Question

Dear Mitch,

Do you have any last minute tips that could help on the SAT test this Saturday?

(I really haven't studied much but not I'm starting to cram!)

Sincerely,

David O.

Answer

Dear David O.,

Sure!

When you're working on the math sections, never lose sight of the fact that

** THE NUMBERS ARE CHOSEN FOR A REASON**!!

What does that mean, and how will it help you?

Check out this example:

Bobby, the neighbor's dog, runs 1 mile in 9 1/2 minutes. At this rate, how many miles does he run in 38 minutes?

(A) 9.5

(B) 8.8

(C) 6.6

(D) 4.0

(E) 2.5

Now, if this were one problem on a homework set your teacher had assigned, most likely he/she would expect/hope to see you set up a ratio of the type that looks like this:

9 1/2 / 1 = 38/x

(or something like that)

Also, the question would most likely not be in multiple choice format, though it could be.

BUT on the SAT, the NUMBERS ARE CHOSEN FOR A REASON!!

What is that reason?

There is almost always some relationship among the numbers that – once spotted – makes a two-minute question into a twenty-second one. Here, the key numbers are 9 1/2 and 38. Not the easiest to spot, in terms of a relationship. So... here's what I recommend: Try doubling the smaller one.

9 1/2 x 2 = 19.

Hmmm...

Nothing exciting, YET.

So try doubling it again:

19 x 2 = 38. *OH?*

So: If you have to double a number twice to get another number, that means you are multiplying the initial number by 4. And so, if it takes __one minute__ for the dog to run __9 1/2 miles__, then it must take __four times as long__ for him to run __four times as far as 9 1/2__ miles. Four *times* one minute = four minutes. The answer is (D), 4.0.

** QUESTION**:

What's the rush? What difference does it make if you can do a question in twenty seconds instead of two minutes, especially since they give you about a minute per question?

** ANSWER**:

They do not "GIVE YOU" a minute per question. If you have ten minutes to do ten questions on a standardized test, for example, particularly a test that places the questions in ascending order of difficulty, as the SAT does, then you BETTER get the easy ones done in far less than a minute, because some of the more complicated ones are designed to take most students AT LEAST 2 1/2 minutes, and some questions are designed to take most students far longer than that.

You need to get the easy ones out of the way as fast as you can without being careless, so that you accumulate as much extra time as you can, enabling you to slow down to conquer the tough questions.

Even if you don't expect to get the highest score on the planet, this idea should be a part of your time-management strategy on tests like the SAT.

Hope this helps.

Good luck on your big day,

Mitch