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SAT Grammar: Improving Sentences

Improving Sentences

Select the choice that results in the best sentence – the sentence that follows the requirements of standard written English and communicates effectively.

20140213 SAT Grammar.png

A.  finalists, the selected  
B.  finalists; and the selected 
C.  finalists; but the selected  
D.  finalists and the selected  
E.  finalists; the selected 

Knowsys Method

Read the sentence carefully, listening for errors. If you do not find the error immediately, then check the underlined portion against the Big 8 Grammar rules. 

This question tests your understanding of sentence structure.  When you see the comma you should ask yourself, "Is that comma used correctly?"  In this instance, the answer is NO!  It creates a comma splice:  a grammar error in which the writer incorrectly joins two independent clauses (= clauses that could each stand alone as a sentence) with just a comma.  

Choice A:  We know Choice A, which always matches the original, is wrong.  Let's check the other choices.  

Choice B:  This creates a new error because it incorrectly uses a semi-colon instead of a comma.

Choice C:  This makes the same error as Choice B.

Choice D:  This creates a run-on sentence since there are now two independent clauses with no punctuation at all to join them. 

Choice E:  Adding the semi-colon corrects the original comma-splice and does not introduce any new errors.  

 

The correct answer is E.

Level = Easy 

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ACT English: Sentence Structure

Choose the alternative you consider best.  

20140212 ACT English.png

          A.  NO CHANGE
          B.  students, he or she is invited to
          C.  students who
          D.  students they 

Knowsys Method

Check the underlined portion against the Big 8 Grammar Rules. 

In this case, you have a comma.  You should ask yourself one key question:

What does the comma do here?  Right now, it incorrectly separates 2 independent clauses.  It could be fixed by replacing it with a semicolon or with a comma plus a conjunction or by rewriting the sentence.  None of these options are present in the answer choices, so let's evaluate each one. 

A.  Same as the original.  Eliminate it.

B.  This choice has the same issue as the original ( a comma splice), just with different words.  Eliminate it.

C.  This fixes the problem by making "who . . . honor" a dependent clause.

D.  This replaces a comma splice with a run-on sentence.  Both are errors. 

 

The correct answer is C.

Level = Easy
 

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SAT Math: Arithmetic

The sum of 9 consecutive integers is 3150.  What is the value of the least of these integers?

 

Knowsys Method

Read the problem carefully.  This is a grid in question.  Instead of bubbling in a letter, you will bubble in your answer.  You should always guess on grid in questions because, unlike multiple choice questions, grid in questions do not have a wrong answer penalty.

Identify the bottom line.   the value of the least integer = ? 

Assess your options.  You could start guessing and trying, but the more effective method will be to use a method.  In this type of problem, there is a method that will make it super simple.  Do you know it?  

Attack the problem.  

The issue of the least or the greatest or any integer in between does not matter until we actually have a starting point.  These questions will always involve an odd number of integers (here, 9).  So, all we have to do is divide the sum by the number of integers to get the average integer. Sound familiar?  It should!  This is just another use of the average formula.  

The Average Formula: 

average formula.gif

In this particular problem we know the sum = 3150 and the number is 9.  Let's just plug in to get:

20140211 SAT average question.gif

When we solve for x, we get 350.

That tells us that the middle number (= the median) = 350.  Since we want the LEAST integer, count back 4 more:  349, 348, 347, 346.  Found it!  

Note:  If the problem had asked for the GREATEST integer, we would have counted up 4:  351, 352, 353, 354.  

Loop back.  Verify that you solved for the bottom line.

The correct answer is 346.  Grid it in.

Level = Medium  

Want some help reviewing the math concepts you need to master?  Try these Knowsys resources:

  1. Knowsys Pre-Algebra Flashcards
  2. Knowsys Algebra I Flashcards
  3. Knowsys SAT & ACT Math Practice book.  

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ACT Math: Data Analysis

Directions:  Solve each problem and choose the correct answer.

On the first 5 of 6 semester tests, each of which is worth 100 points, a student has earned the following grades:  75, 87, 83, 89, and 94.  What score must the student earn on the sixth 100-point exam to earn an average test grade of 89 for all 6 tests?

