Jan 15 ACT & SAT Question of the Day

http://sat.collegeboard.org/practice/sat-question-of-the-day?src=R&questionId=20130115 (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.  This is an example of the first error I discuss in the grammar section of my SAT and ACT program: subject-predicate (or subject-verb) agreement.  Of course, their explanation is right on.  However, they obviously don’t warn you about what they do that causes so many students to miss this kind of question.

What’s the trap or trick they use that has caused over 60% of the visitors so far today to miss this question?  They put phrases and clauses between the subject and predicate that have nouns in them that are different from the subject.  In this case, they put two prepositional phrases with plural objects (books and languages) between the subject, number, and the predicate, are growing.  That causes somebody in a hurry on the test to make a simple mistake.  Here’s the deal–whenever you see a verb underlined on either the SAT or ACT, be careful to go back a be sure to find the subject and avoid other nouns that are in intervening phrases and clauses.  There’s a complete list of similar issues in my course.

A related issue is “collective nouns.”  Maybe some students are missing this question since they think number is plural since it refers to more than one book.  It isn’t.  Words like army, team, group, etc. are individual entities that are singular even though they refer to more than one item collectively.  It is one army, one team, and one group!  Therefore, use a singular verb.

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.)

The answer is D.  A major difference between the SAT and the ACT is that the SAT test writer gives you line references in his questions much more frequently than the ACT test writer does.  The hard part of this question is just finding the right place in the passage where the information is that answers the question.  In this case, it is way at the end of the passage in the last paragraph.  That leads to the biggest complaint my students have about the ACT: they frequently run out of time.

How do you speed up your reading?  My course deals with that in detail but here’s a synopsis:  use the topic sentences of the paragraphs.  Look at the topic sentences of this passage.  They each preview what is in the paragraph that follows them.  Paragraphs 1-4 either introduce the main idea (paragraph #1) or describe a particular form of trial (paragraphs #2-#4).  Only the topic sentence of the last paragraph addresses all three forms of trial; the others are about individual forms.  (The question is about all forms of trial; so, this is where you need to look.)  That tells you the answer is going to be in that paragraph.  Of course, I want you to learn to use this strategy (and many others) when you first read the passage and not wait until you need it to answer a question.  However, as Grandmother used to say, “Better late than never.”

I hope my SAT and ACT Question of the Day strategies and explanations are helpful and, if so, spread the word. Tell your friends at school and 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. In addition to the free ones on the home page, 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 Osceola County students: Be sure to remind your friends about our upcoming class on this Saturday. 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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