SAT For Dummies
Getting the “Write” Answers: The Writing Sections
Practicing Grammar Problems: Recognizing Your Mistakes
In This Chapter
Practicing error-recognition problems
Working with grammar and style in sentence revisions
Improving your score with practice paragraph revisions
This chapter helps you get in the mood (terminally bored, ready to have a root canal rather than think about grammar one more minute) for the SAT multiple-choice writing sections. Here, you find error-recognition, sentence-revision, and paragraph-revision sample questions. All are accompanied by answers and explanations, and I promise not to say, “Because I said so,” when I explain why a particular answer is correct.
After each answer explanation in this chapter, I state in parentheses which grammar principle is being tested. If you need a more complete review, turn back to Chapter 9 and review the relevant section. If your grammar skills need more than a touch-up, feel free to inflate my ego by consulting English Grammar For Dummies, 2nd Edition, and English Grammar Workbook For Dummies, 2nd Edition (Wiley), both by yours truly.
Examining Error-Recognition Questions
The SAT (Slow And Time-consuming) directions tell you to choose an underlined portion of the sentence that contains an error and to bubble in the corresponding letter. The last choice — (E) — always stands for no error. As you work on these sample problems, keep in mind that you’re checking for grammar, punctuation, and word use. Forget about capitalization and spelling, which aren’t covered on this exam. Also, assume that everything that’s not underlined is correct. In the first set, the answer immediately follows each question, so use a piece of paper to cover up the answer while you work on the question. In the second set, which is set up like the real test, the answers are all together at the end.
The portion of the sentence set off by commas (as well as all the other drivers) is an interrupter. Ignore it when matching a subject to a verb. If you examine the sentence without the interrupter, you see the naked subject-verb pair: Kaitlin need. Sounds wrong, right? Kaitlin is singular and takes the singular verb needs. Choice (C) is correct. (subject-verb agreement)
The verb is acts as a giant equal sign, so the stuff on each side of is must match. Grammatically, problem is the important word in front of is because problem is the subject. Problem should match that, not when, because problem is a general word — a noun — and doesn’t refer specifically to time. When is a time word. The correct sentence would read the problem with uncollected taxes is that . . . Choice (C) is correct. (parallel structure)
Who is for subjects and whom takes on all the other jobs in the sentence (direct object, bricklayer, dental-floss untangler, and so forth). Every verb in the sentence has to have a subject. The subject-verb pairs are everyone believes, who is, and Dan purchased. Choice (A) is correct. (pronoun case)
This sentence falls into a category labeled “condition contrary to fact” because the speaker in the sentence did not know about the eruption. In a contrary-to-fact sentence, use had or were in the if part of the sentence and would in the other part of the sentence. The correct version: If I had known about. . . . Choice (A) is correct. (verb tense and mood)
Take your fingers and cover the senior orchestra members and freshmen. Now read the sentence. Donated the violins to . . . we? I don’t think so. Donated . . . to us sounds better. The grammatical explanation: To is a preposition and needs an object pronoun. Us is an object pronoun; weis a subject pronoun. Choice (B) is right. (pronoun case)
Choice (E) is correct. No error. When a sentence begins with a verb form that acts as a description, the verb form (a participle, if you want to get technical) must describe the subject of the sentence. In Question 6, the patient boy is the subject and he’s sitting on the dock, so no error appears. (placement of descriptions)
When you start off telling a story in past tense, you should stay in past tense unless the content justifies a shift. Phil sent starts you off in past tense, and he explains is in present tense. Choice (C) is the error you’re looking for. (verb tense)
Regardless of what you think, irregardless isn’t a word. Choice (A) is correct. (word choice)
The contraction who’s means “who is,” and this sentence calls for a possessive pronoun (whose). Choice (B) is correct. (pronouns)
Less is for stuff you measure (air, loneliness, mustard) and fewer is for stuff you count. Choice (B) is right. (word choice)
Okay, if you correctly answered about 50 percent, you’re on track for a fairly good score. Of course, keep at it and aim for higher. Analyze your mistakes, reread the appropriate explanations in Chapter 9, and then hit the second set.
