The SAT Prep Black Book

Appendix: Writing Toolbox

The multiple-choice questions on the SAT Writing section test a surprisingly limited number of concepts over and over again, and these concepts can be learned pretty quickly. Still, many SAT-takers are intimidated by these questions because very few of them have ever studied grammar, usage, or writing style in school.

Before we can talk about the hidden rules and patterns of the SAT Writing Section—before we can talk about real strategy, in other words—we have to lay down some basic ideas that will form the foundation for a successful approach to this part of the SAT.

Even if you think you have a good grasp of grammar and usage, you should probably read through this section at least twice. It will only take a few minutes, and you might find that you were misinformed about something.

The grammar principles we’re about to discuss are NOT necessarily the same as what you might have learned in school! It’s only enough information to get you through every real SAT Writing question. If something seems a little strange at first, just go with it—you’ll see that this simplified approach allows you to prepare quickly and easily.

All The SAT Writing Concepts You Need to Know

The concepts you need to know for the SAT Writing section can be divided into two main groups: underlying grammatical ideas that do NOT appear on the test, and the higher-level concepts built on those ideas.

For this discussion, we’ll start with the underlying ideas and move on to the higher-level concepts quickly. (I would much rather skip the underlying ideas altogether, since they don’t actually appear on the SAT, but many of the higher-level concepts won’t make sense without them.)

Underlying Grammatical Ideas

These basic ideas explain the essential foundation of written English as it appears on the SAT writing section. You’ll probably find that you’re familiar with most of this material, but there’s a good chance you’ll find some things you didn’t know in here.

Parts Of Speech And Their Roles

Written English has nouns, verbs, adjectives, and conjunctions, among other things. Knowing how to identify these parts of speech, and knowing how they interact with each other, will make it possible to understand the concepts that are tested on the SAT writing section.

Nouns

Nouns are the first parts of speech that babies learn, because nouns are the things you can point to. A baby can point to its mother and say, “mommy,” because the word mommy describes an actual, physical thing. The most basic nouns are things you can point at like a baby would.

Examples:

deskcomputerpillowfood, and airplane are all nouns like this.

But there are other types of nouns as well. Some nouns represent ideas, like happiness or fatalism. These nouns are things that you can’t point at. But don’t worry—you can usually recognize them by their endings.

Examples:

If a word ends in -ness-ism-hood-ology, or anything similar, it’s probably a noun.

Nouns can be either singular or plural. The plural form of a noun is usually formed with the suffix -s or the suffix -es, but there are some special nouns that form their plurals differently.

Examples:

shoe, box, and mouse are all singular nouns, and shoes, boxes, and mice are the plural forms of those nouns.

Pronouns are a special sub-set of nouns. A pronoun is a word that shows us we’re dealing with a noun we’ve already talked about. Usually, pronouns take the place of the nouns they refer to.

Examples:

I, you, he, she, it, we, they, me, you, him, her, us, them, one, which, and that are all pronouns. When we have a sentence like Thomas wants to know why he has to do the dishes, the helets us know that we’re still talking about the same person. It would sound strange to say Thomas wants to know why Thomas has to do the dishes, so we use the pronoun he in place of the second Thomas.

On the SAT Writing Section, a pronoun must always be used in a way that clearly indicates which noun (or nouns) it replaces.

Example:

This is a good sentence on the SAT:

Amy and Elizabeth were playing cards with Billy when Amy became angry with him.

ohim is a pronoun that clearly refers to the noun Billy, which appears earlier in the sentence.

This is a bad sentence on the SAT:

*Amy and Elizabeth were playing cards with Billy when she became angry at him.

oshe is a pronoun that could refer either to the noun Amy or to the noun Elizabeth.

On the SAT Writing Section, you can use either one or you as a pronoun that refers to an unspecified person, but the use must be consistent within a sentence.

Examples:

These are okay sentences on the SAT:

One should take care to mind one’s manners.

You should take care to mind your manners.

oOne and you can both act as pronouns that refer generally to an unspecified person as long as they don’t appear in the same sentence together.

