Question of the Day: September 4, 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.  Even using a calculator doesn’t help with this question!!  Over 10,000 students have done this question already and less than half are getting this “simple” subtraction question correct.  OMG!  They all fell for one of the common tricks, traps, or silly mistakes (whatever you want to call it) that shows up regularly on the test.  It comes in many forms, this is just one of them.  The same question could be asked, “Kobe Bryant has played professional basketball from 1996 through 2013.  How many years has he played?”  Did you subtract 1996 from 2013 and get 17?  Oops.  That’s the same mistake as the number of customers.  Here’s another one: “The Wizard printed pages 74 through 105 from his book “Demystifying the SAT and ACT” for his student.  How many pages did he print?”  Did you get 31?  Still the same mistake.  What is it?

In all these cases, you have to remember that the first number: 149, or 1996 or 74 is the first number in the range.  When you subtract it from the last number, you’ve treated the first number as if it wasn’t part of the range, that is, the last number before the range began.  Let’s do a really simple one.  If I had printed pages 74 through 75, you know without thinking much that I printed two pages.  BUT if you subtract, you get an answer of 1!  The same is true of the customers in the SAT Question of the Day.  What if they had served customers 149 and 150?  You know it is 2 but subtraction only gives you 1.  That’s because customer 148 wasn’t served and 149 was.  You need to subtract the number of the customer that wasn’t served from the last one that was served.  The same with Kobe’s career or the number of pages printed.  Of course, you could also subtract the first and last numbers and then add 1 to the difference.  Same thing.

Here are my “Words of Wizardly Wiz-dom:” when you see these questions that involve subtraction of numbers within a range.  Take the first number and subtract it from what would be the second number (customer 149 from 150) and check it out.  You know subtraction gives you one too few customers.  Now simply apply the same technique to their question 201-149 gives you 52 but you know to add 1.  The answer is 53.  Shazaam!  All done and it only took seconds.

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.)

I’m tired of this question.  How about you?  The ACT folks need to get some new material.  I’ve been doing this blog since last fall and I’ve seen Mrs. Sennett worrying about how much noise the kids are making at least 3 or 4 times!!  Are you listening, ACT Test Writer?  How hard is it to “copy and paste” a different passage into your website??  Anyway…

The answer is still A.  Simply use my “Add?” strategy.  Answers B, C, and D all add something new to the story and, therefore, have to be wrong!  B-no mention of “literary figures.”  C-no sense she is having trouble with “supervising” the children.  D-is bothered by the noise (she’s deaf).  That leaves A.  How easy is that?  Pretty simple.

This technique is very “Wizardly” and is fully explained on Video #3.  If you are trying to improve your Reading score for either test, it is worth taking a look.  Then just practice it.  Char did and her score for the SAT Reading test went from 670 to 800!

Can it really be  “hump day” when Wednesday is part of a 4-day school week?  Is the glass half-empty or half-full?  I ask these questions because you need to focus on the positive.  Focus on what you’ve accomplished and use it as the foundation for moving forward.  Focusing on your failures is too demoralizing.  Build on your base–your successes.  You can improve your scores.  Use your right answers and this blog to boost your confidence.

Enjoy your day.



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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