In tactic 3, you notice we said “worst case, get it down to 2 possible answers”. This leads us into our 4th tactic, which is learning how to guess. I know this may sound silly, but there is a “skill” in guessing! Everything we do is to stack the deck in our favor as much as possible. So when we “guess” we are really saying, “I feel confident that the answer is one of these two options”. There are two main tactics as far as guessing that we teach our students. The first, and most applicable, is to eliminate at least 2 answers that CANNOT be correct. By doing this alone, you have in effect doubled your chances to guess the correct answer.
Let's take a look at a problem to show how we use the first strategy. Remember, the goal is to ELIMINATE as many answers as we can.
Looking at this question, there are a couple of concepts that are being tested. For the sake of this example, let’s say that you don’t know ANY of the concepts. If you look at the 4 answers you will notice that each of them have two distinct “parts”. There is the coefficient, and then the part that is being raised to the power of t. Notice that there are really only 3 numbers that we are dealing with, 325, .87 and .13.
With this information we can begin to start eliminating answers, or at least narrowing down for our guess. As we read through the problem, there is a major hint in the question that can help us narrow down to 2 answers. The “hint” is in the last sentence, “the remaining amount”. So, knowing that the substance decays as 13% and they are looking for the REMAINING amount, we know that 87% or .87 MUST be represented in the equation. Without even understanding what the equations represent in the answers, we can feel confident that the answer must be either A or C. We can obviously take it further to logically come up with the answer, but this is a great example of how to eliminate answers without even fully understanding the question. Remember, our main focus is to get to the 600 score, so we are doing everything we can to get those 38-39 correct answers. By eliminating B and D, you have doubled your chances to get the right answer! The second tactic when guessing is to find one part of the problem that you feel confident answering and matching answers to your feeling. That may sound complex, but it actually can be used to take a complex problem and make it “easy”. Let’s look at another example…
While this may not be the most complex problem asked on the SAT, there are many pitfalls that a student could make that will sway their answer. Between distributing the negative sign to the 2nd part of the equation, properly completing the square, to simple addition and subtractions errors, you can see where many students would miss this problem. Let’s take the approach of putting together the best guess we can.
So, after we have read the problem, we want to take a look at the answers given. One thing that immediately jumps out to me is the similarity between A and B, and conversely between C and D. If you notice, the first term in the two sets (A and B or C and D) are the same. So immediately I know that if I can get that first term correct, then I’ve got a 50/50 shot at answering the question. The next thing is that the LAST term in each answer is different. Because the last terms do not contain a variable (x), the math is much easier for many students and cuts down on the number of careless mistakes that can be made. Without doing any of the math actually out, let me walk you through the thought process. Starting with the portion to the left… I know 2.4 is going to be squared and that when I multiply two negative numbers together I am going to get a positive. When I look at the 2nd part of the problem, I notice that I am going to have to distribute a negative (-) to the already negative -6.4. This means that I am going to be adding two positive numbers together. So very simply, I know that 2 squared is 4 and 3 squared is 9, so that first term is going to be somewhere between 4 and 9, closer to 4 because 2.4 is closer to 2 than 4. Next, I’ll add 6.4 from the second part of the equation. So, without actually doing any specific math, I know that the last term in the answer has to be between 10.4 and 15.4 (4+6.4 or 9+6.4). With that little bit of work, I can confidently eliminate answers A and D from the possible list. Now I’m working with a 50/50 shot again!
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## AuthorMatthew Beattie is the founder and owner of SAT Master Key, the Greater Charleston area's most innovative SAT prep and tutoring company. ## Archives
October 2018
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