SAT Question of the Day (ACT bonus!): Feb. 24, 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.)

This is a pretty tough question.  Less than 40% of students are getting it correct!

The answer is E.  The test writers do a nice job of explaining the math teacher way of doing this question.  Take a look at it and you can see how much work that would be.  I rather doubt many students who are doing this question correctly are doing all that math with a pencil and their calculator.  It would take forever.

Let’s do some “mental math.”  That string of fractions for s comes up 1/32 short of 1 or 31/32.  That means s equals 1 plus 31/32 or 1/32 short of 2 which is 63/32 or 126/64.   t is 1 + s/2 (half of s) which is 1 plus 63/64.  That makes t 1/64 larger, Answer E.

The “mental math” approach I used is a bit different and was very quick.  I needed to add 1/2 of s to 1 to get t.  Looking at what s is and dividing by 2, I saw s as a series of fractions beginning with 1 divided by 2, then 1/2 divided by 2 and so on until I divided 1/32 divided by 2.  That meant I ended up with an extra fraction of 1/64 for t that I didn’t have for s because everything canceled except 1/64.  There’s the answer.  In effect, it is the math teacher way but without doing all the calculations.  I’m sorry I can’t show you on a white board because it is really much easier than this description.

What really important about this question is my approach of setting a “target score.”

Your target score helps you decide how many questions you need to get correct on the test.  There are likely going to be many questions you can skip and/or get wrong while you still achieve your target.  Most students won’t need to get a question that is this difficult correct.  Why then should you frustrate yourself or even worry about this question or other questions that are at the same difficulty level?  Because math questions are arranged from easy to hard in the test booklet, it is pretty simple to figure out which ones you can skip.  Your time is better spent on questions that are at a difficulty level you’ll need to get right to achieve your goal.  You need to plan and practice accordingly.  Do you need help with setting your goal?  Watch Video #105 and you can also send me an email.  Best of luck.

I wonder what the ACT folks have up their sleeves this morning!

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

Well, they certainly don’t have anything new up their sleeves.  We’ve seen this question many times before.

The answer is J.  We can use the Wizard’s Checklist to make short work of this question.  Step 1 of the checklist is to eliminate answers that add to the passage.  So, we can eliminate F and G.  Step 2 eliminates H because it disagrees because they aren’t speaking to the narrator.  We are left with Answer J.

What’s more important than getting this question correct is using it to understand a common mistake students make when taking any reading test.  It is causing them to waste time and to miss questions.  That mistake is trying to figure out IF an answer could be right.  That’s backwards.  They should be figuring out IF the answer can be wrong.  That’s much quicker.  Use the Checklist and you’ll greatly increase your speed and get more questions correct.  Did you notice how my explanation for answering today’s question focused on quickly eliminating answers?  That is the key to reading test success.

We have a whole new week ahead of us.  We’ll never be able to redo the things we do and don’t do again.  Let’s make the most of it.

Bob Alexander, the “SAT and 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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