On the ACT & SAT “Grammar” Sections, Is Shorter Better?

Rumor has it that on ACT English and SAT Writing & Language, shorter is better.

Is the rumor true?

Yes and no.

The shortest answer is NOT always the correct answer. This should be obvious to anyone who has taken an official SAT or ACT.

However, under certain conditions, the shortest answer WILL always be correct.

Here are the conditions:

  • Two or more answer choices satisfy the criteria required by the question.
  • Both (or all) of these answer choices are essentially saying the same thing (if they’re not, there’s a good chance that at least one of them does NOT in fact satisfy the question’s criteria).
  • Neither (or none) of these answer choices have grammar errors.

In such cases – when you have two or more answer choices that answer the question, are essentially saying the same thing, and contain no grammar mistakes – then the shortest answer will always be the correct one.

I call this the Shorter Is Better Principle. It’s a simple but effective tactic that can reduce deliberation time and increase accuracy.


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