Mar 20 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.  Whenever you have an equation with a radical sign in it, your first step has to be to get rid of the radical.  Most frequently on the SAT, you will get a radical on one side of the equation but not the other side.  You still need to square both sides of the equation.  From that point on, it will be “business as usual.”  Just solve the equation once you get rid of the radical(s).

This question is easy since to square both sides of the equation, you simply remove (erase) the radicals which squares both sides.  Then you have x-a = x+b.  Getting the x‘s on one side of the equation and a and b on the other side leaves you with answer C.

So you see a situation that’s a little different, let’s do a very simple question with a radical only on one side: √x =4.  Then you have to do a little more work because you have to do more than just erase the radicals!  Squaring the left side of the equation (simply erasing the radical sign) leaves you with x on that side.  Now you have to square the right side.  4 squared is 16.  So, the solution of the equation is x = 16.

My “Words of Wiz-dom” for today are to always get rid of radicals in an equation as the first step in solving the equation.  Sometimes you have to remove radicals from both sides of the equation (like today).  More frequently you have to remove the radical from one side (simply erase it because that squares the quantity under the radical) and then square the other side.  Using this strategy will make a more successful test day.

I wonder what the ACT folks have up their sleeves this morning. (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 lines around cumbrous, “If he rounded up the requisite number of compurgators and the cumbrous swearing in very exact form proceeded without a mistake,” gives us all the clues we need.  Use the Wizardly strategy of inserting or substituting the answers for the word in question, cumbrous, and read the sentence.  Which one works well as a synonym in the context of the words surrounding it?  You can see that there is a “requisite” (or requirednumber of compurgators and there is an exact form which has to proceed “without a mistake.”  None of the answers other than burdensome (answer J) have a sense of details (exact forms) and requirements (without a mistake); those are burdens.

This question reminds me of an important thing for you to understand about a difference between the ACT and SAT.  The “vocabulary in context” questions on the ACT are designed, as is this one, to see if you can figure out the definition of an unusual word based on context.  (I doubt many students would have known the definition of cumbrous prior to seeing it today.)  The SAT usually picks words that are common in the English language that have lots of synonyms, for example, instrument.  Unlike cumbrous, instrument isn’t an unusual word; it just has lots of definitions.  (There are five definitions in  The SAT will use the wrong synonyms as distractors (wrong answers).

You must not be trapped by the structure of the SAT vocabulary in context questions.  Consider the word instrument?  Be sure that you don’t simply pick the most common definition of instrument from among the answer choices.  You have to go back to the passage and figure out what the context clues are so that you pick the right synonym.  It will almost always be a less common definition.  For example, did you think of an “instrument of a government agency” who is an employee?  Did you consider a measuring instrument like the speedometer on your car?  I imagine you didn’t.  Always use the context to figure out which of the synonyms is the right answer.  It is rarely going to be the most common definition.

Take advantage of your day.  You’ll only get one opportunity to make it a winner.

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.
Category: SAT & ACT Question Of The Day No Comments

Comments are closed.