# Question of the Day (SAT & ACT): Dec. 3, 2013

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http://sat.collegeboard.org/practice/sat-question-of-the-day?questionId=20131203&oq=1 (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 D.  My immediate reaction was to do this question the “math teacher way.”  Starting with n students and 6 are seniors, then by subtracting n-6 I know that is how many are not seniors.  Then I have to add 7 juniors (not seniors) to n-6+7=n+1; so, I’m all done.

There’s another strategy that I recommend to do this kind of question that works really well and so I used it to make sure I didn’t make a mistake.  (It’s early and I was up late watching Monday Night Football and working on my SAT/ACT program which means I needed to check my work–and so should you!)  I call the technique a number of things: “change the algebra to arithmetic,” “convert the abstract to the concrete,” and “change the variables to numbers.”  No matter what I call it, the strategy amounts to doing the same thing.   When the test writers don’t give me numbers, I just make one up that follows the test writer’s rules.  They told me there are n students in the class.  I started with n=10 and got rid of n.  I then substituted 10 everyplace I saw n.  I started with 10, subtracted 6 to get 4 students and then added the 7 juniors which resulted in 11 students who are not seniors.  Since n=10, I substituted 10 in all the answers for n and the only one that gave me 11 was D.  That confirmed my original algebra calculation.

There are a lot of questions on the SAT (and ACT) that don’t give you numbers and have you start with a variable (or abstract) amount.  In this case it was n.  Oftentimes, it is easier to start with a real number and do arithmetic rather than algebra or be stumped by the question.  Go through a practice test and you’ll see what I mean.

Let’s see what the ACT folks have for us this morning.