Question of the Day (SAT & ACT): Oct. 23, 2013

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The answer is D.  Always start by focusing on the topic of the sentence.  Ask yourself, “What does the topic of the sentence tell me about the subject of the sentence?” For example, in this sentence, it is criticism.  You can see that the criticism has been “at the two extremes;” so, you can predict there hasn’t been any “middle of the road” or “moderate” criticism.  Then the last phrase tells us that some has been “antagonistic” (which is negative).  That means you can predict a word that is “appallingly positive.”  Now let’s look at the answers.

When there are two blanks, always start with your prediction that you think is better.  I think “middle of the road” or “moderate,” meaning there has been little criticism that has been one of the two extremes, is better.  Looking at the first words in each answer, I can eliminate A, B, and C but I have to keep D and E because they both mean avoiding extremes.  That saves time because now I don’t need to even worry about what the second words are for A, B, and C.  Looking at the second word for D and E, I happen to know that sycophantic means to be overly positive (even so extremely positive or sweet as to be considered negative!  When I see sycophantic I think of syrup.).  What would you do if you didn’t know sycophantic?  Look at answer E, censorious.  You could see the stem censor and should know that means to criticize in a negative way.  That leaves answer D.

Had you started with the second blank instead of the first, you could have eliminated all the answers except C and D.  Then you would have to pick between fervent and objective.  The point is when there are two blanks, you should eliminate as many answers as possible using one of the words so that you can save time.  You won’t have to bother looking at the other word for those answers.

Here’s a tip or trick that students like.  Sometimes you will have trouble figuring out the sentence.  Notice what happens with the answers.  For this question, there are two synonyms in each column of answers (in other questions there may be none or three): objective and temperate is one pair and complimentary and sycophantic is the other.  The right answer is going to be the answer in which you find two words that are part of the synonym pairs.  In this case, answer D has a synonym from each of the pairs: objective and sycophantic.

Keep in mind this technique is for questions with two blanks.  If the question has only one blank, eliminate any answers that share synonyms–if they are synonyms they would both be right and you can’t have two right answers!

Use this strategy when you are struggling with the sentence or you have trouble with the meaning of the words in the answers.  For example, you may have known that objective and temperate mean about the same thing but you didn’t know sycophantic.  You could have guessed between D and E because they are synonyms–a 50/50 chance of being right.  That’s well worth a guess because you’ve eliminated three answers and you only need to eliminate one to turn the guessing penalty into a guessing reward!

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

ACT Question of the Day: Use your “back” button to return to my website after reading the ACT Question of the Day.

The answer is F.  I’m sure tired of seeing this question!  Because the shadow points in some version of a westerly direction the sun has to be coming up somewhere in the east.  However, it must change from one season to another because the shadow goes from SW to NW to W.

Use PICK (Video #3) to answer the Science Test questions.  If you insert G or H, you will be adding to the data because the shadows are only in the morning and the answers say “never” and you don’t know what happens at other times of the day. (In addition, absolute answers that use “never” or “always” are good ones to avoid unless you are absolutely sure you are right.)  J also adds because there isn’t any information in the table about brightness.  Whenever answers add to the passage, they are wrong.  (In over 20 years, I’ve only seen two answers that added to the passage that were correct.  Sometimes, but very rarely, the test writers require you to have prior knowledge that isn’t in the passage to answer a question.  I consider 2 questions out of the hundreds I’ve seen to be rare.  Do you?)

Do something nice for someone today.  It will brighten yours!

The SAT & ACT 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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