The Importance of Organization for Word Problems

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Molly worked at an amusement park over the summer.Every two weeks she was paid according to the following schedule:at the end of the first two weeks she received \$160.At the end of each subsequent two week period she received \$1, plus an additional amount equal to the sum of all the payments she had received in the previous weeks.How much money was Molly paid during full 10 weeks of summer?

A. 644
B. 1288
C. 1770
D. 2575
E. 3229

To start, let’s create a table just to lay out the general information first:

After 2 weeks —> \$160

After 4 weeks —-> \$1 + (all previous)

After 6 weeks —-> \$1 + (all previous)

After 8 weeks —-> \$1 + (all previous)

After 10 weeks —-> \$1 + (all previous)

Then fill in what the “all previous” would mean:

After 2 weeks —> \$160

After 4 weeks —-> \$1 + \$160 = \$161

After 6 weeks —-> \$1 + (\$160 + \$161) = \$161 + \$161

After 8 weeks —-> \$1 + (\$160 + \$161 + \$161 + \$161) = \$161 + \$161 + \$161 + \$161

After 10 weeks —> \$1 + (all previous) = eight \$161’s

At this point we can see that “all previous” is going to equal the initial \$160 + seven \$161 and then we’re adding \$1 to it, so it’s really just \$161 x 8 = \$1288

We have an interesting sequence:

After 2 weeks —> \$160

After 4 weeks —-> one \$161

After 6 weeks —-> two \$161

After 8 weeks —-> four \$161

After 10 weeks —-> eight \$161

Basically the “number” of \$161’s just doubled from 4 weeks to 10 weeks.

Now to add them all up, again, we’re just going to count up all of the number of \$161’s.

We have our initial \$160 + 15*(\$161) = \$2575. The correct answer is (D).

You will see over and over again that it’s not the Math calculations in Word Problems that will trip you up, but the inability to be super organized on your scratch paper. 🙂

Interpreting Evidence Correctly on the ACT and SAT

In all three types of ACT Science passages, you will need to be able to understand how evidence is presented and be asked to answer questions based on the evidence. These are a bit like Reading questions.

To interpret evidence correctly, you need to focus on the results. Draw logical conclusions based on the presented data, and actively read the information in the accompanying passage. It’s important to know the difference between direct and inverse variation.

To answer Interpreting Evidence questions correctly, ask yourself these 3 questions: – What is the evidence presented? – Whose position is supported by the evidence? – What does the evidence suggest?

Interpreting evidence for Data Representation and Research Summaries ends up requiring more Data Analysis skills, since data is a large component of those passages. For Conflicting Viewpoints, interpreting evidence is a matter of keeping the two theories (two scientists) straight. Watch this video for a strategy on how to do this!

This video describes how to answer “Inference” questions on the SAT and ACT Reading Test. You may wonder what this has to do with ACT Science, but sometimes interpreting evidence is a LOT less scientific than it sounds, and a LOT more like reading comprehension. Remember that you can only make an inference BASED on something directly stated. Incorrect answer choices are frequently “out of scope.”

Grammar Guide: the usage of “those”

Confused about how “those” works on the SAT, ACT, GRE, or GMAT? Let’s take a look at a question from Manhattan GMAT that uses this word!

Salt deposits and moisture threaten to destroy the Mohenjo-Daro excavation in Pakistan, the site of an ancient civilization that flourished at the same time as the civilizations in the Nile delta and the river valleys of Tigris and Euphrates.

A) that flourished at the same time as the civilizations
B) that had flourished at the same time as had the civilizations
C) that flourished at the same time those had
D) flourishing at the same time as those did
E) flourishing at the same time as those were

In general, “those” is the plural of “that.” It’s in a group called “determiners” along with “this”, “that”, “these”, “those,” “here” and there that are technically pronouns but often function more like adjectives.

For C, D, and E, “those” is meant to mean something like “the ones” and could be used as a pronoun to replace a plural antecedent if there was one in the sentence, and if the construction was parallel.

The correct answer is (A).

SAT Identifying Sentence Errors: the Ultimate Strategy

Did you know that there are only 18 Identifying Sentence Errors on the SAT Writing section? They count for the largest percentage of your Writing score out of the Writing question-types, and if you rock the grammar skills you already have, and practice a few hundred ISE’s, you’ll easily get most of these questions correct!

