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Sentence Structure

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It is common to hear that women’s sports do not get the attention that they deserve.  However, it also seems that most Americans are at least comfortable with the notion that women play sports.  Billie Jean King is one woman whose athletic prowess helped to bring respect to female athletic competitors.  Although she has a long list of achievements, she is best known for accepting the challenge of Bobby Riggs, an older tennis player who boasted that he could beat her because she was only a weak woman.  The two played a highly publicized match on September 20, 1973 and King won the “Battle of the Sexes.”  Read more about this event here and here.  Think about how you could use this historical event as an excellent example for an SAT essay.  Think about how easily this story relates to the themes of expectation, adversity, perseverance, lasting change, success, motivation, courage, responsibility, respect for elders and tradition, how individuals are defined… the list continues.  If you choose to use this as one of your excellent historical examples, be sure to write down and memorize details that will show that you are well informed.

9/20 Identifying Sentence Errors

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The following sentence contains either a single error or no error at all. If the sentence contains an error, select the one underlined part that must be changed to make the sentence correct. If the sentence contains no error, select choice E. 

Read the whole sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  If there is an error, you will be able to fix it by changing only one underlined portion, but most of the time you cannot spot the error by only reading the underlined portions.  You need the context of the whole sentence to choose the correct answer.  Once you have read the sentence, quickly check the underlined portions of the sentence against The Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Mark any error you see and check the rest of the choices.

It weaves across a strip of tropical land where the Isthmus of Panama narrows in the shape of a long flattened letter S, the Panama Canal links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. No error

After reading the sentence, do you feel as if you have too much information?  You should.  This sentence is actually two sentences connected with a comma; it contains a comma-splice.  Normally you could change the comma to a semicolon or add a conjunction to the sentence, but that portion of the sentence containing the comma is not underlined.  That means that you must change one of those complete sentences into a dependent clause that modifies the other. 

Another way to think about this sentence is to realize that a comma splice is basically a problem involving too many subjects or verbs.  Ignore some of the “extra” information in the sentence so that you can more easily see the basic structure of the sentence.  Then the sentence will look like this:

It weaves across a strip of tropical land where the Isthmus of Panama narrows in the shape of a long flattened letter S, the Panama Canal links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The comma splice is more apparent now, and it is also obvious that changes to two of the underlined portions will not fix the comma splice.  Look quickly at each underlined portion.

(A) “It weaves” contains both a subject and a verb that match, so you might be tempted to move on to the next blank.  However, you know that you are looking for a way to make a dependent clause.  If this portion of the sentence were changed to “As it weaves” or “Weaving” you could create a dependent clause and fix the sentence structure problem.

(B)  “Where” is the correct word to describe a location.

(C) “Narrows” is a verb, so check to make sure that it agrees with the subject.   Ignore the prepositional phrase “of Panama” that separates the noun from the verb, and you will see that “the Isthmus narrows” is correct.

(D) First check subject and verb agreement because “links” is a verb.  “The Panama Canal links” correctly matches subject and verb.  There is also a conjunction between the two different oceans.  (You cannot create a dependent clause by changing this portion of the sentence because the subject is not underlined and the verb is necessary because the information that follows requires it.)

(E) This answer cannot be correct because you found an error.

The correct answer is (A).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 49% of the responses were correct.

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