Today I was working with a student on the SAT writing section. The passage was comparing the numbers of physician and physician assistants (PAs) and the expected increase of PAs in the future.
This is from the Writing section in the Official SAT Practice Test 6, Section 2.
Get a little suspicious
Question 32 asked if you should include the statement, “In fact, according to the data presented in the table, physician assistants will likely outnumber physicians by 2025.”
Now up to this point the whole passage, and specifically the previous paragraph, was talking about the increasing need for PAs. So without looking at the table, the answer would be yes – include this statement because it’s consistent with everything we’ve read so far and because it gives a relevant detail that supports the main idea of the passage.
And look at the second-to-last sentence in the previous paragraph, “…while the number of primary care physicians will increase slowly from 2010 to 2025, the number of physician assistants and nurse-practitioners in primary care will grow at much faster rates.” Earlier in the passage it made the point that the number of PAs will grow at a much faster rate (growing by 12% while the physician growth rate is falling.) So, headed into this particular question, everything you have read so far reinforces that there’s going to be a lot more PAs in 2025.
But look more carefully at the question: “In fact, according to the data presented in the table, physician assistants will likely outnumber physicians by 2025.” You need to go look at the table. Do they expect PAs to outnumber physicians in 2025?
Nope. They expect there will be 42,000 PAs and 216,000 physicians. So the statement is incorrect. Look at the next column – the percent of total. You can see that they expect the percentage of PAs to increase from 10% to 12%. BUT the absolute number of physicians still outnumbers the absolute number of PAs in 2025.
Tricky, tricky, tricky! My students were blown away that the SAT would “lie” about the facts in the table.
Moral of the story
Treat the test questions like your drunk uncle. Don’t take anything it says at face value. Always double check the data for yourself. Because both the SAT and the ACT are trying to mug you and steal points away from you. Don’t let them.
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