SAT & ACT Questions of the Day: Oct. 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 E.  Only 35% of the students who have tried this question have gotten it correct and that makes it a tough question.  Considering 20% would get it correct by chance, that’s not very many!  What makes it hard and what can we learn about the test from it?

Well, the math isn’t hard; we just have to add 1, 2, and 3 to 4, 5, and 6.  I’m guessing that students aren’t reading the question carefully.  Did you just calculate the number of combinations of X and Y?  If you did so, you got Answer A, 9 because there are 3 values for X and 3 values for Y.  3 times 3 gives you 9 combinations.  But wait!

They didn’t ask about combinations; they asked about different values or sums.  Adding 1 to 4, 5, and 6 gives you 5, 6, and 7; that’s three values.  Adding 2 to 4, 5, and 6 gives you 6, 7, and 8; that’s one new value.  Adding 3 to 4, 5, and 6 gives you 7, 8, and 9 which is one more new value for a total of 5 values, Answer E.  If you missed this question, you are probably feeling like you’ve been tricked.  No you haven’t.

Just learn to be cautious when you take the test.  On Video #4, I talk about the importance of underlining the question.  If you had underlined different values, I bet you would have gotten this question correct.  That’s all part of Pillar IV: Focus on the Question which is on Video #1.

A final thing that would have made this question easier would have been to keep an eye on where you are on the test.  This question would have been among the last two or three in a math section, perhaps even the last one.  You would know that based on being late in a section that lots of students are missing it but it isn’t necessarily hard math.  This question is a great example of that principle.  You would say to yourself, “Whoa!  Not so fast.  What makes this question come late in the section?  It sure isn’t the math skill.  The knee jerk, reflexive answer has to be wrong.  I have to be careful regarding what the question is asking (Pillar IV).”  At that point, you would notice it is about different sums and not combinations especially since you underlined different.  Now you would be among the 35% who got it right and would have avoided a silly mistake.  Congratulations.

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.

Isn’t that nice?  Here’s a passage about the Red Sox playing in the World Series.  They aren’t in the Series yet but they are playing in the post-season.  Maybe even tonight; I’m not sure of the schedule.

The answer is D.  Go ahead and read the ACT explanation because it is a good one and it saves me a lot of time typing!  I like to give them credit when they do a good job explaining the answer because I sure rag them often enough about their inadequate explanations.

What can we learn about the test from this question?  I would say the most important thing is that there is not only grammar on the test but there is composition as well.  This is truly an editing question because it is about the placement of the phrase inside his schoolbook.  The ACT folks like to do that–test your composition skills.  I recommend you take a look at my list of common errors that appear on both the SAT and ACT.  You’ll find it on Video #9 and in the Writing and English sections of my free online course.  There are other sources as well.  Just get your hands on a similar list and be prepared.

Well, guess what?  For many students, it is the night before the SAT test.  If at all possible, stay home.  (I’m sorry if you have a football game but come straight home afterwards.)  After dinner, relax and watch a movie or read a book.  Don’t study for the test.  Relaxing will help you get a better night’s sleep.  Don’t communicate with the outside world!  Nobody is going to tell you anything that will raise your score but you might hear some distressing news.  You wouldn’t want that to throw you off your game plan.  Get your clothes together and be sure you wear layers.  You never know what the room temperature will be like.  Finally, get everything else organized for in the morning.  Put your admission ticket, calculator, pencils, snack, water, etc. together tonight and you won’t have to stress about it in the morning.  Don’t forget your ID!

Best of luck.

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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