     A.  86
     B.  89
     C.  94
     D.  99
     E.  The student cannot earn an average of 89.

Knowsys Method

Read the problem carefully.  Be sure to keep the numbers in this problem straight so that you do not make any careless mistakes in your work. 

Identify the bottom line.   last score needed so that average of 6 is 89?

Assess your options.  You could sub in the different answers for the 6th test score or you could leave the missing number as a variable.  Either way, you need to use the "average formula," which you should definitely memorize.  Every time you see the word "average" on the exam, you should immediately think:  "average = the sum divided by the number."  Let's use that formula to solve this problem quickly and easily. 

The Average Formula

average formula.gif

Attack the problem.  

We are looking for the 6th test, which is part of the sum.  Here's what we are given:  

20140210 ACT average question.gif

All we have to do now is solve for x.  

89 * 6 = 428 + x

    534 = 428 + x

     106 = x 

Hmmm.  Since the test is only worth 100 points, can the student earn a 106?  Nope.  So, our answer is E.

Loop back.  Verify that you solved for the bottom line.

 

The correct answer is E.

Level = Medium  

Want some help reviewing the math concepts you need to master?  Try these Knowsys resources:

  1. Knowsys Pre-Algebra Flashcards
  2. Knowsys Algebra I Flashcards
  3. Knowsys SAT & ACT Math Practice book.  

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Link of the Week: Big Future

Looking for a great source for information about universities all over the U.S.?  Want something reliable and accurate with everything well-organized and easy to find?  How about something free?

Knowsys recommends the Big Future website created by the College Board, the makers of the SAT and the PSAT.  You can access the website at www.bigfuture.collegeboard.org (or even just www.bigfuture.org). 

On the main Big Future page, there is a section for "Make a plan" that allows you to create a step-by-step college plan that's appropriate for your grade.  That's a great place to get started!

 

SAT Math: Data Analysis

Averages

The average (arithmetic mean) of the weights of 26 stones is p pounds.  In terms of p, what is the total weight of the stones, in pounds?  

A. 26 + p
B. p - 26 
C. p / 26
D. 26 / p
E. 26p

Knowsys Method

Read the problem carefully.  Be sure to keep the numbers in this problem straight so that you do not make any careless mistakes in your work. 

Identify the bottom line.   total weight  of the 26 stones = ?

Assess your options.  You could pick a number for p and then use it to find the total weight or you could leave p as a variable.  Either way, you need to use the "average formula," which you should definitely memorize.  Every time you see the word "average" on the exam, you should immediately think:  "average = the sum divided by the number."  Let's use that formula to solve this problem quickly and easily. 

The Average Formula

average formula.gif

Attack the problem.  

We are looking for the "total weight," which is the same thing as the SUM.  So, let's rearrange to get:

average * number = sum 

In this particular problem we know the average = p and the number = 26.  Let's just plug in to get:  

p(26) = sum

  26p = sum 

Loop back.  Verify that you solved for the bottom line.

The correct answer is E.

Level = Medium  

Want some help reviewing the math concepts you need to master?  Try these Knowsys resources:

  1. Knowsys Pre-Algebra Flashcards
  2. Knowsys Algebra I Flashcards
  3. Knowsys SAT & ACT Math Practice book.  

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SAT Writing: Identifying Sentence Errors

Identifying Sentence Errors

Read the sentence and select the portion of the sentence that contains an error.  If there is no error, select E.

20140405 ISE image.png

Knowsys Method

Read the sentence carefully, listening for errors. If you do not find the error immediately, then check the underlined portion against the Big 8. 

A.  Anytime you see the pronoun "I" after a preposition (between), think:  preposition + me.  The correct answer will never be "preposition + I" since prepositions require objective case pronouns.  "I" is a subject pronoun since it can be the subject of the sentence.  "Me" is the objective case pronoun.  Quickly check the other choices before marking A.  

B. Anytime you see a verb underlined, check to make sure that it agrees with its subject.  In this case, the subject is "differences" and the verb is "are."  This agrees.  One of the common tricks on the SAT is to separate the subject "differences" from the verb "are" by an intervening prepositional phrase that might confuse you about the actual subject of the sentence.  Always remember that prepositional phrases NEVER control the verb.  Choice B is correct.  Eliminate this choice.

