SAT Question of the Day (plus ACT): Feb. 6, 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.)

Let me begin by saying, “Thank you, SAT writers!”  This question is so helpful to your preparation for so many reasons I don’t know where to start writing about it.  So, I’ll begin with the obvious.

To start, the answer is C.  Even if you got this question correct, keep reading.  First, in my program there are lots of quick short cuts that I call “Words of Wiz-dom.”  On page 38 of Demystifying the SAT and ACT, you will see the following:

Words of “Wiz-dom”–When you see bi- and polynomials that look like they can be factored, factor them.  Look for one of the factors in the question.  For example, what should you automatically do with a question that contains x2 – y2?  Immediately factor it to (x+y)(x-y).

And there are the factors in this question.  So, just multiply 3 times 5 and you are all done.

Second, here’s something else about this question that is important that students tell me their algebra teachers forget to teach.  Can you solve for the value of x in this question?  It is 4.  The value of x will always be the average of the two factors.  The average of 3 and 5 is 4.  That’s because you are adding and subtracting the same amount (y) to and from x to get the factors 3 and 5; therefore, x has to be exactly in the middle or half way between the two factors!!  That is the average of the two factors.  Isn’t that a cool thing to know?

Third, this is a good question to discuss why a standardized test isn’t a boogie man–he’s your best friend!  Standardized just means it is always the same and that makes it predictable.  Indeed, standardized tests are very predictable if you practice.  If they weren’t, nobody (not even a Wizard!) could help you prepare.  I know the habits of the test writers and use their tendencies against them when I teach you how to get ready for the test.  That is why the issue of factoring polynomials is in my programs and why I teach it the way I do.  I want you to know how the test writers ask questions about factoring and the strategies you can use to improve your score.  Then it is up to you to practice my strategies.  Just knowing them doesn’t help as much as if you’ll practice them.  You need to apply them with questions that are in real SAT and ACT tests.   That is why the practice/homework charts in my program are keyed to specific questions in the Official SAT Study Guide and Real ACT Prep Guide.  Those are real tests (not fake ones like in other books).  So, remember to practice.

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 F.  It does a great job of connecting the previous sentence about specific legendary individuals and battles with sentences about specific legends of baseball.  Now use PICK!  The wrong answers add to the paragraph which means they are not Insertable.

This is another example of standardized tests being predictable.  Because they are predictable, you can learn and practice some very specific skills and strategies that are helpful throughout the test.  One is to learn that test writers have common habits regarding how they develop wrong answers (distractors).  They are often phrases and sentences that add something to the passage that weren’t there in the first place but make sense based on your prior knowledge.  Answers G, H, and J are perfect examples of that.  They are all accurate statements: other sports provide heroes, there are nine innings in a baseball game, and athletes are human.  However, because none of these things are in the passage, they are wrong.  That sure is simple.  So, again, learn the strategies and be sure to practice.  It is a simple process but you need to put in the time and become comfortable with the strategies.  Watch your confidence soar; your scores will follow!

I am planning our summer tour of the US. Check out the approximate route:

Let me know if you would like us to stop and conduct our free college admissions and SAT/ACT seminar in your city.

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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