DATCrusher PAT Breakdown:
Angles-Ranking Strategies

Conceptually speaking, the angle section is the easiest to understand and grasp. all you have to do is rank the given angles from smallest to largest right? It seems easy enough for a child to do this section. Wrong! Although the objective is easy, students consistently struggle to achieve high marks in this section of the PAT. Simply put, the difficulty of angle ranking lies in the biological limitations of the eye. This limitation varies from individual to individual but essentially, training our eye to see and differentiate one or two degree difference is akin to training to gain a 40 inch vertical jump, with one leg. It’s possible, but extremely hard and requires substantial amount of time. Of course some individuals can achieve this easier than others and that goes back to their biological potential as the eye is one of the most variable structures of the human body.

But enough of the science! What does this all mean to you? It means that you can train yourself and utilize various techniques that will allow you to view the angles in a different way, but you will always stumble across questions that will leave you confused. The secret to this section is to enter it with the utmost confidence, and to not spend more than 30 seconds on any given question. Because believe it or not, the biggest factor that will allow you to excel at this section is not acing the angle questions themselves, it’s doing the best you can and preserving your valuable time for sections that will benefit from extra thought. With that mind, let’s look at some techniques that will allow you to view the angles in a more familiar way.

Alternative Viewing Techniques

Laptop Method

Simply put, imagine that the angles in question are laptops and the one that is closest to being closed, is the smallest. Conversely the laptop that is furthest from being closed will be the biggest. In the diagram below, the ‘laptop’ labeled A is more open than the ‘laptop’ labeled B therefore, A is the bigger angle out of the two.

Reference Method

This method uses 90 and 180 degree references to help differentiate the angles. It requires the students to visualize a third line that when combined with one of the arms of the given angle, will give you either a right angle or a straight line. This is a bit confusing in words so let’s get some pictures involved. In the diagram below, the two angles in question on the left can be referenced to 90 degrees (red line). The angle that is closest to 90 degrees therefore is the bigger angle, in this case, option A. On the right, the two angles in question are closer to a straight line rather than a right angle and so they have to be referenced to 180 degrees as shown. The angle closer to being a straight line is therefore the bigger of the two, in this case, option A again. This method is most helpful when the angles in question are between 60-120 and 150-210.

Knife Method

This method requires you to view the angle as a blade tip on a knife. The thinner and sharper the blade tip (smaller angle), the easier and further the knife will cut. Conversely, the bigger the blade tip (larger angle), the harder it will be to cut into something using that knife. This method focuses on the intersection of the two lines making the angle rather than the angle itself.

Rapid Gaze Method

This method requires the student to rapidly switch gaze from one angle to the other in hopes of picking up the minute differences between them. Students have had various success utilizing this method due to individual differences so make sure to try it out to see if it suits your abilities.

Important Note: you can also try sitting further back in your chair and viewing the angles from further away. This has helped some students be able to spot differences better.


Keep in mind that the techniques above simply allow you to view the angles in a different way by relating them to practical life. They are not a secrecy formula for success. No matter which technique you choose to follow, the steps for the entire section should be as follows:

1. Inspect the answer choices and identify the 50-50 chance scenario

Begin by looking at the smallest angle option column followed by the largest. Most often than not, only two angles will be in competition for the smallest or largest angle. This creates a 50% chance scenario.

Green Question: In this question, both ends of the answer choices (shown in red) satisfy the scenario so it is up to the students discretion which to begin with.

Blue question: In this question, neither the smallest or largest answer option column portray a 50-50 chance scenario. The smallest angle column has only one option while the largest angle column has 3 (outlined in green). However, the second smallest angle column (shown in red) satisfies the 50-50 chance scenario and is therefore more beneficial to start with as it leaves us having to differentiate between two angles rather than three.

The 50-50 scenario is ideal but if the angles in question are too hard to differentiate, it is worthwhile to move to another column as it may help you eliminate an answer choice that beforehand was viable.

2. Focus and differentiate on the two/three angles in question

This is where you can implement the techniques that were discussed above! Following the blue question forward, we can see that angles 1 and 3 are competing against one another for second smallest angle.  Using the laptop method, it is clear that angle 3 is smaller therefore option choice C and D are incorrect and can be crossed off.

3. Repeat steps #1  and #2

Since we did not have to differentiate between any angles for the smallest angle column, this will be only time we have to repeat step #1 but this is not the case. Most times you will have to repeat step #1 two times instead of one. The only two remaining columns in question are the largest angle column and the second largest angle column (both outlined in red). Either column satisfies the ideal 50-50 chance scenario

We can see that angles 1 and 2 are the ones competing against each other now. Using the laptop method again, I can differentiate angle 2 as the bigger of the two. Therefore, option choice A is incorrect and can be crossed off. This leaves us with the lone answer choice, B.

4. Answer the question!

the key here is to implement the steps as efficiently as possible. That means be confident about your initial gut instinct and do not second guess yourself because staring at angles only makes them harder to differentiate.

With that said, we have reached the conclusion of the Angle Ranking Guide. You should now have an idea of how you can approach and excel at this section but nothing beats good ol’ practice, so click below to try some questions out for yourself using our exclusive Printable PAT Angle-Ranking Generator:

Angle Ranking Generator