Many of my students hate the math fill-in-the-blank section because there are no answer choices. They apparently love the security of having answer choices A through D in the other sections of the test, as if the mere presence of the answer choices will somehow help them find the right one.

## The answer choices are irrelevant

But the answer choices, in and of themselves, don’t help you find the right answer.

The best way to find the right answer is to **solve the problem**.

(Yes, even for critical reading questions.)

## The magic is in the math question

In math, you don’t read the problem, then stare at the answer choices hoping that one of them will magically sparkle indicating that it is the right choice.

You read the problem, solve the equation for the right answer, then find that answer among the choices listed.

## The magic is in the reading passage

But my students do the magic-sparkle trick all the time in the reading section. They read the question then pore over the answer choices, hoping one of them will start sparkling.

**Solving the problem** gives you the right answer. Go back to the reading passage and find the answer. Then, and only then, mosey over to the answer choices to see which letter matches that answer.

Occasionally, I’ll look over all the answer choices in order to eliminate what’s definitely wrong. But I already know what I’m looking for since all cupcakes look delicious.

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