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Sentence Structure

Writing: 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 entire sentence carefully, then focus on the underlined portion and evaluate it using the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Focus on the first error that you find to eliminate wrong answer choices.

The main tennis stadium of the US Open, named after the African-American tennis player Arthur Ashe and located in New York City, who won the first ever US Open men's singles title in 1968.

The original sentence is a fragment; there is no main verb to carry out the action of the sentence.  You need to look for an answer choice that adds a verb, but is also clear and concise.

(A) named after the African-American tennis player Arthur Ashe and located in New York City
(B) located in New York City and named after the African-American tennis player Arthur Ashe
(C) which is named after the African-American tennis player Arthur Ashe and is located in New York City
(D) located in New York City, is named after the African-American tennis player Arthur Ashe
(E) being located in New York City and having been named after the African-American tennis player Arthur Ashe

(A)  Eliminate this choice without reading it.  It matches the original.

(B)  This sentence is better than the original sentence because it moves the modifying phrase “located in New York city” to describe the tennis stadium rather than Arthur Ashe.  People may live in one place, but they are generally free to move about, and you cannot state with certainty that they will be located in a specific place for an indefinite amount of time.  However, this sentence does not fix the original error that you found; it is still a fragment.  Eliminate this choice.

(C)  This sentence is still a fragment.  The last modifying phrase “who won…” also describes the stadium rather than Arthur Ashe.  Eliminate this choice.

(D)  This answer choice fixes the original sentence structure problem by including a verb.  It essentially says the stadium is named after a certain person, then adds two modifying phrases.  Both of those modifying phrases are as close as possible to the subjects that they modify; the tennis stadium is followed by its location, and Arthur Ashe is followed by a description of his accomplishments.  Keep this answer choice.

(E)  The Knowsys handbook tells you to avoid the word “being.”  Eliminate this choice.

The correct answer is (D).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 66% of the responses were correct.

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

Sentence Structure

Writing: Identifying Sentence Errors

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 entire sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Then quickly check each underlined portion of the sentence against the Big Eight Grammar Rules.  Select an answer after you have reviewed all of your choices.

Most of the world’s sharks, living in temperate and tropical regions, though the Greenland shark lives in the cold Arctic waters, and the huge basking shark is at home in the seas around AntarcticaNo error

(A)  Use the word “most” when you are comparing more than two things.  There are definitely more than two sharks in the world, so the word “most” is correct.

(B)  The word “sharks” is your subject.  You know that it must be plural.  Turn your focus to the word “living.”  Whenever you see an “-ing” ending, check to make sure that this form of the verb is necessary.  The word “living” is necessary if you want to use the phrase between the two commas as a way of modifying or describing the word sharks.  However, if “living” is part of a modifying phrase, then where is the verb that shows what the sharks are doing?  There is no main verb.  This sentence is a fragment.  In order to fix the fragment, you must eliminate both the underlined comma and “living” and simply use “sharks live.”

(C)  The word “though” sets up a contrast, just like the word “but.”  There is a contrast in this sentence between where most sharks live and where two particular sharks live.  The word “though” is correct.

(D)  The preposition “around” is idiomatically correct to describe the waters surrounding Antarctica.  The word “Antartctica” is a proper noun, and it is capitalized.  There is no error here.

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

The correct answer is (B).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 69% of the responses were correct.

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

Sentence Structure

Link of the Day

The SAT essay question is essentially a broad question about the state of humanity.  That is why you can research a few examples from history, literature, and current events and have details prepared for your test before you are given an essay prompt.  Read this current event about how scientists have connected the brains of two rats.  Write down important details from the article.  Then answer this SAT essay question using the details and facts you wrote: Is there always another explanation or point of view?  If you feel comfortable using this example to support an idea on that topic, try this topic as well:  Is creativity needed more than ever in the world today?  The more detail you remember from a current event, the more likely it is that you will be able to relate that current event to your test question.

Writing: 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 entire sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Next, evaluate the underlined portion of the sentence using the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Focus on the first error that you find to quickly eliminate any answer choices that do not fix that error.
  
The finest quality raw silk comes from the commonly domesticated silkworm, Bombyx moriit feeds on the leaves of the mulberry tree.

This sentence is a comma splice; it has two complete sentences that are incorrectly joined by a comma.  You will need your answer choice to fix this problem.

(A) it feeds
(B) feeding
(C) they feed
(D) which feeds
(E) having fed

(A)  Eliminate the first choice because it matches the original sentence.