This is not an okay sentence on the SAT:

*One should take care to mind your manners.

oOne cannot be used interchangeably with you—the usage must be consistent for each sentence.

Subjects and objects

The common subject pronouns—pronoun forms which can appear as the subjects of verbs—are I, you, he, she, it, we, they, and who. These are the only pronoun forms that can be used as subjects, and, except for you, they can ONLY be used as subjects.

Examples:

This is a bad sentence on the SAT:

*He gave the present to she.

oHe is a correctly-used subject pronoun, and its verb is gave.

oshe is a subject pronoun that is NOT being used as the subject of any verb.

This is an acceptable sentence on the SAT:

He gave the present to her.

oher is not a subject pronoun and is not the subject of a verb.

The SAT will often try to use subject pronouns where they don’t belong!

Personal pronouns

When a pronoun takes the place of a noun that indicates a person, it has to be a personal pronoun.

Examples:

This is a bad sentence on the SAT:

*I gave the report to the supervisor which asked me for it.

osupervisor is a noun that indicates a person—supervisors are people.

owhich is not a personal pronoun, even though it refers to the personal noun supervisor.

This is a good sentence on the SAT:

I gave the report to the supervisor who asked me for it.

owho is a personal pronoun that refers to the personal noun supervisor.

Verbs

Verbs are the second-most basic class of words. A verb is an action. Verbs are things you can do—the word do is a verb itself. Here’s a test for identifying English verbs: if you can create a sentence that puts a word after word cannot, then that word can be a verb.

Examples:

jogeatinitiate, and go can all be verbs in English; you can test this by creating sentences like Judy cannot go to the movies, where the word go is able to appear after the wordcannot.

A verb takes different forms, called “conjugations,” depending on the time period of the action the verb describes. For the purposes of the SAT, we only care about two aspects of a conjugation:

owhether a verb-form is singular or plural (the verb’s “number”), and

owhether a verb’s action takes place in the present, past, or future (the verb’s “tense”)

Singular versus plural verbs

Like nouns, verbs have singular and plural forms. Plural forms of verbs often end in –s.

Examples:

In the sentence

Today we hike for the summit.

owe is a plural pronoun that requires a plural verb, and hike is a plural verb-form.

In the sentence

Today Joe hikes for the summit.

oJoe is a singular noun that requires a singular verb, and hikes is a singular verb-form.

In many cases, the singular and plural forms of a verb are identical.

Examples:

In the sentence

I like hiking.

oLike is a singular verb-form that correctly agrees with the singular pronoun I.

In the sentence

We like hiking.

oWe is a plural pronoun correctly modified by the plural verb-form like.

A verb must always agree in number with the noun or nouns that it modifies.

Examples:

This is a correct sentence:

Monica and Alex enjoy the theater.

oMonica and Alex are each singular nouns.

oenjoy is a plural verb-form that modifies two nouns.

This sentence is incorrect:

*Monica and Alex enjoys the theater.

oenjoys is a singular verb-form that might seem, at first, like it correctly modifies the noun Alex. But in this sentence it has to modify the phrase Monica and Alex, which consists of two singular nouns and requires a plural verb-form.

Mixing singular verbs with plural nouns, and plural nouns with singular verbs, is a common error on the SAT Writing Section. Always check to see which noun a verb is supposed to agree with!

Tenses of verbs

As we discussed before, verbs describe actions. These actions are either going on right now, already over, or about to happen later on. We have three basic tenses to describe when the action of a verb takes place: past, present, and future.

Examples:

In this sentence,

I love my grandmother.

olove is a present-tense verb-form, which indicates that the action of loving my grandmother is going on right now.

In this sentence,

I will love my children very much when I have them.

owill love is a future verb-form that indicates that the loving has not started yet.

In this sentence,

I loved my pet goldfish.

oloved is a past-tense verb-form, indicating that the act of loving has already finished.

There are other verb-forms that we have to be able to recognize on the SAT Writing Section, as well. It isn’t necessary to know the names of these forms, but it is necessary to know whether they indicate action in the past or present. These verb-forms are the ones that use the “helping verbs”to have and to be.

