SAT – Common Sense and Math Problems

“Common sense is not so common” – said the French philosopher Voltaire.

Commen sense quote

The SAT test-writers sometimes fool test-takers this way. For example, they will present an intimidating looking problem that can be solved quite quickly with common sense methods. Take the following short example:

Car A completes one lap of a track in 70 seconds. Car B completes one lap in 66 seconds. If Car A and Car B begin driving at the same time, how long will it take for one to overtake the other if one lap of the track is 0.625 miles long?

A) 10 seconds
B) 19 minutes, 15 seconds
C) 2 days, 3 hours, and 55 minutes

The anxious test-taker might begin trying to solve the problem without looking at the answer choices first (a hint: the distance of the track doesnít matter). But a savvy test-taker might realize that the mathematical solution looks time-consuming at the very least and will look to the answer choices to see if any options can be eliminated. Choice A) is clearly too short: this is close to 1/7 of the time it takes either car to simply complete the first lap. Choice C) seems too long- almost absurd if we imagine F1 cars going around a track at the same speed. That leaves us with Choice B)- the common sense answer. Itís the correct one.

Common-sense problems like this donít come along too often- but when they do, the savvy test taker will always score an easy point over the anxious one.

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