Answers to Set 2
1. C. You can’t glue together two complete sentences with just a comma. Question 1 is a run-on sentence, so (C) is the answer you seek. (punctuation)
2. A. Affect means “to influence” and effect means “a result.” In this sentence, effect is called for. Ring one up for (A). (word choice)
3. D. Someone is singular and should be paired with the singular pronouns his or her, not with the plural their. Choice (D) is correct. (agreement)
4. D. Except means “all but” and accept means “to receive willingly.” In this sentence, accept makes more sense. Three cheers for (D). (word choice)
5. C. The correct expression is between you and me. Between is a preposition and must be followed by an object, not a subject pronoun. Choice (C) is right. (pronoun case)
6. B. Cover men with your finger and read the sentence. To we? Uh uh. To us? Yup. To us is correct. Choice (B) is correct. (pronoun case)
7. E. Everything is hunky-dory in this statement! Choice (E) is correct here. Did I catch you with (D)? The parents don’t object to Alexa, just to her skydiving, so possessive is called for here. (pronoun case)
8. A. Badly describes an action and bad describes a person or thing. In this sentence, you need bad to explain Annie’s mood. Choice (A) is correct. (word choice)
9. E. Nothing wrong with this statement, so (E) is correct. The trap here is (C). Because Miranda is the only one, the pronoun who is singular and takes the singular verb is. (agreement)
10. A. Rearranged and corrected, the sentence reads, “I shall say who is calling.” The pronoun who serves as the subject of is calling. Choice (A) is correct. (pronoun case)
Once more onto the analyst’s couch: Check what type of question tripped you up and go back over the explanations in Chapter 9.
Solving Sentence-Revision Questions
In this sort of question you’re not just looking for grammar mistakes; you’re also aiming for style. Choice (A) is always the underlined part of the sentence, repeated without any changes. If you think the sentence sounds fine, bubble in (A) and be done with it. Otherwise, reword the sentence in your mind and try to find an answer that fits. If nothing fits your imaginary revision, check out the SAT’s offerings and choose the one that sounds best. Set 1 gives you the answers after each question; Set 2, which is set up like the real test, gives you the answers at the end.
Even after you’ve found the correct answers, squeeze out a couple of seconds to review the explanations that follow the questions. I have taken care to include a couple of frequently tested ideas in this section that didn’t merit a full-blown discussion in Chapter 9. Reading the explanations will help you pick up grammar issues that may show up on the real SAT.
1. Dancing in local productions, singing in the homecoming show, and music lessons all paved the way for her career in the arts.
(A) and music lessons all
(B) as well as music lessons all
(C) and teaching music, all
(D) and teaching music all
(E) and lessons in music
All the items in a list should resemble each other, at least in terms of grammar. Dancing and singing should be matched with teaching. No comma is needed at the end of a list, so (C) hits the reject pile. Choice (D) is correct. (parallel structure)
2. In the newspaper it says that the egg hunt will be held outdoors only if the weather cooperates.
(A) In the newspaper it says that
(B) According to the newspaper, it says that
(C) According to the newspaper,
(D) In the newspaper it reports that
(E) The newspaper says that
The newspaper doesn’t say, and neither does it. Choice (C) is right. (word choice)
3. The plot of the drama was so intriguing that Annie didn’t realize until the final curtain how much time it was that had passed.
