Mar 19 ACT & SAT Question of the Day

If you are reading this in an email you received from me, do not click the link to below. Use the link to my website that is farther down on the email.  If you are seeing this in my blog, do the SAT Question of the Day by clicking on this link: (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.  The SAT staff’s explanation isn’t so helpful this morning.  Did you notice that if you followed what they have to say, you could get either answer C or D?  In fact, they tell you that you need to place the subject of the sentence, Willem de Kooning, “directly after the modifying phrase.”  Doing so, gives you answer D and that is a wrong answer!  Oops.   So, why is C correct?  Let’s take a closer look at the problem with the original sentence.

The SAT staff explanation is half right; you need to get the subject of the sentence closer to the introductory modifying phrase.  However, that leaves you with two possible answers (C and D) and you have to have a reason for choosing between them.  Why is C better?  Answer D doesn’t have a predicate (or verb) that goes with the subject Willem de Kooning!  You could easily fall for their trap (one of many they use on the test) and think the verbs in answer D go with Kooning.  They don’t.  They go with “American artist” which isn’t the subject of the sentence; it’s part of an appositive phrase that tells you who de Kooning was.  That leaves the true subject of the sentence without any predicate at all.

How did I avoid falling for this trap?  I saw that there was a comma after de Kooning which began a phrase in answer D.  When that phrase ended the sentence with a period rather than another comma, that meant the true subject of the sentence (Willem de Kooning) was left without a predicate.  That is a violation of a very simple composition rule you learned in elementary school: every subject in a sentence needs a predicate.  Answer D violates that standard.  That’s why C is the best answer.

Let’s take a look at the ACT Question of the Day. (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.  The math is simple IF you know the math rule that drives the question: sin x has to be less than or equal to 1, making the greatest possible value of sin x equal to 1.  The question asks for the “maximum value” of 4 times sin x or 1 which gives us 4, answer J.  The math is really simple when you know the rule.  It is just a matter of turning the math crank and multiplying 4 times 1.

What can we learn about the ACT from this question?  (Remember my previous blogs that explain it isn’t answering this particular question that is important because it will never be on the test.  The value of doing the ACT and SAT Questions of the Day is to see what we can learn about the tests.)  There are a lot of math questions on the ACT that require you to have memorized some math rules and simply apply them by turning the math crank.  Today’s question is a perfect example.  That’s not so true on the SAT which is primarily a reasoning test with mostly word problems and relatively few “turn the crank” questions.

This difference leads many students to think the ACT is easier than the SAT.  That may be so but it doesn’t make it easier to get a higher score!  That’s because your score is based on how you performed compared to other students.  If the ACT is easier for you, it is probably easier for most other students as well.  That means most everyone gets a higher percentage of the questions correct; so, being “easier” doesn’t help anybody!

Here’s some interesting facts related to this important issue.  During the last 22 years, I’ve noticed a pattern when I compared students’ ACT and SAT scores which has been supported by a study conducted in a large school district.  About 2/3 of students get approximately equivalent scores on the ACT and SAT.  About 1/6 get a better ACT score and about 1/6 get a better SAT score.  However, there’s no way to predict which group you are in.  You need to try both tests to see if you have an advantage taking one rather than the other.  Based on the data and my experience, you probably don’t.

Finally, it is easier to raise an SAT score than an ACT score.  (That will be explained in a future blog.)  That is why I recommend if your scores are about equal, you should focus your attention on improving your SAT score.

Best of luck to all my students who are taking the special administration of the ACT at their schools today.  Keep in mind the special strategies we discussed in class.

Tune in tomorrow for more “Words of Wiz-dom” about the SATs and ACTs.

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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