Avoid Partial Answers
For problems that have more than one step, a partial answer
is the answer to one of the steps of the problem, but not to the
whole problem. For example,
Monday, a bus carries ten girls and five boys. On Tuesday, it carries
five girls and six boys. What is the average number of girls and
boys on the bus over the period of Monday and Tuesday?
The correct answer to this question is C,
13 girls and boys, but you may have liked choices B, D, or E, which
are all partial answers to this problem (choice A is just silly).
Here’s why you might have chosen B, D, or E: choice B is the total
number of passengers on the Tuesday bus; choice D is the total number
of passengers on the Monday bus; choice E is the total number of
passengers riding for both days. You have to calculate each one
of these numbers to get the final answer (choice E divided by the
number of days, 2). At any point during those calculations, you
may have looked down and seen that a number you had calculated matched
a number in the answer choices. Then you may have assumed you found the
right answer. But, no, you didn’t.
Partial answers love to prey upon eager test takers who
are in a hurry to get the right answer. Instead of paying careful
attention to the question, these test takers get a number, see it
in the answer choices, and immediately identify it as the correct
answer. ACT knows about all these eager, jumpy test takers and deliberately
plants partial answers throughout the Math Test.
On word problems, the last sentence of the problem usually
tells you what the question is looking for. Consider rereading this
last sentence once you’ve formulated your answer to make sure you
did what the question asked.