C. The semi-colon is underlined.  Verify that this is the correct sentence structure.  A semi-colon is used to introduce an explanatory statement, in this case the description of the personality differences.  Choice C is correct.  Eliminate it.

D. Here, the issue is also sentence structure.  Should this be a comma or something else?  The comma is correct because it separates two independent and equal clauses (just as "and" does).  This choice is not an error.  Eliminate this choice. 

E.  We found the error in A.   

The correct answer is A.

Level = Medium

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SAT Reading: Sentence Completions

Sentence Completions

Select the words that best fit the meaning of the sentence as a whole.

Although my friend did not find the movie overly sentimental, I was shocked by how ------- it was; it actually brought tears to my eyes even though I never cry when watching movies. 

A. meticulous
B. prosaic
C. cursory
D. treacly
E. consecrated

Knowsys Method

Always start by covering up the answer choices so that they do not distract you.  Read the sentence carefully, then predict what you think the answer should be.  Since the writer found the movie "overly sentimental," let's use that for our prediction as we go through the choices.

A. The word "meticulous" means extremely careful and precise.  People are often said to pay meticulous attention to small details.  This choice does not match our prediction, so eliminate it and keep moving. 

B.  When you hear "prosaic" you should hear "prose."  This word comes from a time when the distinction between prose and poetry was essentially the difference between boring and workaday and flowery, romantic, and interesting.  Thus, when something is "prosaic" it is dull and straightforward rather than poetic.  This choice does not match our prediction, so eliminate it.

C. You might hear "cursory" and associate it with either cursing or the cursor on the computer monitor.  Cursory actually just means hasty.  Since this does not match our prediction, eliminate this choice.

D. "Treacly" means cloyingly sweet or sentimental and has two synonyms that are even more frequently tested on the SAT:  maudlin and mawkish.  This matches our prediction perfectly, but we should still check the rest of the choices.

E. To "consecrate" something is to make it holy or sacred.  Consecrate actually has the root word "secare" in it, which comes from the Latin sacrare, the source of "sacred."  This has nothing to do with sentimentality, so eliminate it.  

The only word here that you probably have never heard is "treacly," but by process of elimination you should have been able to say "treacly" has to be it because none of the others match the prediction.  

The correct answer is D.

Level:  hard

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SAT Math: Algebra

Functions

Let the function be defined by f(x) = 5x - 10.  If 2f(m) = 20, then what is the value of f(3m)? 

Knowsys Method

Read the problem carefully.  This is a grid in question.  Instead of bubbling in a letter, you will bubble in your answer.  You should always guess on grid in questions because, unlike multiple choice questions, grid in questions do not have a wrong answer penalty. 

Identify the bottom line.  f(3m) = ?

Assess your options.  This function problem is very straightforward.  All you have to do is plug in the information given to you and solve. 

Attack the problem. 

2f(m) = 20, so f(m) = 10

If f(x) = 5x - 10, then f(m) = 5m - 10.  Set that equal to the value you already know for f(m) and solve for m.

10 = 5m - 10
20 = 5m
4 = m

Now plug in the value of m to find f(3m).

f(3m) = f(12) = 5(12) - 10 = 50

Loop back.  Verify that you solved for the bottom line.

The correct answer is 50.

This is a medium level problem.  

Want some help reviewing the math concepts you need to master?  Try out the Knowsys Pre-Algebra Flashcards, the Knowsys Algebra I Flashcards, and the Knowsys SAT & ACT Math Practice book.  

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SAT Writing: Identifying Sentence Errors

Identifying Sentence Errors

Read the sentence and select the portion of the sentence that contains an error.  If there is no error, select E.

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 10.17.17 PM.jpg

Knowsys Method

Read the sentence carefully, listening for errors. If you do not find the error immediately, then check the underlined portion against the Big 8. 

A. "Neither" must always be paired with "nor."  This choice is not an error, so eliminate it.  

B. Anytime you see a verb underlined, check to make sure that it agrees with its subject.  Nouns used with either/or or neither/not are called "compound pairs."  In compound pairs, the subject always agrees with the second subject in the pair.  The verb "know" agrees with "I," so this is not an error.  Eliminate this choice.

