Things You Need To Know To Ace the SAT Writing Multiple Choice Part II

by guest author Douglas Groene

6.) Comparisons- Whenever you see a comparison on the SAT, make sure the items are logically comparable. You can compare apples to apples, or even to bananas or kiwis, but you can’t compare apples to a geographical location:

“Mmm, these apples are much tastier than back in New York.”

In real life, we can just assume you mean “tastier than the apples back in new York,” but on the SAT you have to be clear about the items you are comparing.

7.) Sentence Structure- You should know the difference between an independent clause (which expresses a complete thought) and a dependent clause. Every valid sentence needs at least one independent clause- otherwise it is a sentence fragment no matter how many dependent clauses you string together:

For example, “Being the fifth child and the youngest in my family, although by no means the least talented, seeking attention from my older siblings night and day.”

This is not a valid sentence because it lacks an independent clause.

You can join an independent clause and a dependent clause together with just a comma, but you can’t put two independent clauses together with just a comma- that is a run-on sentence:

For example, “The Jets are an awful football team, they will not make the playoffs.”

To fix the run-on sentence, you can change the comma to a semicolon, use a conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) after the comma, make one of the independent clauses dependent, or break it up into two sentences.

8.) Modifiers- A modifier must be as close as possible to the item it modifies in order to avoid confusion. On the SAT, be particularly careful of introductory phrases or clauses set off by a comma- they modify the word immediately following the comma:

For example, “Filling the sky with a bright orange glow, James sat back and enjoyed the gorgeous sunset.”

The sentence is wrong because James was not the one filling the sky with a bright orange glow. To correct it, you would need to place the modifier right next to the word being modified, sunset:

“James sat back and enjoyed the gorgeous sunset, which filled the sky with a bright orange glow.”

9.) Parallelism- Whenever you see a list of items or a comparison between items, make sure the items are in parallel form. They should all be the same part of speech:

For example: “My favorite things to do in my free time are baking pastries, playing tennis, and movies.”

You would need to say “watching movies” or “going to the movies” in order to make the list parallel.

10.) Wordiness- On the SAT, concise sentences are preferable to wordy ones. One issue to look out for is the passive voice, which is inherently wordy. Sentences in the passive voice begin with the thing being acted upon, rather than the actor. By contrast, the active voice, which is correct on the SAT, begins with the subject.

For example, “The new law was voted on by the legislature.”

You can change the above sentence to the active voice by beginning with the the word performing the action, the legislature:

“The legislature voted on the new law.”

Douglas Groene has over ten years experience in tutoring for the ACT, SAT, GRE, GMAT, and LSAT. He is the founder and author of Pencil Nerd’s Test Prep Blog, which contains interesting news, tips, tools, and product reviews relating to test prep for the major standardized tests.

Things You Need To Know To Ace the SAT Writing Multiple Choice – Part I

by guest author Douglas Groene

Many kids dread the SAT essay and obsessively prepare for it as if their futures depend on it. But the little-known secret of SAT writing is that it doesn’t count for very much:

The essay only counts for about 30% of your writing score!

If you really want a stellar SAT writing score, you’d better focus on the writing multiple choice, which counts for a whopping 70% of your writing score.

Luckily, the writing multiple choice tests a very limited number of areas- ten, in fact. If you know all ten very well, you are good to go. You don’t need to worry about properly forming the possessive, spelling, or anything other than these ten things (Part II will contain the last five):

1.) Subject-verb agreement- Every verb must agree with its subject. The SAT will throw all sorts of clauses, phrases, and other distractors between the subject and verb to fool you. Your best bet is to mentally cross out everything in between the subject and verb and make sure they are both singular or both plural:

For example, “The girls on my cheerleading team is traveling across the country to participate in the national finals.”

Forget the extraneous words “on my cheerleading team.” Girls is? No. Girls are traveling.

You should be aware of a few special subject-verb agreement issues: two singular nouns connected by “and” create a plural subject; words that describe a portion of a whole (all, most, etc.) can be singular or plural subjects depending on the whole they describe; the pronouns “each” and “every” (and related pronouns) are always singular subjects; and collective nouns that describe a group of people or things acting in unison (such as “team” or “Congress”) are treated as singular subjects.

2.) Verb tense- The verb must be in the correct tense for the time in which it takes place. For the most part, you should prefer the simple past, present, and future tenses (I played, I play, I will play). Rarely on the SAT, you will need to use the progressive (I am playing) to emphasize that the action is ongoing.

The perfect tenses are more often wrong than right on the SAT, so only use them when your situation fits the rule perfectly.

Use the present perfect (I have played) to describe something that started in the past and continues to the present (for example, “I have played soccer since I was five”).

Use the past perfect tense (I had played) when something else in the sentence happened in the past and your verb happened even earlier (for example, “By the time I turned 21, I had earned an undergraduate degree in physics”).

Use the future perfect tense (I will have played) when something else in the sentence will happen in the future, and your verb will happen between then and now (for example, “by next month I will have paid off my entire Visa bill”).

3.) Idiom- Idiom is the one part of the SAT writing for which I can’t give you any rules to follow. Idiom comes down to how most people phrase expressions. For example, most people don’t say “I am confused on how you got your answer.” They say, “I am confused about how you got your answer.” Ultimately, there is no good reason why we say one and not the other- it’s just convention.

If you have been reading/writing English for a long time, most of the common idioms are probably familiar to you. Otherwise you should spend some time memorizing common idioms.

Watch out for idiom whenever you see verb-preposition combinations (comment on, emerge from, etc.).

4.) Diction- On the SAT, you must choose your words precisely. The SAT will test your knowledge of the difference between commonly confused words, such as less vs. fewer, or affect vs. effect.

For example, “My Girl Scout troop is selling boxes of cookies- how much would you like to buy?”

You should use many, rather than much. Use many for things you can count (boxes, dollars, sheep, etc.) and much for things you can’t count (food, money, luck, etc.).

5.) Pronouns- There are a few things to look for when you see a pronoun. First, make sure the pronoun agrees with its antecedent (the word it stands in for) in number, gender, and person.

For example, “After the boys finished playing baseball, she started a game of football.”

The word “she,” a feminine and singular pronoun, is way off. The only possible antecedent is “the boys,” so the pronoun should be “they.”

Second, make sure the pronoun is in the correct case- subject or object, depending on whether the pronoun is doing the action of having the action done to it.

For example, “After we won the lottery, many of the neighbors came over to congratulate my wife and I.”

Though some people obsessively prefer “I” over “me,” in the above sentence it is wrong. The pronoun is the object of the verb “congratulate” and therefore needs to be in the objective case. It should read, “many of the neighbors came over to congratulate my wife and me.”

Douglas Groene has over ten years experience in tutoring for the ACT, SAT, GRE, GMAT, and LSAT. He is the founder and author of Pencil Nerd’s Test Prep Blog, which contains interesting news, tips, tools, and product reviews relating to test prep for the major standardized tests.