


Tackling Graph(ics)
You can think of Graph(ics) items as “Eye and Brain” items.
First you use your eyes to find what is needed,
then your brain does the rest. Regardless of what
the Graph(ics) item specifically asks you to do, always follow this
fourstep method:
Step 1: Identify the information presented in each
graph, chart, or table.
Step 2: Determine what the item wants.
Step 3: Manipulate the graph to find the missing information.
Step 4: Give the item what it wants.
Graph(ics) in Slow Motion
Now let’s look at each step more closely, using a graph
we are already familiar with:

Step 1: Identify the information.
Look at the bar graph and note what information is being
presented to you, both horizontally and vertically. For each year
given, there is a bar that denotes the amount of the gross national
product. Remember that we are not concerned with what “gross national
product” means. We care only about the numbers that represent it.
Note that the numbers that represent the gross national product
are distributed in increments of 5 and that it is possible to have
a negative gross national product.
Step 2: Determine what the item wants.
The item is asking for the least difference between any
two years. To put it in everyday language: “What two years are closest
to the same amount?” Now that we have a clear understanding of what
the item wants, let’s look back to our bar graph. It’s eye time!
Step 3: Manipulate the graph to find the missing information.
There isn’t a whole lot of manipulation with this straightforward
graph item, but go ahead and compare the bars in the graph to one
another. At first glance, three particular years seem to be relatively
close to the same amount: 1986, 1987, and 1989.
On closer inspection of these three years, the smallest
difference appears twice. Between 1986 and 1989 there is a difference
of 5, and between 1987 and 1989 there is a difference of 5. Write
both these answers down and move on to the next step.
Step 4: Give the item what it wants.
It’s not uncommon for the SAT to have more than one correct
answer, even on multiplechoice sections, so you need to look at
the answer choices and compare them to your answers. Only one, answer
choice D, matches your answers. The testmakers are
sneaky in that they purposely leave out the other correct answer
in order for there to be one legitimately correct answer. Instead
of getting all worked up over this, just choose the one answer that
matches yours and move on. You gave the item what it wanted, end
of story. Put it behind you and focus your attention on the next
item.
Guided Practice
Try this item on your own.

Step 1: Identify the information.
Don’t get overwhelmed because of the multiple graphs and
charts. Study each one individually and identify
the separate pieces of information presented.
Step 2: Determine what the item wants.
In reading the stem, you’ll find that this item is pretty
straightforward.
Step 3: Manipulate the graph to find the missing information.
Remember that the SAT wouldn’t give you two graphs if
you needed only one. How do the two charts relate to each another?
Step 4: Give the item what it wants.
Make sure you answer what the item is actually asking
for. Distractors are usually numbers that you use to work the
solution but are not the correct answer.
Guided Practice: Explanation
Two different graphs and charts? No fear: just use our
fourstep method to solve this item.
Step 1: Identify the information.
Eye that first pie graph. It shows us the percentage breakdown
of how the junior and senior classes get to and from school. It
also tells us the total number of students in both classes. The
second bar graph displays the actual number of juniors who take
the bus, get a ride from their parents, drive, or walk to school.
Step 2: Determine what the item wants.
Fortunately, this item is very direct. We need to find
the number of seniors who walk.
Step 3: Manipulate the graph to find the missing information.
From the first graph, we know the percentage of
juniors and seniors who walk to school. Now it’s time for your brain
to do some of the lifting. Because 10% of juniors and seniors walk
and there is a total of 240 juniors and seniors, the actual number
of walkers would be .
The second graph only tells us about juniors. But wait:
if 20 juniors walk to school, and the total of juniors and seniors
who walk is 24, then the number of seniors who walk to school would
be: 24 – 20, or 4.
Step 4: Give the item what it wants.
You got this far, now don’t blow it by getting cocky.
You know 4 is the right answer, but after staring at the graphs
for a few minutes, it would be easy enough to choose C (10)
or E (20), because you are familiar with those numbers
from solving the problem. You wouldn’t believe the number of students
who review their practice tests and say, “I got that right, but
I chose the wrong answer.” The only thing the SAT cares about is
the bubbledin answer choice. No partial credit: it’s all or nothing.
Be sure to give the item what it wants, answer A.
Independent Practice
Look at the following page when you’ve completed this
item.

Independent Practice: Explanation
Step 1: Identify the information.
The first pie graph shows us the percentage breakdown
of how the junior and senior classes get to and from school. It
also tells us the total number of students in both classes. The
second bar graph displays the actual number of juniors who take
the bus, get a ride from their parents, drive, or walk to school.
Step 2: Determine what the item wants.
This item is specifically asking you to take the number
of seniors who ride the bus and add it to the total number of juniors
and seniors who drive. Once this is done, you need to figure out
the new percentage of drivers.
Step 3: Manipulate the graph to find the missing information.
First, let’s find the total number of students who
take the bus. It is going to be 40% of the total number of juniors
and seniors, . From the second graph we know that
80 juniors ride the bus, and if 96 juniors and seniors ride the
bus, then the number of seniors who ride the bus is 96 – 80, or
16. This is the number we are going to add to our total number of
drivers.
Now we need to do the same thing with the drivers
in the first graph that we did with bus riders—find the actual number. .
So if there were 60 juniors and seniors driving to school and we
added the 16 who used to take the bus, we come up with a new total
of 76 drivers.
Step 4: Give the item what it wants.
We are not quite done yet. Remember the item specifically
asked for the new percentage of drivers after the
bus riders were added to them. So now we need to place our numbers
into the percentage formula to get .
Note that the question in the item asks for approximate,
this simply means to round the answer off some more. That’s answer C,
32%.