C. When you see "which" underlined, you should ask yourself whether it should be "that" instead.  The word "which" must always be preceded by a comma, and since the comma in this sentence cannot be eliminated, "which" must be correct. Eliminate this choice.

D. This choice tests parallelism.  Both verbs ("making" and "giving") must match with each other.  They do match, so this choice is not an error.  Eliminate this choice. 

E.  There is no error in the sentence, so E is correct. 

The correct answer is E.

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Link of the Week: Purdue OWL

The Purdue OWL, or Online Writing Lab, has built up a solid reputation as a resource for writing MLA and APA citations, but it has so much more to offer than that. 

If you have never done so before, check out the academic writing section, which includes a variety of in-depth articles that can help you to craft strong essays.  Need to review argumentative structure or thesis statements?  Looking for some help with sentence variety?  It's all there. 

No matter what the writing assignment, be it a research paper for school or your SAT or ACT essay, this one-stop-shop for everything related to writing is sure to prove useful in high school, college, and beyond. 

SAT Reading: Sentence Completions

Sentence Completions

Select the words that best fit the meaning of the sentence as a whole.

Given his ------- chocolate desserts, we were all a little surprised when my father chose vanilla cake and ice cream for his birthday this year.

A. predilection for
B. resurgence of
C. deference to
D. decorum around
E. aversion to

Knowsys Method

Always start by covering up the answer choices so that they do not distract you.  Read the sentence carefully, then predict what you think the answer should be.  If the father's choice of vanilla cake and ice cream surprised his family, the father probably had an established preference for chocolate.  Using "established preference" as our prediction, let's go through the choices.

A. The word “predilection" comes from the Latin word "prediligere," meaning "to prefer before others."  A predilection is an established preference for something.  This matches our prediction perfectly, but we should still check the rest of the choices.

B.  “Resurgence" sounds a lot like what it means.  A resurgence is a revival.  Think: something is re- (again) surging (thriving, increasing, moving, etc.)  This choice does not match our prediction, so eliminate it.

C. "Deference" sounds like "preference," but don't be fooled!  It means something very different.  To show deference to someone is to show that person respect or esteem.  The father in the sentence probably likes chocolate, but it would make no sense for him to "respect" chocolate.  Eliminate this choice.

D. "Decorum" means "socially acceptable dignity or correctness of speech or behavior."  Here's an easy trick for remembering this definition.  If you are somewhere that is formally DECORated (like a ballroom, the White House, etc.), you should display a certain sense of DECORum.  This choice does not match our prediction, so eliminate it.

E. You can probably detect just from looking at this word that it has a negative connotation.  An "aversion" to something is a severe dislike of that thing.  This is the opposite of our prediction, so eliminate this choice.

The correct answer is A.

Source: Online Etymology Dictionary. Dan Harper. 2013. Web. 29 Jan. 2014.

Words used in this SC:

predilection: an established preference for something
resurgence: a revival
deference: respect or esteem due to a superior of an elder
decorum: socially acceptable dignity or correctness of speech or behavior
aversion: dislike and opposition

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SAT Math: Arithmetic

Groups

At a certain restaurant, guests have a choice of either mustard or mayonnaise on their sandwiches.  At lunch yesterday, the restaurant served a total of 100 sandwiches.  55 of the sandwiches had mustard, 37 mayonnaise, and 18 had neither.  How many of the sandwiches had both mustard and mayonnaise?

A. 0
B. 2
C. 8
D. 10
E. 12

Knowsys Method

Read the problem carefully.  Be sure to keep the numbers in this problem straight so that you do not make any careless mistakes in your work. 

Identify the bottom line.  # of sand. with must. and mayo = ?

Assess your options.  You could solve this problem by creating a Venn diagram, but there is a faster method.  If you memorize "the group formula," you can solve these problems quickly and easily without drawing out a diagram. 

The Group Formula

2 groups:

Total = Group 1 + Group 2 + Neither - Both

3 groups:

Total = Group 1 + Group 2 + Group 3 + Neither - Both - 2(All)

What do all these terms mean?

Total = Total number of items.  In this problem, it is the total number of sandwiches.

Group 1, 2, 3 = The number of items in each group.  In this problem, the two groups are the sandwiches with mustard and the sandwiches with mayo.

