Studying Your Practice Test
After grading your test, you should have a list of the
questions you answered incorrectly or skipped. Studying your test
involves going through this list and examining each question you
answered incorrectly. When you look at each question, you shouldn’t
just look to see what the correct answer is, but rather why you
got the question wrong and how you could have gotten the question
right. Train yourself in the process of getting the question right.
Why Did You Get the Question Wrong?
There are three reasons why you might have gotten an individual
- Reason 1: You thought you knew
the answer, but actually you didn’t.
- Reason 2: You managed to eliminate some answer
choices and then guessed among the remaining answers. Sadly, you
- Reason 3: You knew the answer but made a
You should know which of these reasons applies to every
question you got wrong.
What Could You Have Done to Get the Question Right?
The reasons you got a question wrong affect how you should
think about it while studying your test.
If You Got a Question Wrong for Reason 1, Lack of
A question answered incorrectly for Reason 1 identifies
a weakness in your knowledge of the material tested on the SAT II
U.S. History. Discovering this wrong answer gives you an opportunity
to target your weakness. When addressing that weakness, make sure
that you don’t just look at the facts.
For example, if got a question about who won the election
of 1912 wrong, don’t just memorize the facts of the election; learn why Woodrow
Wilson won: study the split in the Republican party between Taft
and Roosevelt, the ideological differences between the two men,
and how the social and political circumstances influenced the rift.
Remember, you won’t see a question exactly like the one you got
wrong. But you probably will see a question that
covers the same topic. Learn the broader topic of which the question
tests only a piece.
If You Got a Question Wrong for Reason 2, Guessing
If you guessed wrong, review your guessing strategy. Did
you guess intelligently? Could you have eliminated more answers?
If yes, why didn’t you? By thinking in this critical way about the
decisions you made while taking the practice test, you can train
yourself to make quicker, more decisive, and better decisions.
If you took a guess and chose the incorrect answer, don’t
let that sour you on guessing. Even as you go over the question
and figure out if there was any way for you to have answered the
question without having to guess, remind yourself that if you eliminated
at least one answer and guessed, even if you got the question wrong
you followed the right strategy.
If You Got a Question Wrong for Reason 3, Carelessness
If you discover you got a question wrong because you were
careless, it might be tempting to say to yourself, “Oh, I made a
careless error,” and assure yourself you won’t do that again. That
is not enough. You made that careless mistake for a reason, and
you should try to figure out why. Whereas getting a question wrong
because you didn’t know the answer constitutes a weakness in your
knowledge of the test subject, making a careless mistake represents
a weakness in your method of taking the test.
To overcome this weakness, you need to approach it in
the same critical way you would approach a lack of knowledge. Study
your mistake. Reenact your thought process on the problem and see
where and how your carelessness came about: were you rushing? Did
you jump at the first answer that seemed right instead of reading
all the answers? Know your error and look it in the eye. If you
learn precisely what your mistake was, you are much less likely
to make that mistake again.
If You Left the Question Blank
It is also a good idea to study the questions you left
blank on the test, since those questions constitute a reservoir
of lost points. A blank answer is a result either of:
Total inability to answer a question
In the case of the first possibility, you should
see if there was some way you might have been able to eliminate
an answer choice or two and put yourself in a better position to
guess. In the second case, look over the question and see whether
you think you could have answered it. If you could have, then you
know that you are throwing away points by working too slowly. If you
couldn’t, study the relevant material and review your guessing strategy.