(A) how much time it was that had passed
(B) how much time it was that passed
(C) how much time passed
(D) how much time had passed
(E) how late it had been
First of all, you don’t need it, so you can immediately rule out (A), (B), and (E). Of the two remaining, (D) is better because the realizing and the passing take place at two separate times in the past. To show that the passing was earlier, use had. Choice (D) is correct. (verb tense)
4. Stirring the batter vigorously, a tasty cake will result, even for amateur bakers.
(A) a tasty cake will result, even for amateur bakers
(B) even amateur bakers can make a tasty cake
(C) a tasty cake will be made by amateur bakers
(D) amateur bakers will result in a tasty cake
(E) a cake that tastes good will be the result for amateur bakers
The sentence begins with a verb form (stirring), but the subject that follows it — a tasty cake — obviously isn’t doing the stirring. By the laws of grammar, a verb form beginning a sentence must be an action performed by the subject. Choices (A), (C), and (E) are out on those grounds. Choice (D) bites the dust because it doesn’t make sense. Give it up for (B). (placement of descriptions)
5. Either the puppies or the dog trainer is to be commended for the excellent behavior of the pack.
(A) Either the puppies or the dog trainer is
(B) Either the puppies or the dog trainer are
(C) The puppies, along with the dog trainer is
(D) The dog trainer, and the puppies too, is
(E) Either the puppies, or the dog trainer is
When you’re confronted with an either/or sentence, match the verb to the closest subject. In this sentence, the closest subject is trainer, which pairs nicely with is. Also, avoid separating two subjects with commas, as in (E). Choice (A) is right. (subject-verb agreement)
6. The mayor told us citizens that the responsibility for public safety was to be shouldered by him.
(A) was to be shouldered by him
(B) he was to shoulder
(C) he would have shouldered
(D) was his
(E) was to be his
What’s with the shoulders? Choices (A), (B), (C), and (E) are overly long. Go for the most economical version wherever possible. Choice (D) is correct. (conciseness)
7. Alex told us that there is a good reason for him accepting blame for the fire.
(A) there is a good reason for him accepting
(B) there is a good reason for he not accepting
(C) there is a good reason, he accepts
(D) he has a good reason to accept
(E) there is good reason, for him to accept
There is helps out in some sentences, but often it’s unnecessary. Choice (D) does the job in fewer words. (conciseness)
8. That art historian maintains that only the painter can interpret his work, consequently the art gallery must use the catalog the scholar prepared or nothing at all.
(A) can interpret his work, consequently
(B) can interpret his work; consequently
(C) can have interpreted his work; consequently
(D) can have interpreted his work, and consequently
(E) can be interpreting his work; consequently
Consequently, a nice mouthful that looks important, is actually a weak, never-goes-to-the-gym sort of word. The rules of grammar don’t allow consequently to join two complete sentences. If you want to glue two sentences together, you need a semicolon or a conjunction — a true joining word — in front of consequently. Choice (A) is out. Choices (C), (D), and (E) lose the race because the verb tense is wrong. If you selected (B), pat yourself on the head. (complete sentences)
1. The business executive spoke continually for seven hours with whomever would listen until the problem with the company’s cash shortage was resolved.
(A) spoke continually for seven hours with whomever
(B) spoke continuously for seven hours with whomever
(C) spoke continually for seven hours with whoever
(D) spoke continuously for seven hours with whoever
(E) had spoken continually for seven hours with whoever
2. My sister, barely able to speak and sniffing furiously, told me that she has a cold.
(A) told me that she has a cold
(B) has told me that she has a cold
(C) told me that she had a cold
(D) will have told me that she had a cold
(E) told me, that she had a cold
3. Everyone should have brought their best clothes to the dance competition in order to make a good impression on the judges.