For the purposes of the SAT Writing Section, all verb-forms that use any form of the helping verb to have indicate actions in the past.

Example:

In this sentence,

I had not improved my SAT score before I stopped guessing, but I have improved it since then.

ohad not improved indicates an action in the past, because had is a form of the helping verb to have.

ostopped indicates an action in the past.

ohave improved indicates an action in the past, because have is a form of the helping verb to have.

For the purpose of the SAT Writing Section, all verb-forms that use a past-tense form of the verb to be indicate actions in the past.

Example:

In this sentence,

I was thinking about my homework last night.

owas thinking indicates an action in the past, because it includes the helping verb-form was, which is a past-tense form of the verb to be.

For the purpose of the SAT Writing Section, all verb-forms that use a present-tense form of the verb to be indicate actions in the present.

Example:

In this sentence,

I am thinking about pie for dessert.

oam thinking indicates an action in the present, because it involves am, which is a present-tense form of the helping verb to be.

On the SAT Writing Section, all verbs in a sentence should indicate actions in the same time frame wherever possible.

Examples:

This is an okay sentence on the SAT Writing Section:

The dinner you served us was delicious.

oserved and was are both verb-forms that indicate action in the past.

This sentence would not be acceptable on the SAT Writing Section:

*The dinner you served us is delicious.

oserved is a past-tense verb-form, indicating action in the past.

ois is a present-tense verb-form, indicating action in the present.

The SAT Writing Section likes to test your ability to put verbs in the same tenses, so always be on the lookout when a sentence contains verbs that are in different tenses.

Conjugations of verbs

English verbs, like verbs in any other language, have specific conjugations that show their tenses. (Conjugations also show things like a verb’s “mood” and “voice,” but those aren’t tested on the SAT Writing Section, so we won’t worry about them.)

Example:

In this sentence,

Mrs. Smith has decided to buy a new car.

ohas decided is the “past participle” conjugation of the verb to decide.

The SAT Writing Section will occasionally show you a verb-form that is conjugated incorrectly.

Examples:

This is a good sentence on the SAT:

The subject of money has arisen many times in our discussions.

ohas arisen is a correct conjugation of the verb to arise.

This is a bad sentence on the SAT:

*The subject of money has arosen many times in our discussions.

ohas arosen is not a verb-form in English; instead, it’s a strange and incorrect combination of the proper past-tense form arose and the proper past participle has arisen.

Verb-forms as nouns

Two verb-forms can function as nouns. These are the –ing and to forms of verbs.

Examples:

In this sentence,

Singing is a lot of fun.

oSinging is a form of the verb to sing that acts like a noun—it’s the subject of the verb-form is.

Special verbs: to be and to become

To be and to become are members of a special group of verbs called “copulars.”  Copular verbs are verbs that show us when two things are, or will be, the same thing. (You don’t need to know the term “copular” for the SAT, by the way.)

To use a copular verb properly, you place a noun phrase before it, and either another noun phrase or an adjective phrase after it.

Examples:

In this sentence,

Muhammad Ali was a great boxer.

oMuhammad Ali is a noun phrase that is being equated to the noun phrase a great fighter.

owas is a singular, past-tense form of the copular verb to be, which is equating the noun phrase before it to the noun phrase after it.

oa great boxer is a noun phrase that is being equated to the noun phrase Muhammad Ali.

On the SAT Writing Section, the noun phrases on either side of a copular verb must have the same number.

Examples:

This is an acceptable sentence on the SAT Writing Section:

My cousins want to become astronauts.

oMy cousins is a plural noun phrase that is being equated to the plural noun phrase astronauts.

oto become is a copular verb.

oastronauts is a plural noun that is being equated to the plural noun phrase cousins.

This is an unacceptable sentence on the SAT Writing Section:

*My cousins want to become an astronaut.

oMy cousins is a plural noun phrase that is being equated to the singular noun phrase an astronaut, which is no good on the SAT.

oto become is a copular verb.

oan astronaut is a singular noun phrase that is being improperly equated to the plural noun phrase my cousins.

