Strategy and Multiple-Choice Questions
When you look at an SAT II U.S. History question, the
answer is always right there in front of you, hidden among a selection
of incorrect answer choices. There are two methods you can use to
answer the question correctly:
Go directly to the right answer.
wrong answers until there’s only one answer left.
In a perfect world, you would always know the right answer.
And for many of the questions on the test, this will probably be
the case. But for questions you’re uncertain about you can also
work backwards, crossing out choices you know can’t be
Eliminating Wrong Answers
We’ve already explained how thinking contextually can
help your studying, and help you spot correct answers. It can also
help you eliminate wrong answers. Let’s say you come across this
the 1860s and 1890s, the United States changed in all of the following
||it became increasingly urban
||labor unions became a powerful force in politics and in
business, and gained widespread popular support
||immigration significantly boosted the supply of workers
||big corporations and monopolies thrived, often unchecked
by the government
||more women began to work outside of the home
What if you look at this question and just don’t know
the answer? Take a step back: first identify the era the question
covers to help you put the question into some historical context.
In this case, knowing that “Between the 1860s and 1890s” roughly
corresponds to the Industrial Revolution will help you remember
the themes of that time period. What comes to mind when you think
of industrialization? Perhaps big business and a rise in urbanization
and immigration? If so, you can proceed to check off (A) and (C),
since they’re both true. (Remember, for these EXCEPT questions,
you are looking for the answer that doesn’t belong,
so eliminate all the answers that are true.) The Industrial Revolution
also created an increase in available jobs, which likely drew many
women out of the home and into factories, allowing you to eliminate
answer (E). Answer choice (D) might be a little trickier: the half
of the answer is true—this period (also known as the “Era of Big
Business”) spawned huge corporations like Carnegie’s steel industry
and Rockefeller’s oil company—but what about government regulation?
If you can’t remember what government did with business during the
Industrial Revolution, you can’t decide if (D) is true or false. As
for (B), you may not know precisely what went on with unions during
those years, so you can’t say for sure whether that answer is right
or wrong either.
Left with two possible answer choices, (B) and (D), how
do you choose? You should be able to see that (B) and (D) are at
odds with one another. If (B) were true, and unions held such political
power, they probably would have pushed for government to strictly
regulate business in order to check the tyranny of monopolies (that
is, the poor treatment of workers and the high prices of goods).
If this were the case then the Industrial Revolution would hardly
be known as the “Era of Big Business,” would it? Think again about
what you remember about the trends of industrialization: big business
was definitely a major one; unions, on the other hand, don’t stand
out in your memory. Armed with this knowledge, take a little leap
of faith and guess that (B) is the correct answer.
Guess what? You guessed right!
Questions For Which You Can’t Eliminate all Answers
Not all questions on the SAT II U.S. History Test will
work out quite as well as our last example. You might not always
be able to use your knowledge of trends and eras to eliminate four
answer choices, ensuring that you get the question right. But for
almost every question you will probably be able
to eliminate at least one answer, and that can
help a lot. Let’s move on to the next section to find out why.