The Best SAT Prep Tip Ever: RTFQ!!

Today’s tip comes to you from a survey of the teaching staff here at Bell Curves. We asked our teachers one question:”What is the single most important tip you would give to a student taking the SAT?” Although the responses took a bunch of forms and was demonstrated in different ways, the across-the-board answer remained consistent: RTFQ(Read the Full Question). Just that one thing.  Just that.

RTFQ stands for “Read the Full Question” or, depending on whom you ask, the ‘F’ may stand for something more profane.

If you analyze how the SAT is “tricky,” you will discover that it is tricky not so much as a result of asking questions in a deceptive or misleading way (questions are asked in grammatically correct and precise English), but instead by asking questions that you are not expecting or asking questions in a way that require you to pay close attention. Over and over students bring questions to us that they “don’t understand.” Yet when we explore why they got stumped or got the question wrong, the real reason is that they overlooked a particular word or answered the wrong question (and by wrong question we mean they picked an answer that was correct for the question they expected to be asked instead of the one they were actually asked).

Although there is no guarantee of getting a question correct simply by reading the question thoroughly, we’re pretty sure you’ll answer incorrectly if you don’t RTFQ. As simple as it sounds, if you RTFQ, you will get your scores moving in the right direction. If you RTFQ, it will allow you to maximize all the facts and rules you learn. If you RTFQ, it will allow you to apply all the knowledge and test-taking skills you acquire. If you RTFQ, it will allow your knowledge to be represented not merely how carefully you read the test or how well you dealt the time pressure.

Good luck!


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  • Erica Meltzer

    Great advice, but I just wanted to point out that it only works if someone can actually understand what the question is asking. I think that from an adult perspective, it’s fairly easy to assume that SAT questions are essentially self-explanatory if read carefully enough. I’m becoming increasingly aware, however, that many high school students actually don’t understand what questions are asking them to do, regardless of how carefully they read. Someone who doesn’t really understand the difference between inferring what a particular person described in a passage might believe based on context, and summarizing what that person is explicitly said to believe is simply going to have trouble determining the correct answer.

  • Akil Bello

    You’re absolutely right, if you don’t understand what you read than it doesn’t matter how carefully you read. Still I’ve found that many test takers under-perform becasue they misread or poorly read the things they do know and wind up picking the partially correct (and therefore completely incorrect) answer.

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