Neither = The number of items that do not fall into one of the 2 (or 3) groups.  In this problem, it is the sandwiches that have neither mustard nor mayo on them.

Both = The number of items that fall into 2 groups.  In this problem, it is the sandwiches that have both mustard and mayo.

All = (Used for 3 group problems ONLY!) This is the number of items that fall into all 3 groups (as opposed to the number of items that fall into only 2 out of the three groups).  There are only 2 groups in the problem at hand, so this term does not apply. 

Attack the problem.  Sub the numbers from the problem into the group formula to figure out how many sandwiches have both mustard and mayo.

Total = Group 1 + Group 2 + Neither - Both

100 = 55 + 37 + 18 - Both

100 = 110 - Both

10 = Both

So, 10 sandwiches have both mustard and mayo.

Loop back.  Verify that you solved for the bottom line.

The correct answer is D.

This is a medium level problem.  

Want some help reviewing the math concepts you need to master?  Try out the Knowsys Pre-Algebra Flashcards, the Knowsys Algebra I Flashcards, and the Knowsys SAT & ACT Math Practice book.  

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SAT Grammar: Improving Sentences

Improving Sentences

No sooner had I lain my head down on my pillow and closed my eyes but my phone rang shrilly, shocking me out of my restful state.

A.  lain my head down on my pillow and closed my eyes but my phone rang shrilly, shocking
B.  lain my head down on my pillow and closed my eyes than my phone rang shrilly then shocked
C.  laid my head down on my pillow and closed my eyes but my phone rang shrilly, shocking
D.  laid my head down on my pillow and closed my eyes than my phone rang shrilly and was shocking
E.  laid my head down on my pillow and closed my eyes than my phone rang shrilly, shocking

Knowsys Method

Read the sentence carefully, listening for errors. If you do not find the error immediately, then check the underlined portion against the Big 8. 

This question tests your understanding of idioms, words or expressions that are always said the same way.  Idioms sometimes sound peculiar, but they are grammatically correct.  Two idioms appear in this question.  

1. "no sooner had x than y"

as in: "No sooner had I walked out the door " or "No sooner had John sat down for dinner than the doorbell rang." 

2. lay versus lie

Lay takes an object and means "to place." The past tenses of lay are: laid/had laid.

Lie does not take an object and means "to rest." The past tenses of lie are: lay/had lain.

So, the correct version of this sentence should say "no sooner had I LAID my head down . . . THAN my phone rang . . . " You might be wondering why the correct word is "laid" (past perfect tense of lay) when the person in the sentence is trying to rest.  "My head" is an object, so the word must be "laid" (past perfect tense of lay), not "lain" (past perfect tense of lie).   

Choices A and B do not work because they begin with "lain."  Eliminate these choices.

Choice C says "no sooner had I laid my head down . . . BUT my phone rang."  Eliminate this choice.

Choice D gets both idioms correct but changes "shocking" to "and was shocking," which is inconsistent with the verb tense established in the sentence.  Eliminate this choice.

Choice E gets both idioms correct and does not make any unnecessary changes. 

The correct answer is E.

This is a medium level problem.

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SAT Reading: Sentence Completions

Sentence Completions

Select the word that best fits the meaning of the sentence as a whole.

After discovering a permanent marker in a kitchen drawer, my two-year-old nephew left ------- scribbles all over my sister's walls. 

A. indelible
B. fallacious
C. altruistic
D. inept
E. ambivalent

Knowsys Method

Always start by covering up the answer choices so that they do not distract you.  Read the sentence carefully, then predict what you think the answer should be.  A permanent marker would leave permanent marks on the walls, so use that as a prediction and check the answer choices.

A. The word “indelible” come from the Latin roots “in,” meaning “not or the opposite of,” and “delebilis,” meaning “able to be destroyed.”  Something indelible cannot be destroyed or removed.  This choice matches our prediction, so keep it.

B.  “Fallacious” means “deceptive or misleading.”  A useful trick for remembering the meaning of “fallacious” is to think about the word “false” which sounds similar and means something similar.   This does not match our prediction, so eliminate this choice.

C. "Debilitate" comes from the Latin "debilitare," meaning "to weaken."  To debilitate someone or something is to make that person or thing weak and potentially infirm.  This is the opposite of our prediction, so eliminate this choice.

