The 4I Rule for Standard Tests

Process of Elimination and the “4I” Rule

The major advantage that test-taking students have on standardized tests like the PSAT, SAT, ACT as well as PSSAs, is that the tests are multiple choice style. In fact over 90% of the test questions are multiple choice.  (For the SAT there are 67 critical reading and sentence completion questions, 54 math questions and 49 writing questions that are multiple choice, with 10 free response math questions and a written essay).

Last post I introduced the concept of the “5 MlSes,” where most students miss questions because they do not fully understand or utilize the information in the question. Process of elimination takes advantage of utilizing the answers given to arrive at the correct answer.

Here is another very useful strategy that anyone can easily use.

The “4I” rule states: If you can eliminate four incorrect answers from the list of answers, then you are left with the correct answer.

This seems obvious, but it is not how most people think. Most of us are conditioned, by years of school, to create an answer and then check to see if it is on the answer list. This is how we are taught to learn and produce answers. This method works fine in the classroom, but not on standardized tests. Always remember, the SAT and these tests are not like school.

Here is a simplified example:

Fill in the blank: The capital of Oregon is ________________

Unless you are up on state geography, this is hit or miss. All or nothing. Now try the “4I” rule.

The capital of Oregon is:

a) Washington
b) Paris
c) Tokyo
d) Atlanta
e) Salem

You may not have known that Salem was the capital, but you likely knew that the other four were wrong. Four incorrect = one correct.

For more information on test preparation, or general academic tutoring, or a free educational personal evaluation of your child’s need, contact Steven Greene Ed.D. at mAke the grAde Academic Services at 215 540 TEST (8378) or www


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