Test Prep Tip: Loving the Wrong Answer

No matter what test you take (SSAT, ISEE, SHSAT, PSAT, PLAN, SAT, ACT, etc) when you are preparing, your best friend is the wrong answer, if you use it as an opportunity to learn. This is the first in a series of tips on using fallacious answers to help you in your studies and on test day.

To properly take advantage of the wrong answers, you have to first understand that there are different types of wrong answers. The Loving the Wrong Answer series will discuss the major types of wrong answers, and how to use them to help you become a better test-taker.

The Most Common Wrong Answers are

  1. The Flip-Flop
  2. Glass Half Full
  3. What Mom Would Say
  4. Bad, Bad Math
  5. Karma Hates You

So let’s tackle the first with a sample Reading Comprehension question (with a truncated passage):

Not too long ago at yet another fancy coffee shop, I was forced into conversation with a hypersatisfied young lady who spent the entire conversation trying regale me with the impressiveness of her one month relief mission to Haiti. In one windy burst, she leapt from the beauty of donated dolls to kindness of used boots. “Philanthropy is the key for those in need,” she said. “It is the spirit of giving as much as the actual thing given that helps those in need recover most quickly from disaster.” When I suggested providing manpower to rebuild homes and industry, she stared at me, speechless.

The author’s attitude toward the “young lady” (line 2) is best characterized as

(A) supercilious

(B) irate

(C) incredulous

(D) critical

(E) apprehensive


Now let’s say a certain student (not you of course, your friend) picks answer C. While incorrect, he arrived at this choice by a series of logical steps, that if not understood, analyzed, and corrected will likely reoccur the next time your friend is in this position.

To really learn to love the wrong answer and to let the wrong answer love you, you have to make sure you understand what enticed you to pick the answer you did. 

The first step in understanding and loving a wrong answering is figuring out why it is wrong but attractive enough to pick. A reread of the passage should show you that there are two parties involved in this section, which immediately should indicate to you that this is a prime candidate for The Flip-Flop!

The Flip-Flop is the answer choice that is the exact opposite of what the question asks for. It is put among the choices because test-makers know that in the heat of battle many people will recall the issue at hand but forget which side of the issue they were required to answer about.

In this case the Flip-Flop is between the author and the young lady. The young lady is incredulous (she was speechless) and even supercilious (she tried to regale him with the impressiveness of her mission) as well as a host of other things, the author is critical of her and her approach to philanthropy.

By identifying this mistake, you will be able to arm yourself with a mantra that will stop you from doing it again! Consider creating a log book that contains only strategic reminders like:

Whenever there are 2 people, opinions, or points of view — watch out for the Flip-Flop!

Good luck and good studying!



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