SAT & ACT Question of the Day: Feb. 22, 2014

If you are reading this in an email you received from me, do not click the link to below. Use the link to my website that is farther down on the email. (This link takes you to today’s question. If you use my archive, you will see the question related to my SAT explanation for that date.)

The SAT folks are sure being nice this morning.  This is a pretty easy question and you can see that about 75% of the site visitors are getting it correct.

The answer is A.  As with all Sentence Completion questions, we start by figuring out the topic of the sentence.  The sentence tells us that scientists are studying the “difference between…showers…and…storms…”  Using the topic to predict words that will fit, we know we need a positive word and then a negative word.  Because there are two blanks, we start by using one of our predictions to eliminate as many answers as possible.  Let’s start with the first blank.  Flourish, grow, and multiply are positive words for what we would like the crops to do.  Now we only need to worry about the “partner” words for these three answers and save time because we know that Answers B and D are eliminated.  Answer A is the only one that works because harmless and essential (Answers C and E) are not negative words.

What can we learn from this question?  Our predictions do not have to be specific words; they just have to capture the positive and negative tones whenever we are faced with a sentence that involves a contrast.  That speeds things up.  Sometimes we see sentences that involve words that are consistent with one another.  Then we will have either two positive or two negative words.  Sometimes we can tell they’ll both be positive and sometimes we can tell they’ll both be negative.  However, sometimes we just know they both are the same but can’t tell whether they are both positive or both negative.  I call this strategy “check the charges.”  Like batteries, words can have positive or negative charges or meanings.  The test writers like to test this issue.  Notice that the vocabulary isn’t that tough; it’s the reasoning skill that is being assessed.  After all, this is the SAT Reasoning Test!

I wonder what the ACT folks have up their sleeves this morning!

ACT Question of the Day: Use your “back” button to return to my website after reading the ACT Question of the Day.

The answer is H.  We have to fix the original sentence because “possibilities” cannot see anything!  Answer G is awkward because “organizations of a medium” just doesn’t make sense.  J is not good because “commercials of a medium” is confusing and not clear.  Answer H makes sense because “commercial possibilities of a medium” flows well and sounds just right.

If you’ve read my comments about the English Test directions previously, fast forward through the following paragraph.  If you haven’t, then the following paragraph is something you need to understand.

I’ve got to use this sentence to teach you something about the ACT English Test “directions.”  They stink!  In the directions, the test writers say, “Read the passage through once before you begin to answer any of the questions that accompany it.”  Having just done this question, you can see how dumb that would be to do that on test day.  Their “directions” aren’t even directions; they are test-taking advice and it is terrible advice.  On a timed test, what sense would it make to do what their “directions” tell you to do?  Almost all of the questions can be answered by just doing the question (as we did with this example).  For the few questions that require you to use the context of a surrounding sentence or two, just deal with those as you get to them.  My advice: just start reading at the beginning of the passage and deal with the underlined portions as you come to them.  That approach will greatly increase your speed and certainly won’t hurt your score.   It will raise it.  Shame on the test writers for giving you such ridiculous “directions.”

Thanks for letting me rant about that issue again.  Maybe with the release of the new ACT that will be out next year, they’ll fix that problem.  My fingers are crossed but I’m not optimistic!

I hope you have a great Saturday.  I know I’ll be having a terrific day at Olympia High in Orlando.  Titans rock.

Bob Alexander, the “SAT and ACT Wizard”


About Bob Alexander

Bob has been a professional educator starting with teaching biology, becoming a school administrator, and then working as an education lobbyist in Washington, DC. He got his start in national testing by becoming a consulting test writer, later joining Kaplan as a director, and finally starting his own business in 1995. He has written numerous books, consulted for school districts and colleges, developed his website and been featured on a DVD set. He offers SAT and ACT prep classes and tutors individuals and small groups of students in central Florida.
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