Adjectives and adverbs

Adjectives are single words that describe nouns. An adjective usually appears immediately before its noun, or before a list of other adjectives that appears before the noun.

Example:

In this sentence,

Sally ordered an Italian salad.

oItalian is an adjective that tells us something about the noun salad, and appears immediately before it.

When you want to use an adjective to modify something that is not a noun, you have to use the “adverb” form of the adjective. The adverb-form of an adjective almost always ends in -ly.

Example:

In this sentence,

That is a very cleverly written essay.

ocleverly is the adverb-form of the adjective clever, which modifies the word written (note that written not a noun, which is why it can only be modified by an adverb).

The SAT Writing Section will often try to fool you by incorrectly using an adjective form to modify a word that is not a noun.

Examples:

This is a bad sentence on the SAT:

*You have to move quick if you want a seat.

oquick is an adjective, but there is no noun after it, so it isn’t modifying a noun and should appear as an adverb.

This is a correct sentence on the SAT:

You have to move quickly if you want a seat.

oquickly is an adverb that describes the verb to move.

Exception: adjectives with copular verbs

Remember our discussion of copular verbs like to be and to become, which equate the things on either side of them? For these special verbs, we can use adjective forms even when they don’t appear immediately before nouns.

Example:

This is an okay sentence on the SAT:

You have to be quick if you want a seat.

oyou is a pronoun that is correctly modified by the adjective quick.

oto be is a copular verb that equates the word you with the word quick.

oquick is an adjective that does not appear before a verb but does appear after a correctly used copular verb.

Conjunctions

Conjunctions are words that link ideas to each other.

Examples:

and, either, or, neither, nor, and because can all act like conjunctions on the SAT.

On the SAT, when two ideas are linked by a conjunction, the ideas must appear in the same form.

Examples:

This is a good sentence on the SAT Writing Section:

Samantha likes singing, dancing, and acting.

osinging, dancing, and acting are all being linked together by the conjunction and, and they all appear in their –ing forms.

This is a bad sentence on the SAT Writing Section:

*Samantha likes singing, dancing, and to act.

osinging, dancing, and to act are all ideas linked together by the conjunction and, but they don’t all appear in the same form—singing and dancing are in their –ing forms, but to act is in its to form.

Prepositions

Prepositions are words that describe the origins or relative positions of ideas in a sentence.

Example:

In the sentence

The letter from your mother is in the drawer under the table.

ofrom your mother is a prepositional phrase in which the preposition from shows that the origin of the letter is the noun phrase your mother

oin the drawer is a prepositional phrase in which the preposition in shows the position of the letter relative to the drawer

ounder the table is a prepositional phrase in which the preposition under shows the position of the drawer relative to the table

Prepositions are also used in certain idioms in English, and the SAT likes to test your knowledge of these idioms occasionally.

Examples:

This is a bad sentence on the SAT:

*Joey’s supervisor fell to love with the new idea.

ofell to love is an improper usage of an English idiom because the preposition to should be replaced with another preposition.

This is an acceptable sentence on the SAT:

Joey’s supervisor fell in love with the new idea.

ofell in love is a proper usage of an English idiom.

Sometimes the SAT Writing Section places a prepositional phrase between a subject and its verb, and tries to trick you by making the verb agree with the noun in the prepositional phrase instead of with the actual subject.

Examples:

This is an acceptable sentence on the SAT:

Andrea’s list of chores is very complicated.

olist is the subject of the verb-form is.

oof chores is a prepositional phrase that comes between the subject list and the verb is

ois is a verb, so it has to be singular to match the singular noun list

This is not an acceptable sentence on the SAT:

*Andrea’s list of chores are very complicated.

ochores is a plural noun, but it is NOT the subject in this sentence—the subject is list, and chores is part of a prepositional phrase that describes the subject.

oare is a plural verb-form that has incorrectly been made to agree with the plural noun chores, which is not the subject of the sentence.

