Question of the Day: August 29, 2013

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.)

Let’s start with the SAT Question of the Day.

The answer is B: 72.  As usual, the test writers provide a good explanation for how to set it up and do it the “math teacher way.”  There’s nothing wrong with that except it often takes longer to get the right answer.  I like the fact that their explanation goes on to warn you about something very important: be sure your fractions on each side of the equals sign are the same units.  In this case, they put registered miles/actual miles.  Just be sure the fractions on each side of the equation are set up the same.

I took a different approach on this question and got the answer in far less time than doing all the math that is explained by the test writers.  One of my favorite math principles is, “The world of math is a world of patterns.”  So, they tell you 2 miles on the odometer means 3 miles driven.  That would mean 4 miles on the odometer would be 6 miles driven.  Look at the pattern.  The number of miles actually driven is the number of miles on the odometer plus 1/2 (or 50%) more.  Half of 48 is 24.  Adding 48 and 24 together gave me 72.

You may have seen that the actual miles were 50% more.  That would be 1.5 times the miles on the odometer.  1.5 times 48 is 72.

What you can learn from this little exercise is that there are usually multiple ways to do SAT (and ACT) math questions.  There is no single “right” way to do a question.  However, there is a “best” way for you to do the question.  You need to do a lot of practice questions to figure out what the “best” ways are for you.  For example, maybe you saw the question as a proportion and did it the SAT test writer way.  Maybe you saw the answer was going to be half again as big as the odometer mileage as I did.  Perhaps you saw the answer would be 150% larger and simply multiplied 1.5 times 48.  Which one got you the right answer in the shortest amount of time?  That’s the best way for you.

You cannot make this judgment on test day!  You need to get your hands on The Official SAT Study Guide and get to work doing practice questions.  You will soon discover how you should be doing questions so that you get as many done as possible with accurate answers as quickly as possible.

I wonder what the ACT folks have in store for us today. (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, their archive is helpful. The ACT folks simply don’t do that.)

The answer is J.  The next two sentences tell us that the broadcasters were completely out of control.  So, we needed a conjunction that indicated the Radio Division was giving them licenses but it didn’t regulate them.  That is why chaos reigned.

What you can learn from this sentence is that on the ACT the grammar sometimes needs to be edited based on  logic rather than simply compositional rules.  You needed a conjunction that made sense based on the next few lines.

You will see my blog rants on occasion about the ACT English Test “directions.”  We may as well get the school year started with the issue that flabbergasts me: why do the ACT test writers include test taking advice in the “directions” and give you bad advice at that?  Look at the directions in a practice test and you’ll see they tell you to read the entire passage and then come back and do the questions. No, no, no!  Dumb, dumb, dumb!  I’ve never seen a case when that was necessary and I’ve been doing this since 1991.  It  wastes an enormous amount of time.  Just start answering the questions by reading the appropriate parts of the passage  as you go along.  Once in a while, you’ll need to use a nearby sentence or two to figure out the right answer.  But that will be obvious when you get to one of them.  Please don’t fall for their terrible advice, even though they call it “directions.”

If you read my blog yesterday in which I told you to read my whole blog even though you got the right answer to the question, that advice may make more sense now.  Even though you may have gotten both of today’s questions correct, I always try to spread a few “Words of Wiz-dom” about taking the test based on the question.  The major value of doing the Question of the Day is not in doing this particular question and trying to get it correct.  The real value of this exercise is to see what we can learn about our opponents, the test writers.  You should do these questions so that you will learn something about the nature of the test that will help you do the questions you’ll be seeing on test day.  That is what will raise your scores, not getting these questions correct!!

I hope this helps.  Send me an email and let me know.  If you have any specific questions about the tests, raise those as well and I’ll address them in my general blog about the SAT and ACT tests.

Thank your teachers for being there for you!

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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