ACT/SAT ELA & Math Question Walkthrough

A-List’s Director Curriculum Development, John Oh, walks us through an ACT/SAT ELA & Math question.

Let’s look at how the SAT forces your hand on the No Calculator Test.

If x4 = 9, what is x10 ?

A) 22.5
B) 53
C) 202.5
D) 243

Since we cannot use a calculator here, logarithms are out. Besides, logarithms are never tested on the SAT (though you can still use them on the Calculator Test). We can’t really guess-and-check here either. For example, some of my students know that x is between and 1 and 2, but they need a calculator to effectively test some possibilities. So, we are forced to manipulate x10, using x4.

We already know that x4 is 9, so x2 is the square root of 9 or 3. Therefore, we have 9 × 9 × 3.  Without using a calculator, we know the answer has to be D: answer choices A and B are too small, and answer choice C has a decimal in it.

This month, let’s review parallel comparisons, a concept that is tested on both the ACT English Test and SAT Writing & Language Test (but more so on the SAT).

Running is faster than to walk.

Here, running (a gerund) is being compared to to walk (an infinitive). For the comparison to be grammatically correct, we must compare like grammatical structures.

Running (gerund) is faster than walking (gerund).

To run (infinitive) is faster than to walk (infinitive).

Even with no understanding of parallelism though, almost of my students know that the sentence above is just wrong. But, the sentences on the tests are a bit trickier. For example:

To develop a theory about the nature of an abstract concept like political justice is easier than proving that theory to be true. 

B. to proving that theory
C. to prove that theory
D. a proof of that theory

Answer: C

We are comparing to develop a theory (about blah blah blah) and proving that same theory (about blah blah blah): not a parallel comparison. Answer choice D provides the parallel comparison we need: to develop a theory is easier than to prove that theory.

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