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Alex's Astonishing SAT Guessing Hack: The Secret Behind His College Dream

May 7, 2024

Ever felt bogged down by the SAT reading section, especially those tricky vocab-in-context questions? You're not alone. Many test-takers find these questions time-consuming. But what if there was a trick to boost your speed and efficiency? Today, let’s dive into a guessing trick specifically designed for these vocab-in-context questions.

Understanding the trick

Navigating the SAT's vocab-in-context questions can often feel like navigating a maze. The passages are dense, and the context can sometimes be elusive. Your first instinct might be to read the entire passage, trying to absorb every detail to ensure you pick the right answer. But here's where many test-takers lose precious time. So, what's the solution? The trick is simpler than you might think: don't dive deep into the passage right away.

Instead, zero in on the word in question. Every word, especially in the English language, comes with a baggage of meanings. Some meanings are primary, the ones you think of immediately. Others are secondary, used less frequently but still valid. Your first task is to identify these primary or most common definitions. By doing so, you arm yourself with a foundational understanding, setting the stage for the next steps in the trick. This focused approach not only saves time but also sharpens your understanding, ensuring you're not overwhelmed by the entirety of the passage.

Now, when faced with a question like:

🚀 Example

In line 77, the word “form” likely means…
A) Shape
B) Mold
C) Establish
D) Tradition

You'd start by eliminating the primary definitions. "Shape", "mold", and "establish" are the obvious primary meanings of "form", and based on the trick, they're likely not the correct answer in the context of the SAT passage. This leaves with option D) "tradition".
While "tradition" might not be the first meaning that comes to mind when you think of "form", in certain contexts, "form" can indeed mean a customary way of operation or behavior, which aligns with the idea of "tradition". By applying the trick, you can confidently choose "tradition" as the most fitting answer in the context of line 77.

Application of the trick

When faced with the vocab-in-context questions, the array of answer choices can seem daunting. But armed with the knowledge of the primary definitions, you have a secret weapon. Begin by methodically eliminating these primary definitions from the answer choices. Why? Because the SAT often includes them as decoys, tempting you to pick the most familiar meaning. But in the context of the passage, these primary definitions are almost always incorrect.

Now, you might find yourself in a situation where, after eliminating the primary definitions, you're still left with multiple plausible answer choices. This is where the real magic of the trick comes into play. Instead of getting overwhelmed, take each remaining choice and mentally plug it into the sentence. Visualize how the sentence reads with each option. Does it make logical sense? Does it fit the tone and flow of the surrounding text? By doing this, you're actively engaging with the context, allowing you to discern which definition fits seamlessly. This hands-on approach not only helps in pinpointing the correct answer but also deepens your understanding of the passage's nuances.

Consider another example with the word "hold":

🚀 Example

In line 52, the word “hold” likely means…
A) Carry
B) Clench
C) Portray
D) Support

You'd first identify the primary or most common definitions of "hold". Words like "carry" (as in holding something in your hands) and "clench" (as in holding something tightly) are the immediate, primary meanings many of people think of.
By eliminating these primary definitions, "carry" and "clench", you're left with "portray" and "support". Now, "portray" as a meaning for "hold" might seem unusual at first. It's not a common association, but in specific contexts, "hold" can mean to represent or depict, which aligns with "portray". On the other hand, "support" is a slightly more common secondary meaning for "hold", as in holding up a structure or supporting an idea.
To determine the correct answer between "portray" and "support", you'd need to consider the broader context of line 52. Which of these meanings fits seamlessly into the passage? Does the sentence discuss representing something, suggesting "portray"? Or is it about backing or upholding something, pointing towards "support"? By narrowing down the choices and then fitting them into the context, you can confidently select the answer that aligns best with the passage's intent.
A woman smiling in front of bookcase with flying notes
Master this guessing trick for a quicker, more efficient, and less stressful SAT experience, all while improving accuracy on your path to a high score

Benefits of the trick

Harnessing the power of this guessing trick can transform your SAT reading experience, offering a plethora of advantages:


One of the most significant challenges of the SAT is the ticking clock. Every second counts. By swiftly sidelining the most common definitions, you're not just making a guess; you're making an informed decision. This approach frees up invaluable time, ensuring you're not rushing through the last few questions when the proctor announces the remaining minutes.


The SAT isn't just about answering questions; it's about doing so efficiently. With this trick, you're not aimlessly wandering through the answer choices. You have a strategy. By homing in on the most probable correct answers, you're not second-guessing yourself. This focus not only boosts your confidence but also ensures that you're not mentally exhausted halfway through the test.

Accuracy boost

While this trick aids in speed and efficiency, it also inadvertently increases your chances of selecting the correct answer. By eliminating the obvious distractors, you're often left with choices that are more in line with the passage's context. This refined pool of options means you're more likely to pick the right one.

Stress reduction

Knowing you have a reliable strategy in your toolkit can significantly reduce test-day anxiety. Instead of panicking when faced with a challenging vocab-in-context question, you'll have a clear game plan, allowing you to tackle the question with calm and clarity.

Incorporating this trick into your SAT preparation can be a game-changer, setting you on a path to achieving that coveted high score.


1. What is the best guessing strategy for the SAT?

The best guessing strategy for the SAT is to use educated guesses. The SAT does not penalize you for incorrect answers, so it's beneficial to make an educated guess when you're unsure about a question. Here are some steps for an effective guessing strategy:

  • Eliminate obvious wrong answers: first, eliminate answer choices that you are certain are incorrect. This reduces the options, increasing your chances of selecting the right answer.
  • Look for patterns: occasionally, the SAT may have patterns in the answer choices.
🚀 Example
If you notice that the same letter (A, B, C, etc.) hasn't appeared in a while, it might be a good time to select that letter.
  • Use context clues: review the question and the passage for context. Sometimes, the surrounding information can help you make an educated guess, even if you're unsure about the answer.
  • Avoid random guessing: while guessing is allowed, random guessing should be your last resort. Try to eliminate as many wrong answers as possible before making an educated guess.

2. Does the SAT penalize you for guessing?

No, the SAT does not penalize you for guessing. In the past, the SAT had a deduction for incorrect answers, which made some test-takers hesitant to guess. However, the scoring policy changed. Now, you receive one point for a correct answer and no points are deducted for incorrect or unanswered questions. This "no penalty for guessing" policy encourages test-takers to attempt every question, even if they're unsure of the answer.

3. Is C the most common answer on SAT?

No, the idea that "C" is the most common answer on the SAT is a myth. The College Board, which creates the SAT, takes great care to ensure that there is no predictable pattern or bias in the distribution of correct answers. Therefore, answer choices are randomized, and there is no consistent bias toward any particular letter as the correct response. It's essential to approach each question on the SAT without any preconceived notions about which letter is more likely to be correct. Focus on understanding the question, identifying the relevant.


Tackling the SAT reading section can often feel like a daunting task, but it's essential to remember that with the right strategies, it becomes much more manageable. The trick that has delved into today, particularly tailored for vocab-in-context questions, is just one of many tools you can arm yourself with. By employing such strategies, you're not only preparing for the test but also building a foundation of confidence. Should you find yourself with lingering questions or seeking deeper understanding, don't hesitate to engage in the comments section. And for a more comprehensive dive into SAT preparation and strategies, consider subscribing to Aha. As you continue on this journey, the path to achieving SAT success is now illuminated and more accessible than ever.

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