There are several different types of questions on the SAT math section. In this lesson, we'll look at two of them: grid-in and extended-thinking questions. We'll look at examples of them and talk about strategies to succeed.
Ling is worried about the SAT. Specifically, she's intimidated by the math portion. She's okay with multiple choice math questions, but she's heard there are other types of questions on the math section too and that makes her nervous. Though the majority of questions in the math section of the SAT are multiple choice, there are two other types of questions. The main type is grid-in questions, which ask students to calculate an answer and enter it into a grid and bubble answer box. In addition, there are extended-thinking questions, which are several questions organized around a single scenario or data set. For example, there might be a word problem with three or four different grid-in questions tied to it. To help prepare Ling for the test, let's take a look at some examples of grid-in and extended-thinking questions and then go through some test taking strategies she can employ on the day of the exam.
Ling wants to practice her grid-in question answering skills, so let's help her out by giving her extended-thinking grid-in questions. Remember, for extended-thinking questions there is a single scenario or data set, but multiple questions. So, let's start by looking at the data and scenario. This graph shows how many people per 100,000 died of heart disease in 2005, adjusted by age and separated by race. Okay, that seems pretty straightforward. So, let's move on to the first grid-in question related to this graph. How much higher is the average for African Americans than the average for American Indians and Alaska Natives? Still pretty easy, Ling thinks. She looks at the bar that represents the average number of African Americans who died of heart disease in 2005 and sees that the bar represents 271.3. She writes that down on her paper. Then she looks at the bar for the average for American Indians and Alaska Natives and sees that it's at 141.8. She writes that down to. Now she subtracts 141.8 from 271.3. She gets 129.5, so she puts that in her grid. See, Ling? This isn't so bad!
Now let's move on to the second question related to the graph. What percentage of the total for all races does the average for Hispanics represent? Okay, Ling is feeling pretty good so she quickly writes down the average for Hispanics, 157.3, and then divides that by the average for all races, 211.1. She gets about 75%. Wait a minute. How could that one bar be 75% of all the people who died? Something's not right here. Ling looks back at her work and then realizes her mistake. She automatically put in the average for all races, but the question asks her about the total for all races. She needs to add up all the bars, except for the first one, and that will give her the total. When she does that, she gets 891.5. When she divides the average for Hispanics, which is 157.3, by 891.5 she gets 17.64441952%. That number looks more correct than 75% did, but there's still a problem. There isn't enough space on the grid for her to put the whole thing. What does she do?
Ling has two options. She can round the number or she can cut it off. For example, let's say that the grid has enough space for her to put in four digits plus the decimal point. So, essentially, she can write down the first two places after the decimal. In this case, Ling's answer will be the same either way: 17.64. But let's say that the third place after the decimal is a 9 instead of a 4. Ling would have the option of putting either 17.64 or 17.65. Either would be correct. Ling also does not have to put the percentage sign in her answer, just the number. Finally, if Ling has a fraction, like 3/12, it does not have to be simplified.
Tips & Strategies
Okay, Ling is starting to get the hang of these grid-in and extended-thinking questions, but she wonders if there are certain strategies that work well for these types of questions. The answer is definitely! Some of the strategies Ling has already employed. For example, it's important to make sure her answers seem logical. If you get an answer that doesn't seem right, like Ling calculated that Hispanics were 75% of the total, double and triple check the answer.
The good news is, even if Ling isn't sure, she won't get a penalty for guessing wrong. So, she should make a reasonable guess, even if she's not sure of the answer.
In addition, Ling will want to show all work that she's doing. This allows her to catch any calculation errors when she goes back and checks her work.
Finally, Ling should write on graphics to help her organize her ideas about them. For example, if she has a graph or table, she can mark important words or draw lines to connect areas visually.
Students taking the math section of the SAT will see grid-in questions, which ask students to calculate an answer and enter it into a grid and bubble answer box, and extended-thinking questions, which are just several questions organized around a single scenario or data set. Strategies for success on these types of questions include:
- Make sure answers seem logical
- Make a reasonable guess, even if not sure of the answer
- Show all work on scrap paper
- Write on graphics to help organize her ideas about them.
In addition, it's important to know that answers on grid-in questions can be rounded or cut off, signs and symbols do not have to be put in the grid, and fractions do not have to be simplified.