SAT Question of the Day (plus ACT!): Feb. 18, 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.)

Most students are missing this question.  What makes it hard?  I believe it is because many students are intimidated by the test and are expecting to see something difficult.  Remember that the math isn’t necessarily hard but the questions require you to be careful.  The test writers know what kinds of simple math mistakes you will make and write questions that will require calculations that prove you won’t make them.

The answer is D.  You need to set up the equation: x + 2x = y + 2y +5.  Then simplify to 3x = 3y +5.  To get this equation to look like the question just subtract 3y from both sides and you have: 3x – 3y = 5.  Then simply divide both sides by 3 and you get x – y = 5/3.  That wasn’t so bad.

Where’s the trap?  In other words, why are so many students missing this question?  Many are missing it because they see 3x and 3y and decide they are equal to one another and get 5 for the answer or they goof up the sign and get -5.  Oops!

Do you want to learn a clever way to guess?  It doesn’t always work but it works enough (especially on the ACT where there’s no guessing penalty) that it can be worth using.  I’m not suggesting you always use it but it is interesting to know.  I call it “common elements” and there’s an explanation in the Sentence Completion part of my program that certainly makes it worth knowing.

Look at the answers.  Three are fractions, so they are more common than integers.  Eliminate the integers.  Positive answers are more common than negative answers.  Eliminate the remaining negative fraction.  Among the fractions, 5 over 3 is more common (both a positive and negative form) than 3 over 5.  Eliminate 3/5.  (Plus the two integers are 5 over 1!)  That process leaves you with 5/3, answer D.  So if you don’t have a clue, use this strategy to pick your answer.  Keep in mind this technique doesn’t always work.  It’s successful so often on the ACT that you should always use it because there’s no guessing penalty which means you should never leave a blank.  It works often enough on the SAT that the test writers have worked hard to discourage students from using it by trying to avoid patterns in their answers.  They goofed this morning and that allowed me to explain it to you.  Thanks, test writers.

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 A.  There is nothing wrong with the grammar or composition.  That makes this question more difficult than it should be.  Why?  Because students are expecting to find for a mistake, they see one where one doesn’t exist.  Always keep in mind that there will be questions on the English Test that don’t involve an error.  They are less common than you would expect based on probability (less than 25%), so they are bad random guesses.  Remember you should never leave a blank on the ACT.

If you are in the Orlando area, watch for the Wizard on the 11 o’clock news on Channel 6 tonight.  Set you recorder if you go to bed early or are busy doing homework.  Of course, if some major new story hits the air today, they’ll postpone the story about improving your SAT/ACT score.

The SAT & 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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