Jan 13 ACT and SAT Question of the Day

http://sat.collegeboard.org/practice/sat-question-of-the-day?src=R&questionId=20130113 (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. However in my first few blogs, I didn’t use a date in my link and you won’t get the proper question. Sorry.)

The answer is B.  You could certainly do it the “math teacher” way and the SAT folks give you that explanation.  Let’s use the question to practice another way–plugging in the answers.

First, how do you recognize questions that lend themselves to this technique?  When a question asks “how much is…,” “solve for y…,” “what is the value of…,” etc., you can use the answers.   In other words, you know you have to come up with a specific number.  One of the answers has to be that specific number.

Second, always start with answer C.  You do that because the answers are going to be arranged in ascending or descending order and when C is correct, that’s just great.  When C is not correct, you usually know the answer has to be either larger or smaller and you’ve eliminated three answers for the effort of trying one!  When C doesn’t work, you only have to try one more answer.  So, for example, if you have to try a larger answer, once you know whether that answer is correct or not, you either have found the right answer or you know the one remaining answer has to be right.  In this second case, it is a simple matter of checking the last answer to make sure you haven’t made a simple math mistake.

Let’s try it.  For this question, if you plug in answer C, 1, you know that the first train has gone 60 miles in 1 hour and the second train has only gone 30 miles–not far enough.  You have to try a larger answer.  Trying 2 (answer B), the second train has gone 60 miles in two hours and the first train has gone 60 miles.  The answer is B.

Another, probably quicker way to do this question, is to just think your way to the answer.  If the second train in going half as fast, it has to travel twice as much time.  While the first train travels 1 hour, the second train has to travel 2–answer B.

Either way is fine.  Always remember on the SAT and ACT there will almost always be more than one way to do the problems.  There is no single “right” or “best” way.  That is why practice is so important.  You should learn to recognize what is the “best” way for you to do certain kinds of problems.  Many times that way isn’t the “math teacher” way.  Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.  Just practice so that you hone your math skills and pick up your speed.

Let’s see what the ACT folks have in store for us today.

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.)

I think the ACT folks like to pester me.  Here’s another example of my pet peeve about the ACT that sets me off into my constant rant about the ACT English Test “directions.”

If you have been reading my explanations for a while, you could skip this paragraph because you know what I’m going to say now and continue reading with the next paragraph.  If you are relatively new, keep reading.  The ACT test writers tell you in their “Directions” to “Read each passage through once before you begin to answer the questions…”  That statement is NOT directions; it is advice and it is terrible advice.  I keep pointing out whenever they have a grammar Question of the Day, like today’s question, that you don’t need to do that.  If you do, you are wasting your time on a section of the test that many students can’t finish on time.  Yes, once in a while, you may need to read one or two sentences surrounding underlined material to answer the question.  On rare occasion, you even need to read a paragraph.  However, it will be obvious when you need to do that.  But I’ve never seen a case in over 20 years of doing this that it was efficient to read a whole passage before answering any of the questions.  Shame on the ACT folks for deceiving you.  They need to fix their “directions.”

This is a perfect example of why I complain about their “directions.”  Did you have to read the whole passage to answer this question?  Of course you didn’t.  You could fix this sentence in isolation of the rest of the passage.  The answer is J.  “They’re” is a contraction for “They are.”  The sentence is about a location where she worked with one of her instructors.  The word “there” refers to a situation, place or location.  No problem.

While I’m thinking about it, don’t forget the related common problem of of confusing “their” with “they’re” and/or “there.”  “Their” is the plural, possessive pronoun.  Not that this issue is especially difficult grammar but it is a common issue on the ACT and SAT.  I’d suggest you find a list of common mistakes for grammar and composition that show up on the tests and familiarize yourself with them.  I have one in my course.  I rather imagine there (not “their or “they’re”!) are others.

I hope my SAT and ACT Question of the Day strategies and explanations are helpful and, if so, spread the word. Tell your social media friends.

If you are taking the January SAT, time is running short. I recommend you watch my online Tips and Tricks videos to help you prepare. It only costs $3 to watch an hour of my best test-taking techniques for taking the SAT and ACT tests.

A special reminder to my Kissimmee students: Be sure to remind your friends about our upcoming class on the 19th. Do your assignment and email me so I know you’ll be attending.

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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