Sometimes, math problems on the SAT really are as straightforward as they seem. Here’s an example of a problem that should be fairly easy to solve.

In a sequence of numbers, the first number is 6, and each number after the first number is 2 more than 3 times the preceding number. What is the third number in the sequence?

(A) 16

(B) 20

(C) 54

(D) 62

(E) 80

**Step 1: Identify the Problem**

The problem is asking you to find the third number in a pattern. The THIRD number, *not* second.

**Step 2: Gather Information**

There are two pieces of relevant information. The first is the first number in the pattern, which is 6. The second is the pattern, which is “2 more than 3 times the preceding.”

**Step 3: Use the Information to Solve the Problem
**So remember, we’re looking for the THIRD number in the pattern. Let’s start by finding the second number in the pattern. The pattern is “2 more than 3 times the preceding.” Well, we know that the first number is 6, so what is “2 more than 3 times 6?” If we translate that into an equation, we get

*2 + (3 *x* 6)*

This is 20. Now, let’s do it again to get the third number. Ask yourself “what is 2 more than 3 times 20?”

*2 + (3 *x* 20)*

This is 62. And now we have our answer, (D).

This question isn’t meant to be difficult or tricky. The most common mistake to make on this kind of question is to forget to find the THIRD number in the pattern. Notice that 20 is answer choice (B). If you weren’t being careful, you might have answered 20 instead of 62. This is why Step 1 is so important! Always make sure you identify the problem, and when you finish the problem, make sure you’ve answered it!