5 (More) Tips on Multiple-Choice and the SHSAT

5 (More) Tips on Multiple-Choice and the SHSAT

In total, there are 10 Top Tips for taking multiple choice exams, generally, that apply well to the SHSAT.  {For the first 5, see “5 Tips for Multiple-Choice and the SHSAT”.)  What are the benefits of using the Top Tips?  You’ll approach the exam just like it is written—as a problem-solving game, you’ll get to save time on the exam (using the time for the more challenging questions you have), and you’re more likely to answer correctly, even when you’re unsure about the answer.  So, the final 5 of the Top Ten Tips are:

Tip 6:  Sometimes, Often, Usually, Generally!

Remember the “Never, Always, All, None” tip steered you away from answers that include absolutes?  The “Sometimes, Often, Usually, Generally” tip is based on evidence from past exams– answer choices that allow for some exceptions tend to be correct.  (Just like with the tip about absolutes, this doesn’t mean that the correct answer will always be general, it means instead that often the answer that contains more general descriptions is correct.)
You’ll use this tip after you’ve eliminated the wildly wrong answer and identified the sibling answers.  Of the siblings, if an answer choice contains “sometimes, often, usually, generally”, it probably is the correct response.

Tip 7:  Twins, Not Siblings!

You’re already on the lookout for sibling answers, because you know that the SHSAT writers are going to want to stump you with two answers that resemble each other and are hard to discern between.  But, if you find out that sibling answers are actually twins—you’ve scored a big win!  Since two identical answers—twin answers—can’t be both correct, you know that neither one of them is right!
Watch for the use of negatives in responses that can turn sibling answers into twin answers.  Imagine that you have the following two answers listed:

  1. The detective was primarily is interested in figuring out whether Colonel Mustard had access to the gun, which was not in the swimming pool area with Professor Plum.
  2. Professor Plum was in the swimming pool during the time of the murder, but couldn’t have not been with the murder weapon, or so the detective opined.

The use of the double-negative makes the answer in B basically a twin of A.  The detective in both cases is trying to determine where the murder weapon was, and it couldn’t have been in the pool, since Plum was there but Mustard wasn’t.  Regardless of what the question is for this, neither A nor B is going to be a correct answer, because they are essentially the same.

Tip 8: Grammar Matters!

Your question and your answer choice need to agree grammatically, so—grammar matters!  If you have an answer choice that doesn’t have pronoun, verb, or numerical agreement with the question—CROSS IT OUT!  You don’t have to waste time trying to figure out if it is correct, because the grammar already has shown that it isn’t.
There’s one more application of the “Grammar Matters!” tip:  if a question on your exam tells you that all of the answers are correct “except” one, read carefully!  Often, you’ll be able to find the “except” answer by figuring out which answer doesn’t grammatically make sense.  If the grammar isn’t right, CROSS IT OUT!

Tip 9: Order Matters!

Just like Grammar Matters (!), so can order.  Although you are going to go through a subsection and answer the questions that jump out to you as easy first, after that, answer questions in groups.  (This is especially true for ELA questions on the SHSAT.)  Often, correctly-solved questions can give us clues about how other questions are answered.
Here’s one more way that Order Matters!  If one of the answer choices is “all of the above,” and you figure out that two answers are twins, “all of the above” is almost always correct!  In these types of questions, the order that matters is logical order.  Since you know that you can’t fill in more than one bubble for a question, when you have an “all of the above” option, finding a twin usually means that “all of the above” is right.  If you find one answer you know is false, what logically has to be true?  “All of the above” cannot be the answer.

Tip 10:  True or False!

We already know that we have to read “except” questions carefully. But, there’s another trick to solving “except” questions more effectively.  You know that all answers are correct except one.  So, go ahead and turn each answer into a True or False statement.  Every part of a true sentence has to be true, so mark all of the true-all-over-answers “T” for “True”.  When you find any part of an answer false, the whole statement is false, so mark it “F” for “False”.  Long sentences, especially with lots of punctuation, can have one part of the sentence that is false.  As soon as you have your false phrase in any of the answers, you have your “except” answer correctly identified!
Now that you have your Top 10 Tips for succeeding at multiple-choice exams like the SHSAT, let’s look at specific strategies for the ELA section of the SHSAT!