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 notonly 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 prettysilly, after all he doesn’t live in the West, which is a run-on sentence. But if youdidn’t spot the run-on, and were in a panic, you could have eliminated E anyway, thanks to Cheap Trick The sentence initially had to do with New York, and how ridiculous one looks sporting a cowboy hat there. E brings up theWest—new territory. Remember, the directions explicitly instruct you to choosethe answer that best expresses the meaning of the original sentence, so an answer choice that messes with the original meaning should be eliminated.
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 ideawhich 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 beA—“no error.” Students tend to freak out when they can’t find errors, and theypick some random B, C, D, or E rather than go with A. A is not your enemy. Infact, 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 cu A and guess with confidence.