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Subject-Verb Agreement

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Teachers and schools have gone back and forth on the value of rote memorization. Some claim that forcing students to endlessly repeat facts and processes only kills their creativity. Others argue that practice is essential to make certain information and tasks automatic--freeing up mental energy for higher-level applications. One value of memorization and repetition is that it can be highly effective as a way to learn facts on your own, without a teacher or classroom. If you've ever used vocabulary flashcards or a multiplication app, you've experienced rote learning! Learn more about the value of memorization here, and sign up for the Knowsys online vocabulary flashcards here

7/31 Improving Sentences

 Part or all of the following sentence is underlined; beneath the sentence are five ways of phrasing the underlined material. Select the option that produces the best sentence. If you think the original phrasing produces a better sentence than any of the alternatives, select choice A. 

Read the following sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Evaluate the underlined portion using the Big 8 Grammar Rules and predict a correction for any errors that you find.  Remember that after an improving sentences question, choice (A) will always be the same as the original sentence.  Eliminate any answer choices that do not help you towards your goal of creating a clear and precise sentence.

Rote learning, the process of memorizing by repetition, is how many young children learn the alphabet or the multiplication tables.

The underlined portion of this sentence includes a verb.  The third Big 8 Grammar Rule concerns subject and verb agreement.  Think back to this section in your Knowsys book.  You learned that the exam writers use 5 subject/verb tricks to make identifying a subject/verb agreement error more difficult.  One of these tricks is to separate subjects from verbs.  In this sentence, the subject is separated from the verb by an appositive phrase. An appositive phrase is a defining phrase that is set off by commas.  Because this phrase merely defines the subject, you should be able to ignore that portion of the sentence and still have a complete sentence.  You have now simplified the sentence to read: “Rote learning is how many young children learn the alphabet or the multiplication tables.”

You can now easily see that the subject matches the verb.  You can also see that for this to be a complete sentence, the very first word in the underlined portion must be a verb.  You want your subject and verb to be as close as possible, so you can eliminate any answer choices that do not begin with a verb.  

(A) is how
(B) is used for when
(C) this is how
(D) the way
(E) which is used when

You have now eliminated (C), (D), and (E).  You did not find an error in the original sentence, which matches (A), but you must still examine (B) to see if it improves the sentence.  Notice that (B) adds more words to the sentence without making the message any clearer.  The Knowsys method tells you to lean towards choices that are short and concise.  It also tells you not to be afraid to pick a response indicating that there is no error.

The correct answer is (A).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 68% of responses were correct. 


For more help with grammar, visit www.myknowsys.com!