(A) should have brought their best
(B) should of brought his or her best
(C) should have brought his or her best
(D) could’ve brought their
(E) should’ve brought their
4. The trophy should be awarded to the best athlete, the same standards applying to everyone who plays on the team.
(A) the same standards applying to everyone who plays on the team
(B) all athletes playing on the team meeting the same standards
(C) with the same standards applying to every player on the team
(D) applying the same standards to everyone on the team
(E) and the same standards apply to everyone on the team
5. When one is ready to enter college, you should have the ability to write a good essay.
(A) When one is ready to enter college, you
(B) When you are ready to enter college, you
(C) When one is ready to enter college you
(D) When one is ready to enter college, they
(E) When one is ready to enter college they
6. Mary told her aunt that she should not wear black because it is a gloomy color.
(A) she should not wear black because it
(B) she should not wear black, because it
(C) her aunt should not wear black, it
(D) her aunt should not wear black it
(E) her aunt shouldn’t wear black because it
7. The principle of the school must maintain an attitude of dignity, even when pupils misbehave.
(A) principle of the school must maintain an attitude
(B) principal of the school must maintain an attitude
(C) principle of the school should maintain an attitude
(D) principle of the school, he must maintain an attitude
(E) principal of the school he must maintain an attitude
8. Having read the report, John immediately took steps to correct the problem.
(A) Having read the report, John immediately took
(B) Reading the report, John immediately had taken
(C) Reading the report John immediately took
(D) Having read the report, John immediately will take
(E) Having read the report John immediately will take
Answers to Set 2
1. D. Continually means “stopping and starting endlessly.” Continuously means “ongoing without a pause.” In this sentence the executive (who now has a severe case of laryngitis) didn’t stop talking at all for seven hours. Hence (B) and (D) are in the running, but (D) wins becausewhoever is needed as the subject of would listen. (pronoun case, word choice)
2. C. When you relate what someone said, use past tense unless you’re stating something that is always true (the sort of thing you’d read in an encyclopedia). Choice (C) is correct. (verb tense)
3. C. Should of (along with its pals could of and would of ) is a big no-no. Strike these expressions from your vocabulary. The of should be have, as in should have, could have, would have. Everyone is singular, so their changes to his or her. Choice (C) is right because it’s the only choice that avoids both problems. (word choice, pronoun-antecedent agreement)
4. C. In the original sentence, everything after the comma isn’t grammatically attached to the portion of the sentence preceding the comma. Choice (C) creates a prepositional phrase that gives more information about the verb (should be awarded). Choice (E) is also grammatically correct, but (C) is a little more sophisticated, so it’s the best answer. (sentence completeness, style)
5. B. A shift in a car gives you the right gear at the right time. A shift in a sentence is a grammatical faux pas (error). Grammar rests upon a basis of consistency. This sentence has a shift from one to you. Oops. Gotta go to (B), which stays with you. (parallel structure)
6. E. The original sentence doesn’t tell you who needs the pink scarf instead of funeral colors — Mary or the aunt? Choices (C), (D), and (E) clarify the situation, but (C) and (D) are run-on sentences (two sentences glued together without a legal joining word or a semicolon). Choice (E) is correct. (pronouns, punctuation)
7. B. The principal is your pal, so you need to dump (A), (C), and (D). Choice (E) adds an unnecessary he. Choice (B) is correct. (word choice)
8. A. Verb tense and commas are both issues in this sentence. Verb-tense errors rule out (B), (D), and (E). The tenses in (A) and (C) are okay, but (C) is missing a comma. Choice (A) is correct. (verb tense, punctuation)
After you check the answers, take note of your problem areas (flabby abs? saddlebag thighs?) and turn back to the corresponding explanations in Chapter 9. Because this sort of question checks style as well as grammar, not every answer has a corresponding section in Chapter 9. (Fortunately for you, I tell you why something’s right or wrong in the explanation.)
This type of question presents a piece of writing that a fellow student may have produced. As a first draft, it has some grammar and style problems. Each sentence is numbered, and the whole thing is followed by a set of questions with answers and explanations. Take a crack at the first set, which provides the answer after each question, review your problem areas, and then hit the second set, which is set up like the real test and provides all the answers at the end.
1. Which of the following is the best revision of the underlined portion of Sentence 1?
When I was about two years old, my mother made me eat lima beans, which apparently annoyed me so much that I frowned at her the rest of the day.
