Question of the Day: September 3, 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.)

The answer is C.  Based on the the number of students who are getting this question right today, it isn’t a very hard question.  The difference between using who, which, or that as a relative pronoun isn’t tough but you better be looking for it.  This is a concept that shows up on the test.  As you prepare for the test, you should learn which grammar topics show up on the test!  There are some that show up much more than others.

When you are taking the test and you run into the multiple-choice grammar sections of the test (“Writing” for the SAT and “English” for the ACT), you are going to need to identify and fix grammar mistakes.  In effect, you’ll have some “editing,” not “writing,” to do.  So, when you look at a sentence like this one, you should have your radar tuned into the kinds of mistakes that show up on the test frequently.  That’s why I put a list in my materials.  For example, my students know to look out for the words who/which/that (relative pronouns) because they are tested frequently.  In this sentence, another phrase that should be inspected carefully is “had them published” (Answer D).  Verb form and tense is also a test writer favorite.

Check out Video #3 and the corresponding chapter in Demystifying the SAT and ACT for the list.  There may be other lists on the Internet that are worth a look.  Let me know what you find that is helpful.

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 B.  The ACT folks are being pretty gentle this morning.  This isn’t a very hard question but it does serve to tell us some things about the ACT (and SAT) tests.  By the way, that’s why you do the Question of the Day: not to see if you can get this one right because it will not be on the test but rather use the questions to see what you can learn about the test.  For example, the SAT question today reminds us to get a copy of the grammar mistake list and be alert for common errors.  This question reminds us 1) there is a math vocabulary that is required by the test, tangent just being one of the words.  Integer, prime, factor, odd/even, positive/negative, etc. are others.  Yes, you think you know them but do you know, for example, is 0 (zero) positive, negative, or neither?  Is 0 (zero) even, odd, or neither?  Don’t forget if the test writer tells you x is an integer, most students will think of only positive ones.  Make no assumptions.  It could be negative unless you see “x>0″ in the question.  What is the smallest prime number?

What can you learn from the SAT and ACT Questions of the day?  It’s simple: there’s going to be a finite number of concepts that show up on the tests in reading and math.  Learn what they are and be on alert for them on test day.

Back to the ACT question.  The key to circle questions is the radius!  Remember that.  This question isn’t very hard because the test writer tells you the center of the circle and tells you the circumference is four units from the x-axis, “tangent to the x-axis.”  That’s why they gave you the coordinates for the center of the circle.   If you quickly drew a diagram, it was probably easier to see and you’d get it right away.  Wizardly clue–draw diagrams when they don’t give you one.

Needless to say, there’s lots to learn about the test, not just the knowledge base, but learning how the test writers think is incredibly important.  Your test prep should focus on that.  The tests are very much about how to think about what you know, not just what you know.  Practice will be critical.

Oh yeah, 0(zer0) in neither positive nor negative BUT it is even!  Did you get that right?  2 is smallest prime number.  1 is NOT prime!  How long ago did you learn that?  A long time and you haven’t had to use that fact for a while.  That’s why you have to get your hands on a list of concepts that show up on the test.

Have a great day and welcome back to school.



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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