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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.  

As you read the sentence, listen for errors.  Evaluate the underlined portion using the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Once you look down at the answer choices, focus on the first error to eliminate wrong answer choices quickly.

In Costa Rica, coffee, from the highlands, and bananas, produced mainly in the Caribbean lowlands, as the most important crops, they account for nearly half the total value of all exports.

This sentence may be hard to follow because it has a lot of commas, but identify the simple subject.  This sentence is about coffee and bananas.  Once you have the simple subject, look for the verb that matches that subject.  You will not find one.  There are verbs in this sentence, but they are in the wrong format to match the subject.  The verb “account” matches the pronoun “they” instead of matching “coffee and bananas.”  In order to fix this, you must add a plural verb as close to your subject as possible.  The sentence describes what coffee and bananas are (important crops), so change the word “as” to “are.”

You have improved the sentence now, but always remember that there might be more than one error in improving sentence questions.   Read the whole sentence with your change and you will see that you still have a problem with sentence structure.  You have two complete sentences with separate subjects and verbs that are only separated by a comma: a comma splice.  An easy way to fix this would be to make the second independent clause dependant.  All you would have to do is eliminate the unnecessary pronoun “they” and change the word “account” to “accounting.”

(A) as the most important crops, they account
(B) as the most important crops, which account
(C) are the most important crops, accounting
(D) are the most important of their crops by accounting
(E) have been the most important crops, which accounts

Even if you did not immediately spot the changes that should be made to this sentence, you can be strategic in how you eliminate answer choices.  You do not need to read choice (A) because you know it contains the original phrasing.  Furthermore, both choice (A) and (B) begin with “as.”  Instead of getting distracted or confused by the rest of their words that follow “as,” eliminate these choices right away.  You know that they will not fix the first problem that you found in the original sentence: the missing verb.  Look at (C). Remember that the Knowsys method tells you to lean towards answers that are concise.  This is the shortest answer, so check quickly to see whether it makes sense when you place it in the blank.  It does!  Quickly look at (D).  Coffee and bananas did not become important “by” accounting for a lot of the exports, so the logic in this choice is skewed.  (E) adds a lot of words and the word “which” does not make sense in context.

The correct answer is (C).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 71% of the responses were correct.

For more help with SAT writing questions, visit www.myknowsys.com!