Feb 23 ACT & SAT Question of the Day

http://sat.collegeboard.org/practice/sat-question-of-the-day?src=R&questionId=20130223 (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.  As usual, the SAT staff do a fine job of explaining the grammar related to the problem with this sentence and how to fix it.  So, let’s take a look at what you can learn about the test from this question.

There is certainly a group of common grammar and composition mistakes that show up on the test frequently and you need to get your hands on a copy of it.  I include it in all my materials: live class, DVD set, and online course.  There are other sources as well.  Among all the other errors, you’ll see that subject-verb agreement is a favorite.  Of course, you’ve been taught this issue since you were young which makes the issue how do the SAT folks make it a difficult question.  It’s simple.  The SAT test writer puts the subject and verb (predicate) a long ways away from each other.  Look how far “All” and “was” (that you have to change to “were” are away from each other.  Then they complicate the question by putting lots of other nouns in between.

How do you avoid falling for this trap?  Whenever you see a verb/predicate underlined, be sure to find the proper subject.  In this case, when you saw “was” underlined, you needed to go back and find the noun/subject that went with it.  “All” is plural; so, you had to change “was” to “were.”  The grammar isn’t what makes the question hard; it is the structure of the sentence.  Be forewarned and cautious.

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.  This is standard stuff.  The geometry is simple as long as you remember what you were taught in basic geometry about the angles related to triangles.  First, you learned that there are 180 degrees in a triangle.  That is basic but not important to this question.  Second, somewhere along the line somebody taught you about “exterior” angles.  AXZ is one of those: it is an angle on the outside (or exterior) of the triangle that is created by extending one of the triangle’s sides.  AXZ has to be equal to the sum of XYZ plus XZY.  Why?  AXZ plus YXZ make a straight line which has to be 180 degrees.  YXZ plus the “two opposite interior angles” inside the triangle also make 180 degrees.  In both cases, when you subtract YXZ from 180, you have to get the same amount.  You can see it is 130 degrees based on the diagram.  Finally, subtracting 45 from the 130 leaves you with 85 degrees, Answer H.

I went into this long explanation for those of you who haven’t learned this principle in school.  I would have thought all of you had learned it until this past week.  One of my students, M, came from another country where they don’t teach geometry basics (like how to calculate the area of a square) until high school.  When she moved to the USA after eighth grade, she had missed all the foundation for her geometry course and was lost.  That situation complicated this whole issue for both her and her teacher.   (Hey M, take a look at DVD #7 for more help with geometry!)

I tell this little anecdote so that everyone can learn from M’s experience.  You need to make sure you have the right foundation for the material on both the SAT and ACT.  Today’s questions are perfect examples.  For the SAT question, there is some foundational grammar you need.  For the ACT question, there is some foundational math.  To be successful on these tests, you need to be aware of what the basic math, grammar, reading, and science (ACT only) knowledge and skills you will need on test day are.  Get the list either on my website or someplace else.  Be prepared.

Enjoy your weekend.

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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