Updated: Nov 7, 2022
All Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension questions contain pattern wrong answer types. If you learn to identify what makes a wrong answer wrong, then you can become a master at your process of elimination strategy on test day.
To help you learn the wrong answer types, we explain them as if they were the wrong answers to an argument passage about chihuahuas. So imagine you have just read a fascinating passage about chihuahuas, and are asking to identify the main point of the passage. Let’s begin!
Wrong Answer Type 1: Too Broad/ Too General
If the answer choice was about all dogs, it would be too general. The passage is only about chihuahuas, not all dogs. Since we know nothing about golden retrievers and poodles, to suggest that we do would be utterly speculative.
If the passage specified that all dogs can go to heaven, a wrong answer choice would indicate that all dogs must go to heaven, or all dogs will go to heaven.
Wrong Answer Type 2: Too Narrow/Too Specific/Too Speculative
If the answer choice is only about “teacup” chihuahuas that are so tiny that they can sit in purses, then the answer choice is overly narrow. Since the author was talking about all chihuahuas, the answer can’t only specify the purse dogs, because big dogs would be left out of the group.
If the passage specified that all dogs will go to heaven, a wrong answer choice would indicate that all dogs could go to heaven, or all dogs may go to heaven.
Wrong Answer Type 3: Outside of Scope / Irrelevant
If the answer choice is about llamas….well, who cares?! You may feel inclined to care though. Irrelevant answer choices make us feel insecure because we are tempted to believe we didn’t read closely enough. If you are the type to read the word “llamas” and ask, “How did I miss that in the passage?!” be mindful of this wrong answer type– it could be your Achilles’ heel!
Wrong Answer Type 4: False Fact or Logical Opposite
If the answer choice states that all chihuahuas are llamas, that’s just wrong. If the answer choice states that this passage is NOT about chihuahuas, it’s also wrong. Be sure to spot the NOT– it is a small word that packs a lot of meaning!
The logical opposite of “I am going to Disney World” is “I am not going to Disney World”
Wrong Answer Type 5: Partially True, but Partially False and Therefore Completely Wrong.
If an answer choice is incomplete or not always true, it must be eliminated. For example, if the answer choice talks about chihuahuas and their size, but the entire passage talks about chihuahua size, behavior, and lifespan, then this answer choice is only partially true. The better answer choice will not have any part of the answer that is wrong. To be sure you don’t fall into the trap of selecting a partially true/partially false answer choice, here’s a tip: Place a mark next to the end of each answer choice as proof that you have read the answer choice to the very end and haven’t missed any “false” pieces.
TIP: Watch out for compound sentences in answer choices. Read all the way past any internal punctuation, like dashes and commas. The end of the answer choice may contain the error.
Wrong Answer Type 6: Misidentified/Restated Argument Part
If you are answering a conclusion question, and an answer choice restates a premise of the argument, rather than a conclusion, it’s wrong. This is tricky, because a premise, by definition, is a stated fact that must be accepted as true. And, since its stated, you read it in the argument. So, yeah, it looks true! However, if you are answering a question that asks you to identify the argument’s conclusion, the premise will always be an incorrect answer.
TIP: If a premise or conclusion is modified/intensified with an adjective or adverb connoting a degree of certainty, be sure to match the degree in the answer choice. For example, if a comparative word is used (better; more), be sure to eliminate an answer choice that contains a superlative (best; most).
Wrong Answer Type 7: Logical Reversals and Negations
If the passage said that because chihuahuas are small, they are inexpensive, watch out for an answer choice that reverses the relationship. A wrong answer would state that because chihuahuas are inexpensive, they are small. Sure, it has the correct parts (the premise and the conclusion) but reversing the cause-and-effect relationship is an error. Read carefully and watch for sneaky logical reasoning errors—contrapositives will logically follow and can be selected as the correct answer choice, but not reversals or negations.
A reversal in symbolic notation to a statement "If A, then B", or A --> B would look like:
Reversal: "If B, then A", or B-->A
A negation would include the word ‘not’ or the symbol '~' before both A and B and would turn the argument into a negative:
Negation: "If not A, then not B", or ~A -> ~B
Negations are dangerous because the turn sufficient conditions into necessary ones. For example, If I said, that "If I study hard, then I do well on my test", it would not follow to say that if I don’t study hard, then I won’t do well on my test. You don’t know that. You may do well because of luck or because you chose to cheat (although we hope you don’t cheat!)
Wrong Answer Type 8: The Jargon-Free Answer Choice This wrong answer type exists because people fear that which they do not know. If you are not familiar with the expression “did not obtain”, does that make the answer choice wrong? Not at all. Don’t avoid answer choices with ambiguous or esoteric terminology that isn’t entirely clear or uncommon to your ear. The best answer choice doesn’t necessarily ‘sound’ great, but, it doesn’t make any logical errors and if you can’t find anything wrong with it, then it might be the correct answer.
Wrong Answer Type 9: The Anxious Choice
You selected this answer choice because you felt pressed for time, and for no other reason. You were down to two, you felt you had to select an answer and move on, and so you guess. Had you spent ten to fifteen more seconds, perhaps this answer wouldn’t have been the choice you made.
Wrong Answer Type 10: The Wrong Argument Type
There are four different types of inductive arguments that are tested in questions assessing your logical reasoning skills. So, if you’re reading a question that contains a causal argument, you can eliminate answer choices that contain language of a different argument structure or format (i.e. analogy arguments or data sampling arguments).
Wrong Answer Type 11: Equal is Right
If you select answer choices that promote equality between two groups or ideas where there is no evidence to support perfect equality, this wrong answer type is for you. We don’t intend to sound extreme here; we are only mean that in the world of test questions, if there is no reasoning to support pure 50/50 splits or absolute equivalence, then it's a wrong answer.
Remember, there is always a reason for a right answer. You just have to find it!
Looking to master your upcoming exam with proven test taking strategies? Our 1:1 test prep consists of a curriculum designed for students who are seeking expert-level guidance in an individualized setting. Master your college and grad school admissions test with our curriculum-based instruction in a class paced just for you. Learn more about our tutoring here.
Good luck and happy studying!
Shana Ginsburg, Esq.
Founder and CEO,
Ginsburg Advanced Tutoring, LLC
Sign up for our newsletter to get our next article.