We put the Cheap Tricks at the end of this chapter because
you should use them only in Cases of Desperation. Only two Cases
of Desperation on Improving Sentences questions merit resorting
to Cheap Tricks:
- You can’t eliminate even one answer choice.
- You’ve eliminated all but two answer choices and find
yourself wasting time agonizing over which answer choice is correct.
Before we discuss each Cheap Trick, we must add a further
warning: Do not apply the Cheap Tricks blindly. Cheap
Tricks can improve your odds of correctly answering a question on
which you’re stumped, but they aren’t foolproof. Cheap Tricks will help
you get a higher percentage of questions right. They won’t help
you get every question right.
That said, let’s break open our bag of Cheap Tricks and
Go with the shortest answer.
Cut answer choices that change the meaning of the
Cut answer choices that begin with words ending in
Get your A in gear.
Here’s an example to show you how and when to use Cheap
cowboy hat looks pretty silly, seeing as how he lives
in New York City.
||seeing as how he lives in New York City
||since he lives in New York City
||considering him living in New York City
||seeing that he lives in New York City
||after all he doesn’t live in the West
Start off by applying our eight-step strategy (see page ) for Improving
Sentences questions to this example. So, let’s say you give step
1 a whirl (“Read the sentence and try to hear the problem”) and
you hear something funny about the phrase seeing as how.
You can’t immediately think of a solution, but step 2 tells you
that if you find an error, you can eliminate A. Steps
3 and 4 require you to have some hunch about how to fix the error,
but in this example you’re hunchless. That means you should skip
to step 5 and eliminate any answer choices that repeat the error.
In this case, that means eliminating answer choice D,
which repeats the awkward word seeing.
Let’s say you now find yourself stuck. B, C,
and E look equally good to you. It’s time to bring
on the cheap tricks.
Cheap Trick 1: Go with the shortest answer.
We’ll make this quick. When you find yourself staring
blankly at two or three answer choices, go with the shorter answer
choice. The SAT likes to keep the right answers concise. In the
example about Brent’s goofy cowboy hat, B is not only
the right answer, it’s nice and short: since he lives in
New York City.
Cheap Trick 2: Cut answer choices that change the
meaning of the sentence.
Be suspicious of answer choices that tweak the meaning
of the sentence. E is the obvious suspect in the sample
question: after all he doesn’t live in the West.
Sure, there’s a better reason than the Cheap Trick to eliminate E:
If you substitute E into the original sentence, you
get Brent’s cowboy hat looks pretty silly, after all he
doesn’t live in the West, which is a run-on sentence. But
if you didn’t spot the run-on, and were in a panic, you could have
eliminated E anyway, thanks to Cheap Trick 2. The sentence
initially had to do with New York, and how ridiculous one looks
sporting a cowboy hat there. E brings up the West—new
territory. Remember, the directions explicitly instruct you to choose
the answer that best expresses the meaning of the original sentence,
so an answer choice that messes with the original meaning should be
Cheap Trick 3: Cut answer choices that begin with
words ending in –ing.
More often than not, gerunds (words ending in –ing)
do not appear in correct answer choices. If you apply this trick
to the goofy hat example, you can eliminate answer C considering
him living in New York CIty. In cases like this one, -ing words
are often awkward. If you read the sentence and have no idea which
answer choice is right, get rid of the one with a word like considering.
Cheap Trick 4: Get your A in gear.
It’s worth reiterating that about one-fifth of the answers
on this section will be A—“no error.” Students tend
to freak out when they can’t find errors, and they pick some random B, C, D,
or E rather than go with A. A is
not your enemy. In fact, A can be very helpful when
you’re in a bind on Improving Sentences questions. Here’s why: Cutting A tips
the guessing odds in your favor. That means if you’re unsure how
to fix the error in a sentence, but you’re certain it contains some
error, you can always cut A and guess with confidence.