I mentioned in the Comments thread that I reliably miss 0 to 1 items on SAT I reading and writing tests. I don't find the tests easy -- I find them taxing -- but I finish the sections five minutes early and never miss more than 1 item.
I don't know why that is, though.
So a couple of minutes ago I tried to analyze why I chose the correct answer to the question Steve posted:
The following line is from an SAT excerpt where the author really(!) dislikes the way science was being taught (in 1939).1st step: I rapidly eliminate and cross out the three obviously wrong answers.
(24) "As to the learning of scientific method, the whole thing is palpably a farce."
3. The word ‘palpably’ (line 24) most nearly means
The answer is B.
For me, answers a., c., and e. are obviously wrong:
Why are these 3 answers obviously wrong?
a. Empirically is wrong because the author has said nothing explicit about running an experiment or observing actual students who were learning (or attempting to learn) the scientific method. Thus I conclude that the author is voicing an opinion, not describing an empirical observation or experimental result.
This is an example of former SAT tutor LexAequita's advice that to do well on the SAT you'd better start thinking like a 13-year old with Asperger syndrome.
Students should read SAT reading and writing questions the same way they're told to read SAT math diagrams: add nothing to the text that isn't explicitly stated. Easier said than done since reading is all about making inferences, but that's a conundrum for another day.
c. Tentatively is wrong because it's inconsistent with the tone of the passage, which is emphatic, not tentative. Tentative is the opposite of emphatic, so it's wrong.
e. Ridiculously is redundant. The writer says that "the learning of the scientific method is a farce," and farce means ridiculous. So you don't need to add the word ridiculously.
Second step: I choose the "more right" of the two answers that remain.
As far as I can tell, SAT reading and writing questions always come down to two arguably correct answers. Your job is to figure out which answer is more correct and choose that one.
In this case, the two arguably correct answers I'm left with are:
As I tried to reconstruct why the word obviously leapt out as me as the correct answer, it struck me that I may have been influenced by the conventions of idiomatic usage and good writing. If you substitute the word obviously for palpably, the sentence works; if you substitute the word markedly, the sentence doesn't work.
...the whole thing is obviously a farce
...the whole thing is markedly a farce
Maybe markedly a farce sounded wrong to me because it's bad writing.
I'm going to start keeping an eye out for how often the right answer is also the better written answer.