Step 1 –Identify the part of speech. What part of speech is underlined? Is it a verb, preposition, adjective, adverb, pronoun, etc? The SAT loves to test the same errors over and over, and we know that each part of speech comes with some predictable errors.
Is the underlined section a Verb? Double-check that it agrees with its subject in number and plurality and that the verb tense is logical with the timeline of the sentence.

Is the underlined section a Pronoun? Make sure it has a clear Antecedent, and that the Pronoun agrees with the antecedent in number. Make sure as well that the personal pronouns (“who” and “whom”, for example) are only being used to refer to people, not things.

Is the underlined section a Preposition? The preposition could be part of an Idiom – does the preposition make sense with the word that immediately precedes it?

For example, we can’t say “afraid from,” only “afraid of.” Is the transition appropriate? Make a flashcard of the most common Idioms and learn them like you would vocabulary words. Idioms alone account for approximately 10% of your SAT Writing score!

Is the underlined section an Adverb or Adjective? Adjectives can only describe nouns, while adverbs can describe verbs, adjectives and other adverbs. Is there a word that is modifying a verb that needs an –ly suffix?

Step 2 – Check for Parallelism errors. Once you’ve examined each of the underlined portions, identified the parts of speech, and double-checked for the most-likely errors associated with that part of speech, re-read the sentence as a whole and look for any Parallelism. Items in a list (separated by commas), comparisons, and (in general) multiple verbs must be in the same format! For comparisons, remember that only “like” things can be compared to each other: people to people and things to things.

Step 3 – Still no error? Choose (E). Remember to trust yourself. After you’ve worked through each underlined part of speech and checked for Parallelism in the sentence as a whole, you still may not be able to find an error. Don’t worry — 5-8 of the ISE’s on Test Day will have “No Error”. That is approximately one-third of all ISE’s!

As you prep for your SAT, if you find yourself choosing (E) too often, it’s likely you’ll need to spend more time studying the most common types of grammatical SAT errors: idioms, run-on sentences, fragments, parallelism, subject-verb agreement, etc. If you find yourself hardly ever correctly choosing (E), then you need to relax and trust yourself. Don’t look for errors that aren’t there!

How to Conquer Long Passages on the SAT

I’ll admit it- even I don’t love long SAT passages. These passages are no one’s favorite since it can be easy to get bored and confused by them, so let’s focus on some important strategies that will help you better understand the passages and get more questions correct!

When faced with one long SAT reading comp passage, it is especially important to take notes as you read. Make sure you underline the main idea of the paragraph and circle any important details. When you finish reading one paragraph, make sure you write down what the function of that paragraph was before moving on. The function should answer the question: why did the author write this paragraph? How does it fit into the whole passage? What’s its purpose?

Some common functions include: to introduce the topic, to support the topic, to introduce a new viewpoint, to bring in a counterargument, to provide an example, to describe a hypothesis, to offer an explanation, etc. A passage is simply the sum of its parts (in this case, its paragraphs). If you understand the parts, you’ll understand the whole. Think of each paragraph in terms of a verb and you’ll be on your way to answering those tough “The third paragraph serves primarily to…” questions. The key rule here: Don’t keep reading if you don’t understand why the author wrote the paragraph.

Another important tip to remember is to read the blurb! Many students overlook those few sentences and just dive right into the first paragraph, but it’s important to read the blurb first so you can understand the context of the passage. Often the blurb will tell you the purpose of the passage – the reason why the author wrote it. Is the passage a book review? Part of a novel or short story? An explanation of a scientific phenomena? Make sure you write down the purpose of the entire passage when you are done, before you answer questions!

A final tip to help you with the longest passages, besides noting the function/purpose and reading the blurb, is to pay attention to the author’s point of view and places where the author reveals opinion. How does the author feel about the topic? If this is a prose passage, how does the author feel about the characters? I like to write either a happy face or a sad face next to words that reveal opinion. For example, if the author described a character as “charming” and “clever,” I would put a smiley face next to those words. A quick glance to that paragraph later would remind me of the author’s opinion.

