this article.
More on: SATs and Other Tests
From The RocketReview Revolution: The Ultimate Guide to the New SAT and the PSAT by Adam Robinson. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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