The SAT Prep Black Book
SAT Writing Multiple Choice
Identifying Sentence Errors Quick Summary
This is a one-page summary of the major relevant concepts for Identifying Sentence Errors questions. Use it to evaluate your comprehension or jog your memory. For a more in-depth treatment of these ideas, see the rest of the section.
The Big Secret: Awkwardness doesn’t matter. All that matters are the rules of “SAT grammar.” SAT grammar is often similar to the way people talk but differs in certain ways.
Rules and patterns:
You can pick up the fine points of SAT grammar by going through the Blue Book solutions in this Black Book, or by reading the appendix in this Black Book. Apart from those, here are the rules and patterns unique to ISE questions:
oStyle doesn't count. You can only pick something if it actually breaks a rule, not just because you think you could make it sound better.
oYou can't pick an underlined phrase because you think the whole phrase should be deleted, except in cases of redundancy (which are rare on the SAT).
oYou’ll often see unnecessary descriptive phrases inserted between two words that should agree.
oThe issue of “singular vs plural” is the single most commonly tested concept.
oQuestions 25 - 29 or so tend to be more convoluted than the other questions.
oComparisons can only be made between similar things, and only in similar ways.
oNo substitutes for the word “and” (you can’t use “with,” “in addition to,” “as well as,” and so on).
oVerb tenses can only be wrong if they’re misconjugated or impossible in context.
oPrepositional idioms might be tested a couple of times or so. Only an issue for questions with no other errors.
Here's the Identifying Sentence Errors process:
oRead entire prompt sentence.
oFocus on underlined portions of prompt sentence.
oThink about how each word in the underlined portions relates to other words in the sentence (draw lines if it helps).
oLook for an underlined word that doesn't agree with a word it's related to.
oConsider that there might be nothing wrong with the sentence.
oRe-read the sentence and mark your answer. Remember there must be a broken SAT grammar rule.
For examples of these concepts in action, see the sample Blue Book solutions in this Black Book.