ACT & SAT Question of the Day: Mar. 19, 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 answer is C.  Use of the proper pronoun form is very important in the English language and it shows up on the SAT and ACT tests with regularity.  We see it in this question with the use of who/whom/them.  Verb form and tense are also popular test items and they show up in this question with the use of was/were/had been.  Then the question raises issues of whether to use a preposition or not–do you include with or not?  To get this question correct, you have to know that the prepositional phrase “with neither…” is inappropriate.  You have to know to use the objective form of the pronoun, “whom.”  Finally, you have to get the verb in sync with “neither” which is singular and choose “was.”  That’s an awful lot of grammar for one question!  How do you get ready for it?

The SAT Writing and ACT English Tests require a lot of work if you are serious about raising your scores on those sections of the tests.  (Then you have to combine the multiple-choice portions of the tests with the essays to get your total scores.)  This means you are going to have to commit a fair amount of time if grammar is an area of weakness and this part of the test matters to your future.  (For some students it doesn’t matter because the colleges they have in mind (or the scholarships, the NCAA, etc.) don’t care about the SAT Writing score.  However, if you are counting on your ACT score, you can’t avoid this part of the test being important because it is always part of your composite score.)

If it is important, what should you do to systematically approach this part of the test?  First, you can begin by reviewing my materials that highlight the grammar and composition rules that are habitually included by the test writers.  Use my free website, watch the Video 900 Series, and/or review the Writing Test chapter of my student workbook Demystifying the SAT & ACT.   Second, get your hands on a grammar and composition book or program.  Maybe you are using one in your English class.  If you’re not, I refer you to some good resources in my materials.  The one that most of my students use and provide positive feedback on is

Raising your score on this part of the test takes a long term commitment because there’s a lot of learning to do if this is a weak area.  You will find it different from the math review because you systematically have been taught the math at some point and you just need to review it.  For many, many students, the grammar has not been taught in any structured way.  It has been infused into their English classes in a “hit and miss” way.  Unfortunately, my observation would be that it mostly has been “miss.”  Many of you have a lot of work to do and you will have to be self-disciplined and committed to putting in time.  If you have any questions about this part of the test as you progress, please let me know.

I wonder if the ACT folks have something new for us this morning.

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

Well, a new question at last!  At least I don’t remember seeing it in the 18 months I’ve been doing my QotD blog.

The answer is C.  You sure could do it the way the ACT test writers explain it and that is likely the easiest (but maybe not the quickest) way for most students to do it.

I approached it by using the answers and it just took a few seconds.  Looking at the answers, I saw a “2” in three of them which made it pretty obvious that I could factor a 2 out of the numerator which eliminated answers A and B.  Then I saw that there was an “x + 4” in the denominator which eliminated any answer with an “x + 4” in it leaving me with Answer C.  Then I quickly checked my work by seeing if 2(x +3)(x + 4) equaled the original numerator.  Yes, it does.  All done.

This question points out a big difference between the SAT and ACT math tests.  The SAT math sections are primarily word problems and questions that involve simple calculations like this one are pretty unusual.  In contrast, the ACT has a number of questions that simply require calculations and don’t require translating a word problem into a math equation in order to answer it.  This difference leads students to think that the ACT is easier.  You have to remember that even if it is easier, it is easier for everyone and the test is scored on a curve.  That means that if it is easier for everyone then you still have to outperform the other students to get a higher  score!  However, to get an average score on either test, you need to get about 55% of the questions correct.  So, I ask you, is the ACT really easier?  I don’t think so.

Do you remember the children’s story about the tortoise and the hare?  The moral of that story applies to getting ready for  taking these tests.  It is not a sprint; it is a long distance race that is won with a slow and steady pace.  Consider your target score, plan your schedule and follow your plan.  Do a little bit each day.  Include a few sessions each week that are longer and focused on your weaknesses.  Celebrate your gains.  Relish your mistakes and use them to guide your studies.  Let me know if I can help.  I will respond to your emails.

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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