D. An “altruistic” person is likely to donate money, do charity work, and share readily with others.  “Altruism” is “unselfish concern for others.”  This does not match our prediction, so eliminate this choice.

E. The word "ambivalent" was coined in 1910 by Swiss psychologist Eugen Bleuler.  As a psychological term, "ambivalent" means "having conflicting meanings," but it can also mean "having several possible meanings."  This does not match our prediction, so eliminate this choice.

The correct answer is A.

Source: Online Etymology Dictionary. Dan Harper. 2013. Web. 23 Jan. 2014.

Words used in this SC:

indelible: permanent
fallacious: deceptive or misleading
altruistic: unselfishly concerned about the welfare of others
inept: awkward or unskilled
ambivalent: having several possible meanings
 

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SAT Math: Data Analysis

Median

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 4.56.27 PM.jpg

The table above shows the number of students enrolled at Allenville Middle School from 2005 to 2011.  If the median enrollment over these seven years was 789, and no two years had the same number of students enrolled, what is the lowest possible value for y?

Knowsys Method

Note: In the math section of the SAT, you will encounter questions that do not have answer choices.  Instead of bubbling in a letter, you will bubble in your answer.  These questions are called grid in questions, and you should always guess an answer for them because there is no penalty for getting the question wrong!

Read the problem carefully.   Review the definitions of important terms.  The median is the middle number in a set of numbers.

Identify the bottom line.  lowest possible y = ?

Assess your options.  There is only one possible method for solving this problem, and it is demonstrated below.

Attack the problem.  Whenever you are working with medians, you should start by putting the list of numbers in order.

737  755  776  789  804  811  

Now you need to determine where y should fall in the list.  The problem tells you that 789 is the median,  and no two years had the same enrollment, so y must be greater than 789.  The smallest that y can be, therefore, is 790.

Loop back.  Check to verify that you have solved for the bottom line.

The correct answer is 790.

Want some help reviewing the math concepts you need to master?  Try out the Knowsys Pre-Algebra Flashcards, the Knowsys Algebra I Flashcards, and the Knowsys SAT & ACT Math Practice book.  

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SAT Link of the Week: The Power of the Internet

This week's link is a testament the power of crowdsourcing on the Internet.  Nearly twenty years ago, an elderly woman who had been rendered non-communicative by a fast-moving cancer scribbled out patterns of letters onto dozens of note cards.  Her granddaughters believed that their grandmother had left them a code, and though they attempted to decode the seemingly random patterns of letters for months, the girls were unable to find a solution.  One of these granddaughters recently posted images of the cards on the website Ask Metafilter, and within a few minutes, site users had partially cracked the code.  Read more here.

 

Consider the application of this fascinating story to past SAT prompts such as:

  •  Has today's abundance of information only made it more difficult to understand the world around us?
  •  Is the most important purpose of technology different from what it was in the past?
  •  Have modern advancements truly improved the quality of people's lives?

 

Good luck to those of you taking the SAT today!  Check back here next week for a new link.

SAT Writing: Identifying Sentence Errors

Identifying Sentence Errors

Read the sentence and select the portion of the sentence that contains an error.  If there is no error, select E.

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 2.57.42 PM.jpg

Knowsys Method

Read the sentence carefully, listening for errors. If you do not find the error immediately, then check the underlined portion against the Big 8. 

A. The phrase "straining to reach" is idiomatically correct.  If this phrase looks strange to you, add it to your idioms list and read it over until it sounds right to you.  Eliminate this choice.

B. Whenever you see a reflexive pronoun (myself, yourself, herself, himself, themselves, ourselves) underlined, check to see whether that reflexive pronoun refers back to an antecedent that is already stated in the sentence.  In this case, "herself" clearly refers back to "the woman," so this usage is correct.  Eliminate this choice.

C. This choice may look right at first glance, but "was" should be "were."  If you are writing about something that you wish were true or that could be true but is not true, you should use "were."  For instance, you would say, "If I were a bird, I would fly away."  You are not a bird, have never been, and will never be, so the correct word is "were."  This choice is an error, but you should check choice D just to be sure. 

