Answer to Quora Question: "What is an example of an easy question on the SAT that many people tend to get wrong?"
What is an example of an easy question on the SAT that many people tend to get wrong?
I can give you an example from my own PSAT (which I took in the late 1980s, when I was in high school). The very first math question, which generally is the easiest, since the SAT and PSAT like to put the easy questions in the front, and the hard ones in the back, was simply “2^3 = ?” (imagine that shows as 2 with a superscript of 3; sorry, I can’t put that here).
The very first answer choice was 6, and I picked it. It’s certainly not that I didn’t know 2 to the third power is not the same as 2 times 3; I was a 16-year-old kid honor student who was in special advanced math classes, who would go on to be class valedictorian (and be a Finalist for the National Merit Scholarship, so I did pretty well on the rest of the PSAT). If I’d taken literally a few more seconds to check the answers or think a bit longer about the question without even checking the answers, I’d have gotten it right.
Tempting wrong “distractor” answers can make students get easy questions wrong, especially when they’re at the beginning of math sections where students expect ridiculously easy questions, can make students choose wrong answers when they’d otherwise certainly get the right answer.
TL;DR for the Math section: Read the whole problem and check all the answers, especially if the problem looks ridiculously easy.
I believe “Vocabulary-in-Context” questions are the easy questions for the passage reading section. Students who are overconfident or pressed for time, may simply choose the most common meaning of a word that most English speakers understand. For example, a “plane” could mean an airplane, a woodworking tool, a endless two-dimensional geometric space defined by three points, or a level of existence or consciousness (e.g., “The mystic told his audience of the existence of a higher plane of consciousness, outside of the reach of human existence”).
Most likely, the correct answer would be the last, since that would be the most “literary” use of the word, but it’s not necessarily the right answer. If you read an English reading passage on the SAT, it should be clear which one is relevant. Most likely, the most common meaning in American English, “plane” as short for “airplane” would be a distractor for people who didn’t bother to read the passage because of time pressures (“Oh no! I’ll never get this test done - better start guessing!”) or overconfidence (“What kind of idiot doesn’t know what a “plane” is? Most people don’t write books about carpenter’s tools or geometry, so…”).
But the “literary” usage may not be the right answer, since “smart kid” answers are also very popular distractor answers in SAT-land. See, the people who write SAT questions are familiar with the English class student’s technique of writing vague, glib, answers that manage to sound “smart” while being practically substance-free. So the idea of “plane” referring to a level of spiritual existence could be wrong; even if the passage were about mysticism, the passage might make note of a carpenter's tools as part of analogy or description of a scene.
Similarly, the passage could use “plane” in one sense, but in another sense in a different part of the passage. Make sure you’re giving the meaning of the word in the line they’re referencing. The SAT is not above giving the meaning of the same word in another part of the passage as a wrong answer.
TL;DR for English - read the Vocabulary-in-Context questions and make sure you’ve checked the right line numbers.
Hope this helps!
Author: John Linneball Who did you think? ;-)
I'm the proprietor and only tutor for this business; that's why I named it after me.