Feb 11 ACT & SAT Question of the Day

http://sat.collegeboard.org/practice/sat-question-of-the-day?src=R&questionId=20130211 (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 E.  Whenever you see a phrase at the beginning of a sentence that serves as an adjective that describes or modifies a noun, sometimes referred to as an “introductory phrase,” be sure that the noun that is modified is appropriate for the phrase.  This is a perfect example, Barbara Jordan’s “election” hadn’t served two terms in the House of Representatives; it was Barbara Jordan herself.  So, she needs to be the noun that is modified and the subject of the sentence.  D and E both do that.

The SAT folks fail to tell you why D is wrong since it solves the problem they created and is consistent with their explanation!  So, why is it wrong?  The problem is D uses the wrong verb.  You may wonder why.  “Had been” is the “past participle continuous.”  (That’s an awfully complicated term for so early in the morning!)  In this example, it means that she had been elected to the House before another event: “After serving two terms in the Texas…”  Not so, she was elected to the House after serving two terms in Texas.  The phrase “had been” puts the events in the wrong order.  The SAT folks needed another cup of coffee before they finished their explanation.

I am picking on the test writers only to point out that nobody is perfect.  (Heck, I even bet if you went through my blogs, you’d find I’m not perfect either!) In addition, English is a very complicated language and I’m constantly amazed that so many people speak it properly.  I don’t speak another language but I can’t imagine any of them being more difficult when it comes to verb usage.  You need to tune up your verb skills and be on the watch for how the test writers misuse them in the SAT Writing and ACT English tests.  Check out my list of mistakes on the website and DVD set.  There are other lists as well.  Just do yourself a favor and review a list.

I wonder what the ACT test writers have prepared for us to start off the week.

http://www.act.org/qotd/ (The ACT staff does not put a date on their questions so if you click on an archived blog, you’ll get today’s question and the old explanation. Sorry. The SAT staff has dated their questions; so, the archive is helpful. The ACT folks simply don’t do that.)

The answer is J.  Sometimes the ACT math folks are so kind.  They give you a math question that isn’t a word problem.  Good luck on that score with the SAT test where practically everything is a word problem.  It’ll be a snowy day in Miami when you see an SAT question this easy to understand on the SAT.  Now, take a look at the math mechanics that is provided by the ACT explanation.  It does a fine job of keeping your math teacher happy.  I have additional important things to tell you!

First, on both the SAT and ACT whenever you see a negative exponent, start by making  it positive by putting it in the denominator.  (GHS students, do you remember me saying that on Thursday?)  It doesn’t matter whether the question is as straightforward as this or involves a negative exponent for a variable.  For example, if you are given x-5, then make it 1/x5.  Doing so will help you avoid simple math errors related to the sign (positive or negative).

Second, let’s imagine for a second you weren’t sure how to do this math.  My “common elements” strategy will help.  Answers F, G, and K really look different than any of the other answers.  H and J look pretty similar; be attracted to them.  (If you had to make a guess for this question, one of them would be better than a random guess.)  The only difference is the number of zeros which makes the problem place value.  Since there is an exponent of -4 to deal with, the issue is do you need 4 zeros or 4 places to the right of the decimal.  Go 4 places to the right of the decimal when you have a negative exponent of 4 to get to and include the number 3.  (I think that is easier than doing the math described by the ACT folks and it sure is quicker.)  Simple enough.  Circle J in the test book, bubble it in, and move on.

I know that there are some teachers who use my blog in their classrooms. Maybe there are even some more that I don’t know about. Would you all please send me emails about how you use it? I’ll write a blog about how teachers are using my blog and spread the word to others.

Students who have teachers who are using my blog, please let me know how they are using my website as well.

Thanks to all of you who let me know how much help my daily blog is. Spread the word.

The 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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