(A) lima beans that apparently annoyed me so much that I
(B) lima beans. I was so annoyed that
(C) lima beans, however they annoyed me so much that
(D) annoying lima beans, and
(E) lima beans, apparently annoyed me so much that
Pronouns may replace nouns and pronouns but not subject-verb combinations. In the original sentence, which is replacing an expression containing a subject-verb pair (my mother made me eat). Penalty box. Changing which to that in (A) doesn’t solve the problem because that is also a pronoun. Choice (C) is a run-on because however isn’t a legal joining word. Choices (D) and (E) are awkward. Choice (B) is correct. (pronouns)
2. In the context of the first paragraph, how should Sentence 5 be revised?
(A) You can’t tell what you will think in the future, so you should be careful not to rule out the possibility of change.
(B) No one can tell what he or she will think in the future, so everyone should be careful not to rule out the possibility of change.
(C) What you think might be a mystery tomorrow, so don’t rule out change.
(D) You may change in ways you can’t foresee, don’t rule out new ideas.
(E) No one knows how they will change, especially in terms of ideas.
One and they are a mismatch because one is singular and they is plural. Also, the rest of the paragraph — and the question specifically tells you to look at the rest of the paragraph — deals with you. A paragraph needs consistency, and shifting from one or they to you is inconsistent. Go for (A) instead of (C) or (D) because (A) keeps the original meaning of the sentence. (parallel structure)
3. How may Sentences 8 and 9 best be combined?
(A) After all, new information may change your mind and different experiences can also change the way you think.
(B) After all, new information may change your mind, and different experiences can also change the way you think.
(C) After all, new information may change your mind; different experiences can also change the way you think.
(D) After all, new information and experiences may change the way you think.
(E) After all, new information may change your mind, like different experiences do.
Wordiness is a pain. Why? Have you ever sat through a 20-minute speech containing three minutes’ worth of information? Choice (D) is the most concise. (conciseness)
4. What is the best revision of Sentence 11?
(A) Being in a democracy, openness to ideas are more important than anything else.
(B) Openness to ideas is more important than anything else because of democracy.
(C) Being in a democracy, you should have openness to ideas more than anything else.
(D) In a democracy, openness to ideas is an extremely important quality.
(E) Being in a democracy, openness to ideas is needed more than anything else.
Being is a verb form, and when you begin a sentence with a verb form, the subject of the sentence should be doing the action expressed by the verb form. Choices (A) and (E) bite the dust because openness isn’t the person who is being in a democracy. Choices (B) and (C) are wordy and awkward. Choice (D) is correct. (placement of descriptions)
5. What is the best revision of Sentence 15?
(A) If I would choose without thought, I would not have done my duty as a citizen.
(B) If I had chosen without thought, I would not have done my duty as a citizen.
(C) Choosing without thought had been wrong, as a citizen.
(D) If I would have chosen without thought, I should not have done my duty as a citizen.
(E) Had I chosen without thought, my duty as a citizen would not have been done.
Sentence 15 expresses what grammarians call condition contrary to fact — something that isn’t true. In this sort of sentence, the “if” part should have were or had as part of the verb, never would. The would belongs in the other half of the sentence. Choice (B) is right. (verb tense and mood)
6. The writer’s reference to lima beans in the third paragraph is intended to
(A) show personal growth
(B) introduce a note of humor
(C) compare election choices to food
(D) relate to the reader’s personal experience
(E) unify the passage by bringing it full circle
A fine design for essays is that of a circle, to end where you began. Very deep and philosophical, also unified! Choice (E) is correct. (logical organization of ideas)
1. What is the best revision of Sentence 2?
(A) (no change)
(B) Kafka was right to not value possessions but to value inner qualities instead.
(C) Kafka rightly values inner qualities more than possessions.
(D) Kafka, not valuing possessions, values inner qualities.
