Sept. 4, 2019
The explicit true-or-false question seems straightforward enough. You're given a statement, and then asked to pick one of two options. Even if you're tripped up by the tricky test writers, you've still got a 50-50 chance of picking the right answer. However, that's not the case once you start taking standardized tests like the ACT and SAT, and that true-or-false logic starts being embedded into four- or five-option multiple-choice tests. Don't risk missing out on the score you want! Here are two solid tips for identifying the one true answer among the false ones.
One of the most reliable ways to rule out an answer is when it uses extreme language. Whether it's a reading passage or science question, I urge you to be wary when faced with words that describe “all or nothing" situations. The following terms make a statement more likely to be false than true:
- No one/Everyone
Here's a (potentially familiar) example: Everybody loves Raymond.
That's a snappy title for a TV series, but it's a terrible statement on a standardized test. As long as there is even one person on the planet who doesn't love Raymond, this statement cannot be true — it's too absolute to be supported. Compare that to a milder statement like “Some people love Raymond," which is more easily proven true. Ensure that all claims or conclusion — especially those that seem extreme — are supported by evidence before assuming they are correct.
One important exception is that rule-bound fields such as math are more likely to use absolute language such as the following: All prime numbers are positive.
We know from our math classes that in order to be considered prime, a number must be positive. Therefore, this statement is true even with its use of the absolute term “all."
There's no such thing as a half-correct answer on a standardized, multiple-choice test. If a statement is only partially true, it's the wrong answer. And you can bet that this is another place test writers will try to fool you. Take this example: A prime number is only divisible by 1 and itself, so 1 is a prime number.
The first half of this statement is true, but the second half is false. That makes it entirely false. You can attribute part of this to the statement's use of the word “so." When you see words or phrases that denote cause and effect, beware. These often include:
- On account of
Just like statements that use extreme language, cause and effect statements can be difficult to prove true, so remain cautious here.
You're not likely to see an explicit true-or-false question with only two options, but you will find various riffs on the statement “Which of these is (most likely) true?" Don't be fooled by test-speak like “The third paragraph most strongly suggests…" Use your True or False skills to eliminate the false answers and narrow down the true one. As above, be suspicious of extreme language and watch for partially wrong answers.
To familiarize yourself with more tricks and traps that might be waiting for you on any of the tests on your schedule, sign up for a free practice test and pick up one of our review books to get an added advantage come test day.
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