D. "Taller" is the comparative form of the adjective "tall."  The comparative form is used when you are comparing two things ("Of the two dogs, this one is cuter").  The superlative form is used when you are comparing three things ("Out of all these dogs, this one is the cutest").  The sentence is comparing two things: the way the woman is and the way she wishes she could be.  This choice is not an error. 

E.  We found an error in choice C, so E cannot be correct.

The correct answer is C.

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SAT Reading: Sentence Completions

Sentence Completions

Select the words that best fit the meaning of the sentence as a whole.

The defendant's story seemed highly -------, especially since she had no witnesses to ------- her alibi.

A. innocuous . . vindicate
B. auspicious . . substantiate
C. inept . . debilitate
D. reticent . . scrutinize
E. implausible . . corroborate

Knowsys Method

Always start by covering up the answer choices so that they do not distract you.  Read the sentence carefully, then predict what you think the answer should be.  In two-blank sentence completions like this one, start with the easier blank first, which, in this case, is the second one.  What would this defendant need a witness to do?  To confirm or support her alibi.  Using "confirm/support" as a prediction, let's look at the choices for the second blank.

A.  "Vindicate," like many SAT words, has a Latin origin.  It comes from "vindicare," which means "to set free, lay claim to, assert, or avenge."  Today, the word is no longer associated with laying claim or achieving revenge; it means "to clear of guilt or blame" or "to prove to be right."  The second meaning of vindicate matches somewhat with our prediction, so keep this choice for now.

B.  "Substantiate" is easy to remember because it sounds like "substance."  To substantiate something is to give substance to, to prove, or to establish that thing.  This matches fairly well with our prediction, so keep this choice for now.

C. "Debilitate" comes from the Latin "debilitare," meaning "to weaken."  To debilitate someone or something is to make that person or thing weak and potentially infirm.  This is the opposite of our prediction, so eliminate this choice.

D. "Scrutinize" means "to examine closely."  To help you remember this word, you could think of someone squinting their eyes to look at something very closely.  This choice does not match our prediction, so eliminate it.

E. "Corroborate" comes from the Latin "corroborare," meaning "to strengthen."  To corroborate something is to support it with evidence.  This matches fairly well with our prediction, so keep this choice for now.

Now look at the second blank.  If the defendant has no witnesses to confirm her alibi, then her story would be weak or difficult to believe.  Using this as a prediction, let's look at the remaining options for the second blank.

A. “Innocuous” comes from the Latin roots “in” (not) and “nocuus” (to harm) and means “harmless or inoffensive.”  This choice does not match our prediction, so eliminate it.

B. "Auspicious" sounds a little like "suspicious," but it means nearly the opposite.  Something auspicious is favorable or promising of success.  This choice does not match our prediction, so eliminate it.

E. The word "implausible" comes from the same Latin root (plaudere) as the word "applaud," though the two words have very different meanings today.  Something implausible is unlikely to be true or hard to believe.  (FYI, something plausible is reasonable or probable).  This choice matches our prediction, so E must be correct.

The correct answer is E.

Source: Online Etymology Dictionary. Dan Harper. 2013. Web. 13 Jan. 2014.

Words used in this SC:

innocuous: harmless
vindicate: to clear of guilt or blame
auspicious: favorable or promising success
substantiate: to give substance to, to prove, or to establish
inept: awkward or unskilled
debilitate: to diminish strength
reticent: quiet and reserved
scrutinize: to examine closely
implausible: 1) unlikely to be true or 2) hard to believe
corroborate: to support with evidence or authority

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SAT Math: Geometry

Circles

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 11.24.40 AM.jpg

Knowsys Method

Read the problem carefully.  This problem deals with sectors, which are sections of a circle.  If you think of a circle as a pie, then sectors are slices of that pie.  

Identify the bottom line.  degrees in 1/6 of a circle - degrees in 1/9 of circle = ?

Assess your options.  If a sector makes up 1/6 a circle, then that sector must contain 1/6 of the 360 degrees in the circle.  Use that logic to figure out how many degrees are contained in each sector mentioned in the problem, then subtract the smaller number of degrees from the larger number to find the difference. 

Attack the problem.

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 11.30.49 AM.jpg

Loop back.  Verify that you solved for the bottom line.

The correct answer is C.
This is a medium level problem.  

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