(E) Inner qualities, not possessions, are valued by Kafka.
2. Which of the following is the best change to Sentence 3?
(A) (no change)
(B) Omit “I am not opposed to owning material things, and.”
(C) Change “they need” to “he or she needs.”
(D) Add a comma and “such as art” to the end of the sentence.
(E) Change “material things” to “art.”
3. In the context of the essay, what is the function of Sentence 6?
(A) to introduce a new topic
(B) to give examples that contradict Kafka’s ideas
(C) to concede that criticism of Kafka is partly justified
(D) to expand upon the example provided in the first paragraph
(E) to explain the limits of Kafka’s argument
4. Which sentence in the second paragraph (Sentences 6–12) may be omitted without weakening the writer’s argument?
5. How may Sentences 10 and 11 best be combined?
(A) You can sell a painting and become rich, but you can’t put a price on the meaning of art.
(B) Selling a painting and becoming rich, you can’t put a price on the meaning of art.
(C) You can sell a painting, but you can’t put a price on the meaning of art, even if it makes you rich.
(D) Selling a painting, you become rich, and you can’t put a price on the meaning of art.
(E) As you sell a painting and become rich, you can’t put a price on the meaning of art.
6. What is the best way to improve the third paragraph (Sentences 13–16)?
(A) (no change)
(B) Omit Sentence 13.
(C) Add “because he explains the value of art” to the end of Sentence 13.
(D) Combine Sentences 14 and 15.
(E) Add a sentence that does not refer to art as an example of Kafka’s ideas.
Answers to Set 2
1. C. Sentence 2, in its original form, is repetitive. I agree and he was right make the same point. Choices (B) and (D) are also unnecessarily repetitive (value, valuing). Choice (C) is streamlined but gets the point across. Choice (E) shifts to passive voice (are valued) for no reason. Go with (C). (conciseness)
2. C. The pronoun they is plural, but everyone (which they refers to) is singular. Therefore, they should change to the singular he or she. Choice (C) is right. (agreement)
3. D. The first paragraph lays out an idea (lasting value comes from within) but concedes that material possessions are necessary, including art. The second paragraph continues the discussion of art, showing how its creation is the product of an inner quality (human genius). Sentence 6, which begins the second paragraph, doesn’t introduce a new idea. Therefore, Choice (A) is wrong. Nor does it contradict or modify what was said in the first paragraph, so Choices (B), (C), and (E) don’t work. Choice (D) is the best answer. (logical organization of ideas)
4. B. The culture of a society in Sentence 8 is the equivalent of the traditions of a people in Sentence 9, so you can drop Sentence 9 without losing anything. Choice (B) is correct. (conciseness)
5. A. Sentences 10 and 11 work in opposing directions. Sentence 10 talks about making money, and Sentence 11 talks about a priceless experience. Thus (A), in which but signals a change in direction, is best. (word choice)
6. B. Kafka’s quotation may explain the value of art, but it says nothing about the motivation for creating it. Hence Sentence 13 adds very little to the writer’s argument. True, cutting Sentence 13 makes the last paragraph very short. However, a short paragraph in which everything makes sense is better than a long paragraph with erroneous (wrong) statements. Go with (B). (conciseness)
Here’s looking at Eu, Anthro
The eu family has nothing in common with ew, the sound you make when a bug crawls up your sleeve. Eu is a Greek prefix that means good or pleasant. Easy-listening tunes are euphonious (they sound good) and eulogies are speeches in which all (and only) good things are said about someone (they’re usually given in honor of the deceased at a funeral or memorial service). A euphemism is a more pleasant term that may substitute for a word you don’t like to say, such as the substitution of restroom for toilet.
The anthros are the family of man (and woman). An anthropologist studies human behavior and society, but a misanthrope hates people. If you dress your dog in little dresses (pause for a shudder and a call to the humane society), you’re guilty of anthropomorphism — projecting human qualities onto nonhumans.