Beginning in 2010, NYU will change its standardized test policy for undergraduate admissions. Under the new policy, undergrads will have the option to substitute their scores on SAT subject tests (formerly known as SAT II tests) for the SAT or ACT score requirement.

You can find out more information about NYU’s new policy on its website by clicking here.

NYU joins a number of colleges and universities that require, recommend, or substitute SAT subject test scores. So, you may find yourself signing up for two or three SAT subject tests during your high school years.

Generally, you should take an SAT subject test as soon after you complete a high school course in that subject as possible. If you complete U.S. History in your sophomore year, it would be best to take the SAT subject test in U.S. History in May or June of that year. Therefore, you may have to make plans to take SAT subject tests before you would take the SAT or ACT.

To help you prepare for SAT subject tests, we have written SAT II U.S. History For Dummies, SAT II Biology For Dummies, and SAT II Math For Dummies. Below is an excerpt from the U.S. History book on how to evaluate answer choices.

How do you determine when an answer on the SAT Subject Test U.S. History is incorrect? With a little know-how, you can master the art of answer elimination even if you are unsure about the information a question tests.

Use common sense

Eliminate answer choices that don’t make sense. Senseless answer choices are the easiest to spot if you read carefully. Most likely you’ll be able to eliminate choices because they don’t fit with the era that the question asks you about. For instance, consider the following question.

The Republican Party was founded in 1854 as

  1. A party that was against slavery based only on moral reasons
  2. A new party opposed to slavery and in support of freedom of expression
  3. The reconstituted American Party
  4. A successor to Thomas Jefferson’s Republican Party
  5. One of the first political parties of the new nation

Even if you’re not sure why the Republican Party was founded, you can eliminate choices based on common sense. The question tells you that the party was founded in 1854. By 1854, the country was over 70 years old, so it doesn’t make sense that one of its first political parties would be founded in 1854. Even if you know very little about the origins of the Republican Party, you can eliminate E with very little thought.

TIP: When you study for the SAT Subject Test U.S. History, concentrate on the events and philosophies that define each era. If you know a lot about each era, you can more easily eliminate answer choices that don’t fit in the era specified by the question.

Rely on what you know

If you come across a subject that you don’t know anything about, don’t panic. Read through the answer choices to see if one deals with a subject you are familiar with. For instance, in the sample question above, you may not know a thing about the Republican Party, but you do know a little about Thomas Jefferson. You probably know that he was not a member of the Republican Party. Therefore, you can eliminate D. Using common sense and stuff you do know about, you can eliminate two answer choices about a topic that may be unfamiliar to you.

Avoid choices with debatable words

Another way you can weed out answer choices is to cross out those that contain debatable words. Debatable words are those words that leave no room for exception and could therefore provoke debate. Some examples of debatable words are all, always, only, complete, never, must, every, and none. Take a look at the same sample question again. Choice A contains the word only, stating that the party’s opposition to slavery was only morally motivated. It is true that most members of the Republican Party opposed slavery because it was morally reprehensible. However, the presence of the word only leaves answer choice A up for debate. The party also included Free Soilers, who had economic reasons for being against slavery. (They didn’t want slaves to take away their jobs.) Since the validity of answer choice A can be debated, you can eliminate it as a correct answer. Eliminating the answer choice with the debatable word leaves you with two remaining answer choices.

Don’t avoid choices with debatable words indiscriminately. There are two occasions when you absolutely should not eliminate an answer choice based on the presence of a debatable word.

*If the presence of the debatable word makes the answer choice correct because the debatable word is not debatable, you can’t eliminate it. Huh? For example, if the sample question contained a choice that read, “A party that only came into existence in the 1850s,” you couldn’t eliminate the choice. That’s because this only isn’t a matter for debate. The Republican Party did not exist before 1854.

*If the question asks you to choose an answer that is not true, a choice that contains a debatable word may be just the ticket. For example, if the sample question asked you to choose the answer that is not true about the early Republican Party, the choice that states that they only supported slavery for moral reasons could be the right answer.

Go for the more specific

When you have narrowed the answer choices to two seemingly reasonable options and you can’t decide between them, usually the more specific choice of the two is the best answer. Take a look at the sample question one more time. Using the process of elimination, you have reduced your options to B and C. Now you may have known that the Republican Party was founded based on an opposition to slavery and a penchant for free speech, but even if you didn’t, you’re probably safer choosing the more specific of the two remaining choices. B reveals a special characteristic of the party and is therefore more specific than is C, which provides a more general concept.

Please note that choosing the more specific answer often works when you have narrowed your options to two. It is not wise to choose the most specific answer of the all the ones provided. Also, keep in mind that these elimination techniques are ways to get you involved in the process of thinking your way through to the best answer choice. We don’t guarantee that they will work in every situation, but they do provide you positive steps you can take to come closer to choosing the right answers.

Be politically correct

Though it’s unlikely that the history test will contain answer choices that violate political suitability (the SAT II test makers are very careful to remain politically correct), we’ll mention the point just in case. If you ever see an answer choice that suggests racial, gender, or cultural bias on the SAT Subject Test U. S. History, you can confidently eliminate it. These types of answers will never be right.

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