Comparatives

Comparatives are phrases that compare one idea to another.

They can be formed by pairing the -er form of an adjective with the word than in order to compare two or more things. (Where necessary, comparatives can also be formed with the words more or less before an adjective instead of with that adjective’s -er form.)

Example:

In this sentence, nicer than is a comparative:

I think your new car is nicer than your old one.

In this sentence, more intelligent than is a comparative:

This solution seems more intelligent than the old approach.

Comparatives can also be formed with phrases that use the word as twice.

Example:

In this sentence, the phrase as interesting as is a comparative phrase:

I don’t think our calculus class is as interesting as our art class.

When you see a comparative on the SAT, make sure that the phrase that comes right after the comparative phrase really belongs in the comparison.

Examples:

This is a good SAT sentence:

Your house is smaller than John’s house.

osmaller than is the comparative phrase that compares the idea of your house to the idea of John’s house.

This is a bad SAT sentence:

Your house is smaller than John.

oJohn is not what the phrase Your house should really be compared to; the way this sentence is written, it says that your house is smaller than a person named John.

Be on the lookout for comparatives in the SAT Writing Section! They’re very often handled incorrectly

Clauses and phrases

A phrase is a group of words that serves a particular function in a sentence. Usually, this function is analogous to a part of speech.

A phrase can include one or more words.

Phrases are referred to by the functions they fulfill within their sentences. There are “noun phrases,” “verb phrases,” “prepositional phrases,” “adverbial phrases,” et cetera.

Examples:

In the sentence

The cat who lives next door likes my pineapple tree.

oThe cat is a noun phrase.

olives next door is a verb phrase.

oThe cat who lives next door is a noun phrase that includes the noun phrase The cat and the verb phrase lives next door

olikes my pineapple tree is a verb phrase

omy pineapple tree is a noun phrase.

o(There are other phrases that could be said to exist in this sentence, but you get the idea.)

Don’t worry if this doesn’t make a lot of sense! The SAT doesn’t actually test your knowledge of phrases, or your ability to pull phrases out of a sentence. We’re only covering these ideas so that when we say, “the noun phrase such-and-such,” you’ll have some idea what we’re talking about.

A clause is a group of words that includes a subject noun phrase, a verb phrase, and, if necessary, an object noun phrase.

Example:

This is a complete clause:

This pizza recipe requires cheese.

oThis pizza recipe is the subject noun phrase.

orequires is the verb phrase.

ocheese is the object noun phrase.

A clause can be either “independent” or “dependent.”

A “dependent” clause begins with a conjunction.

An “independent” clause does not begin with a conjunction.

Example:

In the sentence,

You have to sleep more because you study too much.

oYou have to sleep more is an independent clause because it has all the elements of a clause and does not start with a conjunction.

obecause you study too much is a dependent clause because it starts with the conjunction because.

For the multiple-choice questions on the SAT Writing Section, every correctly written sentence must contain at least one independent clause.

Clauses and commas

Independent clauses cannot be separated from each other by a comma.

Examples:

This is a bad sentence on the SAT:

*I have not yet begun to fight, time is on my side.

oI have not yet begun to fight is an independent clause including the subject pronoun I and the verb-form have begun.

otime is on my side is an independent clause including the subject noun time and the copular verb-form is.

This is an acceptable sentence on the SAT:

I have not yet begun to fight; time is on my side.

Conditionals

A “conditional” is a statement that uses the conjunction if. Properly written conditional sentences avoid using the word would in the clause that begins with if.

Examples:

This is a bad SAT sentence:

*I would have stopped by your house if I would have known you were home.

owould have stopped is acceptable because it appears in the clause I would have stopped by, which does not contain the word if.

oif is the conditional conjunction.

owould have known is incorrect here because it uses the word would in the same clause where the word if appears.

This sentence is acceptable on the SAT:

I would have stopped by your house if I had known you were home.

owould have stopped is acceptable because it does not appear in the same clause as the conjunction if.

oif is the conditional conjunction.

