SAT & ACT Question of the Day: Jan. 11, 2014

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. (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 B.

The key to Sentence Completion Questions is always to identify the topic of the sentence and then predict a word for each of the blanks before looking at the answers.  That is because the sentences will sound like topic sentences for paragraphs and the right answer will always sound like a word that belongs in the paragraph.

For example, in this case the subject of the sentence is Gordon Parks and we are told that he is multitalented: “he not only directed the film and composed its musical score, but also adapted its screenplay from his own novel.”  That’s the topic: the guy was able to do everything.  We need to predict a word for the blank that is consistent with “having lots of different talents.”  How about predicting “diverse” or “versatile?”

Which answer is a synonym for”versatile” and  “diverse?”  Even though you may not know some of the words, using your prediction, you should be able to eliminate words (and that’s a wonderful strategy).  Remember you only need to eliminate one answer before guessing at the remaining answers will statistically raise your score.

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 H.  PICK strikes again!  Many students make picking the best answer complicated and, therefore, waste time and talk themselves into wrong answers/distractors.   Be easy on yourself, use my PICK strategy that is explained in detail by me on the Video 300 series and my free website.  Look at the answers one at a time and insert them into the story.  Ask yourself, “Do they fit.”  If they add information or disagree, then they are wrong.  H fits nicely.  In lines 51 through 60, we see how the two ladies exchanged favors.  F and J both add to the story and G disagrees.  All done.  Move on to the next question.

Always remember the passage is a “cheat sheet.”  It has all the right answers to the questions!  Don’t assume anything and don’t call on prior knowledge.  Doing so will lead you to wrong answers.  PICK filters out all the mess and distractions.  This isn’t your English class where you are rewarded by making inferences and relating the prose to other situations.  If you do so on a reading test, you’ll certainly make mistakes.  Limit your answers to what you are told.

Sometimes there will be inference questions on the test.  In those cases, you still aren’t drawing on outside knowledge.  Your answer must be based on what you are told and will be insertable without adding to or disagreeing with the passage.

Enjoy your Saturday.  I’m looking forward to mine because I’m going to be spending it with a great group of students who are preparing for the January SAT.  See you all later.

The SAT & ACT Wizard

Thank you ACT folks for providing more evidence that I’m right about you guys being good test writers but not good test takers. Their explanation is harder to follow than the question and it is unnecessarily complicated and way more math than you need to do.

The answer is E. Grab your calculator and divide 18.75 by .75 and you’ll get 25. You are all done!

When I was writing questions for the SAT publisher, I would have made this question much trickier and sometimes they will too; so, let’s take a look at how it could have tricked some students. What if the box had contained 18.5 cups? You would have divided using your calculator and gotten 24.67. Some students would round that up to 25 and gotten the wrong answer. There would be 24 whole servings and not enough to serve the 25th person. The answer would have been 24. Be careful when you see questions like this one and make sure you are appropriately rounding. As in this case, sometimes you can only round down and never round up!

This sample question points out the value of watching my videos and practicing. When surprises are eliminated and you practice, you know what to expect on test day and what to do when you see their unusual puzzles. Watching the videos also alerts you to the types of traps and tricks are going to be on the test. It will also warn you about common math mistakes students make (rounding errors, for example). I’m quite convinced that if you could eliminate your silly mistakes be being forewarned, your math score would significantly increase.

Hey, it’s Friday. Have a great day and enjoy your weekend!

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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