Let’s say we had a science-themed passage about hurricanes. Here is how our notes might look on this passage:

Para. 1: to introduce the topic of hurricanes – describe how powerful they are
Para. 2: to describe how a hurricane forms (☺- author v. interested in them)
Para. 3: to explain the history of hurricanes (where recorded; notable hurricanes)
Para. 4: to summarize how Hurricane Katrina happened
Para. 5: to recommend how hurricanes can be better detected/damage prevented
Para. 6: to explain how politics prevents this (low funding, etc.)

Overall Purpose: to describe how hurricanes form, their history & advocate more funding for their research

Ask yourself questions as you read and think critically to prevent even the most confusing and boring passages from distracting you from your goal!

The Most-Tested Grammar Rules on the SAT

For the SAT Writing section, the key to better scores is to familiarize yourself with the tested grammatical rules. Rather than read an entire book on English grammar, check out this list of the Top 10 grammar rules tested on the SAT!

1. Idioms. Idioms are expressions native to the English language. There are two part Idioms such as “neither…nor” and” between…and” as well as prepositional idioms like “interested IN” and “afraid OF.”

2. Run-ons & Fragments. These are two kinds of incomplete sentences. To be a complete sentence, a subject and a predicate verb is required. If either is lacking, the sentence is called a fragment. A run-on contains too much information, usually because two independent clauses (two complete thoughts) are being improperly combined.

3. Subject-Verb. The SAT loves to give long sentences where the main subject and the verb are separated by many words or clauses. You must identify the subject of each sentence and make sure the verb matches it in number. Generally, a plural noun takes a singular verb and a singular subject takes a plural verb.

4. Pronouns. The most common error associated with pronouns is pronoun-antecedent agreement. The antecedent is the word the pronoun is replacing. A pronoun must have a clear antecedent in the sentence; the lack of an antecedent is itself an error. The antecedent may often be present, but will disagree with the pronoun in number.

5. Parallelism. Parallelism is tested on the SAT in a series of phrases or items in a list. In parallel construction, the phrases or items must be in the same form. This can be tested with a number of parts of speech: nouns, verbs, prepositions, etc.

6. Modification. Modifiers are words and phrases that describe nouns. Adjectives, adverbs and modifying clauses will be incorrectly placed, or in the wrong form. Adverbs can only modify verbs, while adjectives modify nouns. Be on the lookout for suspicious adverb-noun and adjective-verb pairings. Also be aware that many sentences will begin with a modifying phrase and a comma. The subject after the comma must be the person or thing doing the action of the modifying phrase.

7. Comparisons. The SAT likes to compare similar things. People can only be compared to people, and things can only be compared to things. It also tests the comparative/superlative forms. Use better and more when comparing two things. Use best and most when comparing three or more things.

8. Wordiness. Wordiness means just what it sounds like, too many words! As long as there are no new grammar errors introduced, the shortest answer choice is often correct. Redundancy is a type of wordiness where the same thing is said twice. For example, the SAT would never call someone “intelligent and smart.” Keep it simple and to the point, and don’t repeat yourself!

9. Passive Voice. Passive Voice puts the object of the sentence first. Make sure to keep the subject (the person or thing doing the action) before the verb.

10. Diction. This is rarely tested on the SAT, so you are likely to only see 1-2 questions with this concept. Diction means “word choice.” The SAT may try to fool you by using a word that sounds similar to the intended word, but does not make sense in context (for example, replacing “imperious” with “impervious”). It’s important not to rush on the SAT.

Use this as a checklist to begin your studies. You’ll find articles for most of these tested areas right here on the GMAT Rockstar blog! As you study, focus on labeling each question with the “tested-concept” behind it. It’s not about getting every question correct individually, but learning to recognize the concepts. The questions will always change, but these concepts are guaranteed to show up on test day.

10 Ways to Rock the SAT Test

A good SAT score can help ease the college admissions process and qualify you for college scholarships! So how can you kick off your SAT test prep? These free SAT test prep tips will help you get the best scores possible!

1. Commit to a study schedule. To make sure you get the SAT test date and testing center you want, register early, at least 2-3 months before the exam. That way you can create a study schedule, working backwards from the test date. Be realistic with yourself. How much time can you commit each week to SAT practice questions? Work in 2-3 hour blocks maximum. It’s better to study 20-30 minutes a day than 4 hours once a week.

