When applying the process of elimination to answers during your SAT Reading practice, you may notice that you can often get down to two options that both seem correct (at which point it probably feels like you always choose the wrong one). In this post, we’ll cover the five most common trap answers on the SAT Reading test to help take your process of elimination skills to the next level!
1. Out of Context
If an answer choice contains wording that is copied verbatim from the passage, proceed with caution! These trap answer choices are designed to trip up test-takers who simply match words without ensuring correct meaning. Eliminate any answer choices that twist or invert the meaning of evidence from the passage, as well as any choices that don’t actually answer the question being asked (even if they are true statements).
SAT vocabulary questions often employ this trap by including an answer choice that refers to the primary definition of a word—while this definition would work in many contexts, SAT vocabulary questions often test uncommon usages of common words.
2. Almost Right (but Not Quite!)
Some answer choices may look great initially, but on closer inspection they contain a word or phrase that either contradicts or is not proven by the passage. If even a single word in an otherwise perfect answer is wrong, the whole choice must be eliminated.
3. Too Extreme
Some trap answer choices can take the right idea too far, resulting in an interpretation that goes beyond what the author of the passage intended. Be suspicious of answer choices that contain strong words like “always,” “never,” or “only”—it’s rare for authors to make such extreme claims.
Questions about the tone of a passage can also include extreme trap answers. For example, if an author is expressing mild criticism of the subject matter, a trap answer for a corresponding tone question may include words like “detests” or “abhors.” Although the correct answer should have a negative connotation, these words are too strong to accurately convey the tone.
4. Possible but Not Provable
Tread lightly around answer choices that seem logical but are not supported by evidence from the passage. On SAT Reading there can be no “gray area” or room for debate—based on evidence in the text, one answer is definitely right, and the other three are definitely wrong. If you find that you’re going down a long and winding mental path to justify an answer without referring to the passage, you’re probably heading in the wrong direction!
5. Wrong Scope
Look out for answer choices that are too broad or too narrow to accurately answer the question. For example, on a question about the primary purpose of a passage, a trap answer may refer to a specific claim made within a single paragraph.
Bonus Trap: Correct Answers in Disguise
Not only does the SAT disguise incorrect answers to look like correct ones, but it also often disguises correct answers by using somewhat vague or unconventional word choice. Even if an answer is phrased oddly or lacks specific word choice, it can still be the correct answer as long as every aspect matches up with information in the passage.
We hope you’ve enjoyed these SAT Reading tips and that you feel more prepared to identify and eliminate all those sneaky trap answers. To learn even more SAT strategies, schedule a free call with a Student Success Advisor and get started with your prep today!