If you’re preparing to take the ACT or SAT, there’s one way to prepare for the math portion (or any portion for that matter, but today’s post regards math) that you may not have thought of. With this technique, you’ll focus less on being a good test taker and more on being a good test maker – which in turn will make you a better test taker!
On every math question, there is one right answer. That’s one nice thing about math – there is no picking “the best answer” among several that seem good as you might have to do on the English portion of a test. In math, the “best answer” is the only answer. But for every correct answer, there are three to four incorrect ones. And guess what? These incorrect answers are not random – they are based on commonly made errors. If you can figure out how the test maker generated these wrong answers, you can hopefully learn to avoid those errors.
For instance, imagine a simple problem were you are asked to compute the circumference in centimeters of a circle with a radius of 1 m. The correct answer is the diameter times pi or 200pi. There are several ways you could have gone wrong with this simple calculation:
(1) You could have forgotten to convert meters to centimeters and given the answer of 2pi.
(2) You could have been in a hurry and forgotten to double the radius to get the diameter and gotten an answer of 100pi.
(3) You could have read the problem incorrectly and found the area instead of the circumference and gotten the answer of 10,000pi.
If you have taken some time to think about how these wrong answers were generated, you will be on guard against these simple errors.
To follow this method, take the math portion of a sample ACT or SAT test. After you have graded your test, go back through each problem (both the ones you got right and the ones that you didn’t) and see if you can figure out the mistakes that the test maker intentionally made to come up with their wrong answers. It’s a little tedious, but this method achieves good results.