Dangling participles

A participle is a special verb-form that can end in –ing-en, or –ed. They’re often used at the beginning of a sentence.

Example:

In this sentence,

Screaming for help, the mailman ran away from the angry dog.

Screaming is a participle.

When these participles are used in standard written English, they are always understood to refer to the first noun phrase in the independent clause in the sentence.

Example:

In the sentence  above,

Screaming for help is the participial phrase, beginning with the participle screaming (an –ing word)

the mailman ran away from the angry dog is the independent clause (remember that an independent clause has a subject noun phrase and main verb phrase).

We know this participle was used correctly because the word screaming describes the word mailman, which is what we wanted to do.

Example:

This sentence would be completely INCORRECT on the SAT:

*Screaming for help, the dog chased the mailman down the street.

What’s wrong with that? We still have a participial phrase (screaming for help) and an independent clause (the dog chased the mailman down the street), but the problem is that the participle in this sentence can’t possibly describe the first noun phrase in the independent clause, which is the dog. This sentence is no good because the dog can’t scream. Only the mailman can scream.

Participles show up often in the SAT Writing Section, and they’re frequently used incorrectly, so look out for them!

Higher-Level Concepts: Ideal Sentences And Paragraphs On The SAT

Now that we’ve talked about the basic underlying grammatical rules you need for the SAT Writing Section, we need to discuss the sorts of things that the SAT considers to be “good” usage. To do this, we’ll talk in terms of the “bad” and “good” patterns that appear on the SAT.

On the SAT Writing Section, ideal sentences are the ones that avoid certain “bad” patterns and make us of certain “good” patterns. The fewer “bad” patterns and the more “good” patterns a sentence has, the more “SAT-ideal” the sentence is.

“Bad” patterns that often appear in errors on the SAT Writing Section.

“Good” patterns that indicate correct usage on the SAT.

-ing words

Errors on the SAT Writing Section often involve -ing words that don’t correctly modify nouns they refer to, or that don’t belong in a sentence at all.


Use of an –ing word so that it correctly modifies the first noun phrase after the comma in the sentence is acceptable on the SAT Writing Section; otherwise, avoid 
–ing words whenever possible.

-ed words

Errors on the SAT Writing Section often involve -ed words that don’t correctly modify the nouns they refer to.


Use of an –ed word so that it correctly modifies the first noun phrase after the comma in the sentence is also acceptable on the SAT Writing Section.

pronouns

Errors on the SAT Writing Section often involve the use of pronouns when they aren’t needed or when they don’t refer to any particular noun.


Pronouns that agree with their main nouns in number are okay. It’s also okay to use eitheryou or one, as long the usage is consistent. Finally, pronouns must clearly indicate which nouns they’re replacing.

non-parallelism

Errors on the SAT often involve the use of conjunctions when the ideas joined by the conjunction are not in the same form.


Words and phrases joined by conjunctions should use parallel structures.

incorrect verb-forms

Conjugating verbs incorrectly is an error on the SAT.


All verb use must be consistent with normal, standard usage.

non-agreement

Using a pronoun that doesn’t agree in number with its noun, or a verb that doesn’t agree in number with its noun or pronoun, is an error on the SAT.


All pronouns in a correctly written sentence must agree in number with their main nouns, and all verbs with their nouns or pronouns.

“Bad” patterns that often appear in errors on the SAT Writing Section.

“Good” patterns that indicate correct usage on the SAT.

adjectives versus adverbs

On the SAT, using an adjective to describe anything besides a noun is an error.


All adjectives in a correctly written sentence are used to describe nouns. Words that describe anything else appear as adverbs.

as in general

On the SAT, the word as is likely to appear in poorly written sentences.

The word as can appear in a correctly written SAT sentence when it is used to compare two or more things, or when it’s part of a phrase that correctly modifies the first noun that appears after a comma.

verb tense

On the SAT, incorrect sentences often have verbs in multiple tenses.

Correctly written sentences on the SAT either place all verb phrases in the same tense or properly signify a tense shift with a time expression like before or next year.

commas separating complete clauses

Incorrectly written sentences on the SAT often use EITHER a comma OR a conjunction to separate two complete clauses.

