Feb 17 ACT & SAT Question of the Day

http://sat.collegeboard.org/practice/sat-question-of-the-day?src=R&questionId=20130217 (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.  Lots of students are missing this one.  That’s because there are a couple of issues that are cursorily explained by the SAT people.  First, neither is singular so you need a singular verb.  Either is a similar word which also requires a singular verb.  The other common mistake that you’ll see with neither and either is that you need to make sure that their respective  “partners” nor and or aren’t required and missing.  For example, “Neither Edward V nor Edward VIII was crowned in Westminster Abbey.”

The second issue in this question is “of them”  vs. “of whom.”  When you change “were” to “was,” there is only one answer that works anyway , Answer C.  What if another answer had been “neither of them was?”  Leaving it as “them” would have kept it as an independent clause and required a semicolon.  They didn’t underline the comma; so, you had to accept it as accurate which means you cannot have an independent clause after the comma and you need a dependent clause.  The pronouns who and whom signal a dependent relative clause and the use of the comma is what makes whom rather than them correct.  Maybe they didn’t include this alternative wrong answer because they didn’t want to split that hair on the weekend!

Finally, just to quibble with the sense of the sentence, I think the ending of the sentence should be, “neither of whom was ever crowned  The problem is that the first part of the sentence is about where coronations take place and the second is about the fact that neither was ever crowned, not where.  You may be wondering why I make this point.  Well, it’s because if your SAT and/or ACT essay lacks clarity then you are going to lose points.  Don’t be ambiguous.

Let’s take a look at the ACT question.

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 H.  The ACT folks need to get some new material!!  This question has appeared before.  Their explanation is fine but there is a caution that comes to mind about the test: be sure to use the right figure, chart, or graph.  In this particular case, it’s pretty hard to make that mistake due to the labels for the graphs.  However, for other passages I’ve seen, you have to be very careful.  It is pretty easy to look at the wrong figures when you are in a rush.

Finally, be sure you don’t get stressed by concerns that the science topics will not be ones you’ve learned in school.  They always tell you all the science you need.  (I’ve seen two exceptions to that statement in over twenty years of reviewing ACT tests.)  You need to practice reading charts and graphs as well as understanding how scientists conduct experiments.  Those are the scientific issues that are measured by the test.  The big challenge of the ACT Science test is time limitation–you must go quickly.  Many students run out of time; so, be sure to practice your speed.

This has been a banner week for website registrations.  Thanks for spreading the word.  “Welcome” to all my new students from all corners of the US and a few spots in the rest of the world.  I hope my blog pays off on test day.  I’m betting it will!

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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