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The CA SOLVE Approach to Word Problems for CBEST Exam Study Guide (page 5)

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Updated on Mar 29, 2011

Sample Multivariable Question

1. A man drove y miles every hour for z hours. If he gets w miles to the gallon of gas, how many gallons will he need?
1. yzw

Picture yourself in the situation. If you drove 4 (y) miles every hour for 5 (z) hours, you would have driven 20 miles. If your car gets 10 (w) miles to the gallon, you would need 2 gallons. Since 2 is your answer, plug the numbers you came up with into the answer choices and see which one is correct. Choice b equals 2 and is therefore correct.

Let the Answers Do the Math

When there is a lot of multiplication or division to do, you can use the answers to help you. Suppose you are asked to divide 9,765 by 31. The given answers are as follows:

1. 324
2. 316
3. 315
4. 314
5. 312

You know then that the answer will be a three-digit number and that the hundreds place will be 3. The tens place will be either 1 or 2.Your division problem is practically worked out for you.

Problems with Too Much or Too Little

When you come across a problem that you think you know how to answer, but there seems to be a number left over that you just don't need in your equation, don't despair. It could very well be that the test writers threw in an extra number to throw you off. The key to not falling prey to this trick is to know your equations and check to make sure that the answer you came up with makes sense.

When you come across a problem that doesn't seem to give enough information to calculate an answer, don't skip it. Read carefully, because sometimes a question asks you to set up an equation using variables, and doesn't ask you to solve the problem at all. If you are expected to actually solve a problem with what seems like too little information, experiment to discover how the information works together to lead to the answer. Try the CA SOLVE tips.

One Success Step for If Problems

1. Pick some numbers and try it out!

More Than One Way to Solve a Problem

Some questions ask you to find the only wrong way to solve a problem. In this type of question, do the computation yourself, and work from the answers. The choice that gives an answer different from the others has to be the wrong answer. Consider these choices:

1. 5% of 60
2. × 60
3. 0.05 × 60
4. 5 × 60 ÷ 100
5. 5 × 60

All of the answers compute to 3 except choice e, which turns out to be 300. Therefore, choice e must be the correct answer.