The Meaning of Multiple Choice
The Meaning of Multiple Choice
As we’ve suggested throughout this chapter, the multiple-choice format of the ACT should affect the way you approach the questions. In this section, we’ll discuss exactly how.
Only the Answer Matters
A machine, not a person, will score your test. This scoring machine does not care how you came to your answers; it cares only whether your answers are correct and readable in little oval form. The test booklet in which you worked out your answers gets thrown in the garbage, or, if your proctor is conscientious, into a recycling bin.
On the ACT, no one looks at your work. If you get a question right, it doesn’t matter whether you did impeccable work. In fact, it doesn’t even matter whether you knew the answer or guessed. The multiple-choice structure of the test is a message to you from the ACT: “We only care about your answers.” Remember, the ACT is your tool to get into college, so treat it as a tool. It wants right answers? Give it right answers, as many as possible, using whatever strategies you can.
Multiple Choice: You’ve Already Got the Answers
When you look at any ACT multiple-choice question, the answer is already right there in front of you. Of course, the ACT writers don’t just give you the correct answer; they hide it among a bunch of incorrect answer choices. Your job on each question is to find the right answer. Because the answer is right there, begging to be found, you have two methods you can use to try to get the correct answer:
  1. Look through the answer choices and pick out the one that is correct.
  2. Look at the answer choices and eliminate wrong answers until there’s only one answer left.
Both methods have their advantages: you are better off using one in some situations and the other in others. In a perfect scenario in which you are sure how to answer a question, finding the right answer immediately is clearly better than chipping away at the wrong answers. Coming to a conclusion about a problem and then picking the single correct choice is a much simpler and quicker process than going through every answer choice and discarding the four that are wrong.
However, when you are unsure how to solve the problem, eliminating wrong answers becomes more attractive and appropriate. By focusing on the answers to problems that are giving you trouble, you might be able to use the answer choices to lead you in the right direction, or to solve the problem through trial and error. You also might be able to eliminate answer choices through a variety of strategies (these strategies vary by question type; we’ll cover them in the chapters dedicated to each type of question). In some cases, you might be able to eliminate all the wrong answers. In others, you might only be able to eliminate one, which will still improve your odds when you attempt to guess.
Part of your preparation for the ACT should be to get some sense of when to use each strategy. Using the right strategy can increase your speed without affecting your accuracy, giving you more time to work on and answer as many questions as possible.
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