Correctly written sentences on the SAT either separate complete clauses with a semicolon or dash, or add a conjunction like since,because, or and between the comma and the beginning of the second clause.

to be, to become

When the verb to be or to become is the only verb in a clause, incorrectly written SAT sentences often make the nouns on either side of the verb differ in number.

Correctly written SAT sentences make the noun phrases on either side of to be or to become appear in the same number.

removing to be when possible

Incorrectly written SAT sentences often include the verb to be when they don’t need to.

Correctly written SAT sentences use the verbto be either to equate two ideas or as a helping verb for other verbs-forms.

removing the when possible

Incorrectly written SAT sentences sometimes use aan, and the when they aren’t necessary.

Correctly written SAT sentences use articles to modify noun phrases only when they’re needed.

“Bad” patterns that often appear in errors on the SAT Writing Section.

“Good” patterns that indicate correct usage on the SAT.

parallelism with than

Incorrectly written SAT sentences might use comparisons with than when the two things being compared don’t have parallel structures.

Correctly written SAT sentences use comparisons with than only when the structures of the two things being compared are parallel, in order to assure that the proper things are being compared.

either/or versus either/and

Incorrectly written SAT sentences occasionally use and with either.

When correctly written SAT sentences use the word either, it appears with the conjunction or, not and.

idioms—prepositions

Incorrectly written SAT sentences sometimes misuse the prepositions in common idioms.

Correctly written SAT sentences use the normal prepositions in everyday idioms.

proper pronoun usage (he/him)

Incorrectly written SAT sentences might use subject pronouns where object pronouns should appear.

Correctly written SAT sentences use object pronouns as the objects of verbs and prepositions.

conjunctions at beginning of sentence

Incorrectly written SAT sentences often begin with conjunctions even though there are no independent clauses in the sentence.

Correctly written SAT sentences only begin with conjunctions when they include independent clauses later in the sentence. In other words, it’s possible for a sentence to be grammatically acceptable on the SAT even if it begins with the word “because,” as long as the sentence also contains an independent clause.

if and would have

Incorrect SAT sentences use would haveinstead of had immediately after if.

Correctly written SAT sentences use had in ifphrases, not would have.

removing which when possible

Incorrectly written SAT sentences use whichwhen they don’t need to.

Correctly written SAT sentences avoid whichwhenever possible.

relative pronouns—personal with people

Incorrect SAT sentences use impersonal pronouns to take the place of personal nouns.

Correctly written SAT sentences use personal pronouns to replace personal nouns.

comparatives

Incorrectly written SAT sentences use bothmore and –er to form comparatives.

Correctly written SAT sentences use eithermore or the suffix –er—not both—to form comparatives.

avoiding conjunctions

Incorrectly written SAT sentences might use conjunctions where they aren’t necessary.

Correctly written SAT sentences only use conjunctions when necessary, and use them to link ideas appropriately.

phrases in place of “and”

Incorrectly written SAT sentences might use phrases like “in addition to” or “as well as” instead of “and.”

Correctly written SAT sentences only use the word “and” itself wherever “and” is appropriate. They don’t just phrases like “in addition to” or “as well as” instead of “and.”

“it” and “they”

Incorrectly written SAT sentences might use the pronouns “it” and “they” without a clearly specified noun elsewhere in the sentence that matches the pronoun in number.

Correctly written SAT sentences only use the pronoun “it” when it refers to a singular noun elsewhere in the sentence, and they only use the word “they” when it refers to a plural noun elsewhere in the sentence.

About Paragraphs

Ideal paragraphs on the SAT are paragraphs that contain as few concepts as possible.

When adding a sentence to a paragraph in the Improving Paragraphs portion of the SAT Writing Section, add the sentence that contains the fewest concepts that are not already in the paragraph.

When removing sentences from paragraphs in the Improving Paragraphs portion of the SAT Writing Section, remove sentences that introduce concepts that do not appear elsewhere in the paragraph.