Unofficial SAT Question of the Day (ACT too!): Apr. 5, 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.)

I just received an email from Angela and she asked, “Why is my blog sometimes called the “unofficial” version of the SAT Question of the Day?”  Well, the College Board calls their question the Official SAT Question of the Day.  I am not associated with the College Board and I think you deserve better explanations than they usually provide for their Official Question!  I am often critical of their explanations and they sure don’t endorse mine because I tell you a lot more about the test than they do.  (I often wonder if they even want you to know some of the things I tell you because they never do!)  So let’s get to their “Official Question of the Day.”

The answer is B.  As always, start with the topic of the sentence and then predict a word for the blank before you look at the answers.  The city needed to “update” its electrical infrastructure.  That’s the topic.  So, our prediction could be words like old, out of date, or obsolete.  Now let’s look at the answers and there’s “antiquated” which is a synonym for our prediction.  All done.

I’m surprised by the fact that over 40% of students are missing this question.  The vocabulary must be more difficult than I thought.  I think some of the wrong answers are tougher words than the right answer.  Maybe you didn’t know “antiquated.”  But there’s an important skill or strategy you should use when faced with unknown words.  Associate their word parts, morphemes, with common words.  For example, did you see the word “antique” in “antiquated”?  You probably know “antique” means “old.”  That is the only clue you need to get this question correct.

Check out  It has a great section about morphemes.  You should use it to improve your vocabulary.  Learning word parts helps you learn families of words rather than one word.  Doing so is a much faster way to increase the number of words you know.

I wonder if the ACT folks have something interesting for us this morning.

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 C.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while and practicing my PICK strategy, this question is a snap.  When you Insert the answers, only Answer C fits; the others are misfits!  They add to or disagree with the passage when you insert them.

Even if you got it right, keep reading.

All these wrong answers add new information.  For example, there’s no indication that the courts considered the accused party “innocent until proven guilty,” Answer A.  But let’s analyze what the test writers did to create this wrong answer.  (Telling you such things is what makes my blog the “unofficial” QotD!)  They took a precept of the US court system that is familiar to all of us and included it as a wrong answer: innocent until proven guilty.  That is, the test writers often include statements that are common knowledge and they know that many students will pick them because they are true in students’ everyday lives.  Doing so leads to lots of wrong answers!  You have to make sure that the statement is insertable. If it adds to the story as this answer does, then you just throw it out even if it is true.  It is that simple.

This leads me to explaining a common bad strategy many students use when they take the test.  It costs them time and it causes wrong answers to be picked.  They spend time trying to justify how an answer could be correct.  They draw on prior knowledge and personal experience.  Never do that!  Your answer must be based solely on the passage.  Prior knowledge and personal experience are the enemy!  If you use Insertable, you will avoid making the mistake of using them.

Remember the game is best played by justifying the elimination wrong answers NOT by justifying why you should keep an answer.

QotD Words of Wiz-dom

Jimmy Valvano, a former (now deceased) basketball coach, once said, “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day.”  Think about it.

I hope you have “a heck of a day!”  (You are off to good start–you had to “think” while reading my blog.)

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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