SAT Question of the Day (ACT too!): Apr. 26, 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.)

Using the standard “wizardly” strategy of identifying the topic and then predicting words for the blanks makes quick work of this question.  Also be sure to do one blank at a time and you will be finished in record time.

The answer is C.  The factory “blew up.”  The sentence tells us that nitroglycerin, “the explosive,” was likely to explode “without warning.”  We can predict it is “likely to explode without a warning” or “explosive” for the first blank and “likely” to detonate or explode on its own, “without warning.”  Now, let’s look at one blank at a time.  We can start with the either prediction.  If you use “explosive” for the first blank, the only possible right answer is “volatile.”  We don’t care what the second words mean.  That was quick and easy.

If we start with “likely” for the second blank, Answer C, “liable,” makes a lot of sense.  Answer A, “ready,” is also possible.  That means we can eliminate Answers B, D, and E without even worrying about the first words which saves time.  Check out the first words for the remaining answers, A and C.  “Dormant,” Answer A, makes no sense which leaves us with Answer C.

This question is a great example of how much time you can save by using one blank at a time when you see Sentence Completion questions with two blanks.  Be sure to use this wizardly strategy on test day.  Take a look at the Sentence Completion chapter in Demystifying the SAT & ACT for more information about this and related strategies.

Let’s see what the ACT folks have for us today.

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.  Figure 3 shows us that the stand of trees has a density of 15,000 trees per unit area after 150 years.  You simply need to read the graph.

This question is a good reminder that the ACT Science Test is not about the scientific facts you’ve learned in school.  It is about the scientific methods and skills you’ve learned in school.  Be sure to practice reading charts and graphs using The Real ACT Prep Guide.  The test writers love to use all kinds of strange data displays and you need to become comfortable with seeing unusual charts.  That way you won’t be surprised on test day.  You will be confident that you can analyze and use the charts and graphs you will see on the test to answer questions.

QotD Words of “Wiz-dom”:

This is the next installment in a series about the “Pillars of Test-Taking Wiz-dom.”

Pillar III: Use What You Know:

At first, this may seem so obvious to you that you wonder why I would even bother to address this test-taking strategy.  Well, it is important in a couple of ways that will make a difference in your performance on test day.  Emphasis is on the word USE.  First, for math, it is a reminder that the questions are much more about using, applying, and understanding math than they are about doing math.  I estimate that 80% of the time that students miss a math question, they know how to do the math.  They just don’t know how to use it.  For example, they can calculate a percentage.  However, they don’t know how to use or apply their knowledge in the context of the word problem in the test booklet.  Preparing for math tests should be focused on how to interpret situations presented in word problems and applying the math facts you know.

Second, for reading, there is a special way you need to approach the test.  It is just the opposite of what you’ve learned in school.  Teachers are fond of asking you to relate today’s materials to what you already know.  That’s a great teaching technique and I used it in my biology classroom all the time.   However, there’s a big caution related to that approach when it comes to reading tests: it will cause you to select wrong answers!  Prior knowledge is bad.  You must USE only the information in the reading passage  and not any prior knowledge.  Pretend that’s all you know–the stuff in the passage.

That is why the reading strategy PICK is so valuable on test day.  It helps you filter out prior knowledge.  Be sure to read about PICK using my free website or watch the Video #300 series.

We have a week left before the test.  Use it wisely.  I think you are off to a good start by reading my blog.  Now do some questions using The Official SAT Study Guide.

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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