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Eliminating SAT Math Answer Choices

When a solutions fails you, it is time to move on and consider the process of elimination. First, you might consider skipping the question and returning later in the test. The next few questions might be about concepts you are well familiar with, so why spend extra time to get a single point when there are cheaper points to be had? But when it is time to tackle that tough question, here is the way to do it.

This is the second article in a series of articles about SAT Math Answer Choices. The series includes:

Eliminating SAT Math Answer Choices

Remember that the best thing about multiple choice questions is that the answer is printed on the page in front of you. That allows you to plug in answer choices and see if one of them works.

For example:

1. A restaurant has 22 tables, some of which seat two diners and some of which seat six. If the restaurant has 8 more two-seat tables than six-seat tables, how many two-seat tables does it contain?

(A) 6
(B) 9
(C) 12
(D) 15
(E) 18

If you like algebraic word problems, then you might tackle this question head on. Translate what you know into two equations.

You have 22 tables

Let the total number of two-seaters = x and the total number of six-seaters equal = y

Thus,

22 = x + y

And

y = x – 8

Then substitute the second equation for the variable “y” in the first equation:

22 = x + (x – 8)

22 = 2x – 8

30 = 2x

x = 15 (the answer you’re looking for – scan the answer choices and select)

That wasn’t too bad, as long as you are fairly comfortable with algebra and word problems (which you will be when you complete the TestSherpa Math courses).

But what if you blank out on test day and cannot remember how to create two equations and substitute one into the other? You can always fall back on elimination.

Your first big tip with the process of elimination is: Always start with the answer choice (C). Why? The SAT Math section always presents its answers in either ascending or descending order. That means the answer choice (C) is right in the middle. If you plug in (C) and it is the right answer, congratulations, mark it on your test form and move on. If it is either too big or too small, you know you only have to travel in one direction to find the right answer.

Let’s look at our example again, only this time, we’ll try elimination.

1. A restaurant has 22 tables, some of which seat two diners and some of which seat six. If the restaurant has 8 more two-seat tables than six-seat tables, how many two-seat tables does it contain?

(A) 6
(B) 9
(C) 12
(D) 15
(E) 18

First plug in answer choice (C) and see what happens. If there are 8 more two-seaters than six-seaters, and (C) says there are 12 two-seaters, you must would end up with only four six-seaters (12-8=4) but that would only give you 16 total tables (12+4=16). Since the question tells us there are 22 tables, you know that answer choice (C) is too small.

Next move up to (D) and cross off (A) and (B) – If (C) is too small, neither (A) nor (B) could work either.

Answer choice (D) gives you 15 two-seaters, and thus 7 six-seaters (15-8=7) and you would end up with a total of 22 tables (7+15=22). Answer choice (D) must be the correct answer.

Elimination works best when dealing with algebra, word problems and answer choices that have a specific, numeric answer. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work very well when the answer is also expressed as a variable.

Next review our article about SAT Math Student-Produced Responses (Answer Grids).

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