2. Identify your weaknesses early on. Are you a slow reader? Is your SAT Math knowledge so-so? Grammar got you down? Know going in to your SAT test prep what areas need more work and plan to address them first. You’ll need more time for the weaknesses. Don’t put off studying for a section just because you dread it!

3. Get enough sleep and exercise. All test-taking is a mental exercise. Try to focus on your progress in your SAT test prep, and don’t dwell on your incorrect choices. You will need to sleep and exercise to keep your brain functioning optimally. Take care of your body and mind, and think positively!

4. Work on pacing. The SAT is comprised of ten sections which alternate Writing, Reading, and Math. These sections have different challenges regarding pacing, with different numbers of questions and different time limits. You will need to develop a pacing strategy for each section so that you are as comfortable completing the 25-min sections as you are completing the final 10-minute Writing section.

5. Learn the directions early. Don’t waste valuable time on your SAT test day reading and re-reading instructions. Each question-type has its own set of directions. Familiarize yourself with them now.

6. Visit SAT.org. This is the official website, and yet it’s amazing how many students take the SAT without ever having visited it! This should be your first stop in your SAT test prep journey. There are official guides and free practice questions right at your fingertips.

7. Use reliable practice material. Start studying with the SAT Official Guide and the material on sat.org. Books from reputable companies such as Kaplan or Princeton Review are excellent supplemental materials. Look for books with a lot of practice tests. For online studying, look at comprehensive study sites such as Grockit.com that have material that is based on the Official Guide and old released tests.

8. If you finish early, check your work. Even if you are a fast test-taker naturally, make sure to use the entire given time. If you finish a section early, go back and review the questions, slowly “re-taking” them and checking for simple mistakes.

9. Try to think like the test-makers. Try to develop an understanding of what the test-makers “prefer” in terms of the answer choices. For example, after studying the SAT Writing sections for some time you’ll notice how overall the SAT test-makers prefer less wordiness and economy of language. This kind of understanding will help you make better “educated guesses” on harder problems.

10. Build your content knowledge. The SAT tests a finite number of vocabulary words, grammatical concepts, and Math formulas. You will need to figure out what you already know, and what you need to work on. The questions may change, but the tested content is always the same.

All About the SAT!

Fast facts to help you cover everything you need to know about registering, prepping for, and taking the SAT exam!

• The SAT is a 10-section test, testing three areas: Critical Reading, Writing, and Math.
• The SAT is offered seven times each year in the U.S. and six times internationally. It is offered in October, November, December, January, March (U.S. only; SAT only), May and June.
• High school students in the U.S. or U.S. territories who can’t afford to pay test fees may be eligible for SAT fee waivers! Find out if you qualify here!
• If you have a documented disability, you may be eligible for accommodations on SAT Program tests. Arrangements can be made if you need accommodations such as: wheelchair accessibility; preferential seating; special test formats such as Braille or large print; written copy of spoken directions; or other accommodations.
• Your raw scores are calculated for each section based on the number of questions you got correct or incorrect, or that you omitted. From this raw score, a scaled score is derived. Finally, you’ll receive a percentile score.

Looking for a diagnostic to see where you’re at? Take a free Princeton Review practice test here!

Learnist: Basic Algebra on the ACT and SAT

Expert Katie Cantrell over at Learnist offers a great look at the fundamental algebra concepts on the ACT and SAT exams. Refresh how to isolate variables, solve basic equations, and apply the order of operations on Test Day!

This video in particular covers several ways to conceive of variables, how to solve linear equations with fractions, and how to check your work to ensure that you have found the correct answer.

Learnist: Best Reading Strategies for the SAT

The Critical Reading section of the SAT consists of approx 70% passage-based questions. Remember the SAT test booklet is your scratch paper – don’t be afraid to use it to take notes on the passages as you read!

To focus your brain, it is especially important to take notes as you read and practice what is known as “active reading.” This video from Kaplan describes a system of notes you might find helpful called a “Passage Map.” A Passage Map helps you track:

• Main Ideas
• Beliefs and Opinions
• Details

Even if you don’t want to write a full Passage Map, make sure you at least underline the main idea of the paragraph and circle any relevant details. It will be much easier to get the questions correct later on if you thoroughly understood the passage the 1st time through. Never skim!