Understanding SAT Vocabulary Multiple-Choice Questions

When studying with your SAT Practice Test or answering our weekly SAT Sample Questions on SAT Prep Group’s Facebook or SAT Prep Group’s Google+, do multiple choice grammar and usage questions completely intimidate you?

For example:

Choose the word or set of words that, when inserted in the sentence, best fits the meaning of the sentence as a whole. 

In some ancient cultures, colors were considered very powerful; some societies even believed that red objects had ——- effect, restoring good health through their color alone.

If a student doesn’t automatically know off the top of their head what enervating, callow, salutary, agile, AND peripheral means – the question could be subject to a “best guess.”

Most students don’t want to treat the SAT as a guessing game and neither do we!

Mastering the SAT writing multiple choice section is easier than it may seem.  First step, SLOW DOWN and don’t jump to conclusions!  Students often choose a complex answer, assuming that the complex word or the vocabulary they are not familiar with must be the right answer.  This is hardly ever the case!  Perhaps two different words seem to fit in the sentence.  If you’ve gotten this far, that is a good start!  Eliminate any words that you are absolutely sure are NOT the right answer.

Now, consider this.  Are you overlooking the grammar?  Some of the most complicated questions hinge on grammar usage and trick students into believing what “sounds right,” is right.  Don’t rely on what sounds right in your head to pick the best word for the answer.  The multiple choice vocabulary and grammar section of the SAT can seem like a puzzle when very few students are in the mood to solve such problems under an intense time constraint.  As a result, students are overly anxious, in a hurry, and doubting themselves.  This is exactly what the test writers want students to feel.  Let’s get past what the test writers expect and prove them wrong!

When looking at the sentence, first rule out any basic rules of grammar that don’t fit. Then utilize grammar clues to understand the context of the sentence.

To rule out any grammar errors: Go down the list and check for the usage of verbs (agreement, parallelism, tense), pronouns (agreement, ambiquity, case), nouns (agreement), prepositions (idioms) and then go deeper.  Some other things may include misplaced modifiers, faulty comparisons, diction (did they use the right word – principle vs. Principal?), redundancy, adjectives and adverbs, commas vs. semi-colons, etc.  Knowing your grammar may help you trouble shoot a problem without having to know every single vocabulary word.

Now to solve this sample question.  We know from the sentence above that the missing term describes something that brings “good health.”  The use of the comma within the sentence implies that “restoring good health through their color alone” is like a definition of the “—- effect.”  We also know that what is being described is a very powerful object.  The sentence discusses the belief of “some ancient cultures” that colors were “very powerful.” If “some societies” believed that red objects were capable of “restoring good health” simply because they were red, it makes sense to say that those societies believed that the color red “had a salutary effect,” or could cure ailments and promote health.  The correct answer is: a salutary.

For more sample SAT questions, follow SAT Prep Group on Facebook or follow SAT Prep Group on Google+ or request daily sample questions from CollegeBoard.org.

To dive deeper into vocabulary strategies and gain a greater understanding of critical thinking skills geared specifically towards the SAT, contact SAT Prep Group for a Free Consultation.

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