(B)  The simple subject of the first part of the sentence is “silk.”  The silkworm cannot be the subject of the sentence because it is part of a prepositional phrase (from the commonly domesticated silkworm).  It doesn’t make sense to say that the silk is feeding.  Eliminate this answer choice.

(C)  This choice does not fix the sentence structure problem, and it introduces a new problem.  The word “silkworm” is singular, but the pronoun “they” is plural.  Eliminate this choice.

(D)  The underlined portion of the sentence comes after a comma.  If you want to add additional information after a comma, you need the word “which” rather than the word “that.”  This choice fixes the original problem with the sentence by turning the last portion of it into an appropriate modifying phrase.  Keep this choice and quickly check the remaining answer choice.

(E)  Whenever you see an “ing” ending, check to make sure that this is the correct form of the verb.  When the word “having” comes before a verb, it indicates that this action comes prior to another action.  For example: Having finished my homework early, I went out to eat with my friends.  In your original sentence, there is no other verb that could be attributed to the silkworm, so this choice is unnecessarily wordy.  Eliminate this answer choice.

The correct answer is (D).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 75% of the responses were correct.

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

Pronouns

Writing: 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 entire original sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Then evaluate the underlined portion using the Big 8 Grammar Rules.

About 35 percent of the world’s orange juice is produced by Florida, comparing it with nearly 50 percent produced by Brazil, the world’s largest orange producer.

There are two things that you should immediately notice about the underlined portion of the sentence.  The first is that one of the underlined words ends in “-ing,” but does not have any reason to do so.  The second is that you have an unassociated “it.”  The “it” is intended to refer to the percent of juice, but “it” seems to refer to Florida within the context of the sentence.  Your Knowsys book specifically tells you to watch for both of these things and avoid them.  Look down at your answer choices.

(A) comparing it with
(B) but
(C) whereas
(D) although
(E) compared with

(A) You already found two problems with the original sentence.  This choice always matches the original sentence, so eliminate it without reading it.

(B) The word “but” sets up a contrast; however, the original sentence sets up a comparison.  This answer changes the meaning of the original sentence.  In addition, if you read the whole sentence, you will notice that the portion after the comma is missing the verb “is.”  The verb “is” would be necessary for parallelism because you have “is produced” and then only “produced.”  When there is a comma before the word “but,” a complete sentence with subject and verb should follow.  Eliminate this choice for any of these reasons.

(C) This answer choice has the same parallelism and sentence structure problem as the previous choice.  Eliminate this choice.

(D) The word “although” sets up a contrast rather than a comparison.  It also has the same parallelism and sentence structure problem as the previous two choices.  Eliminate this choice.

(E) This choice eliminates both of the problems that you found in the original sentence and produces a sentence that is clear in meaning.  It does not have the parallelism or sentence structure problem that other choices had because those words, when preceded with a comma, are meant to link complete sentences, but “compared with” does not indicate that a complete sentence is coming.

The correct answer is (E).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 57% of the responses were correct.

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

Sentence Structure

Writing: 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 entire sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Then evaluate the underlined portion of the sentence using the Big 8 Grammar Rules.

Mexican painter Frida Kahlo drew inspiration from her Mexican heritage, where she incorporated native and religious symbols into her work.

The underlined portion contains the word “where.”  “Where” refers to a place; however, there are no places in the sentence.  “Mexican heritage” is not a place!  Mexico would be a place.  Eliminate the “where” and you have created a comma splice.  A comma splice is two complete sentences with separate subjects and verbs that are incorrectly joined with a comma.  The easiest way to fix this new problem is to eliminate the underlined subject “she” and change the verb “incorporated” to make this sentence flow better.  Look down at your answer choices.

(A) where she incorporated
(B) in which she incorporated
(C) incorporated
(D) incorporating
(E) therefore, she incorporated

(A) This answer choice always matches the original.  Eliminate it without reading it.

(B) This answer changes the meaning of the sentence and makes it unclear.  It sounds as if Frida is incorporating symbols into her heritage and somehow creating her own heritage.  Eliminate it. 

(C) You cannot just put the word “incorporated” into this blank.  You would need “and incorporated” to avoid sentence structure problems.  Eliminate it.

(D) Changing “incorporated” to “incorporating,” creates a dependant clause that cannot stand alone.  You no longer have the incorrect relative pronoun “where” and you have fixed the sentence structure problem that resulted from its removal.  This is a clear and concise sentence.  Keep it.

(E) This answer choice is wordy.  It is also incorrectly punctuated.  There should be a semicolon before the transitional word “therefore.”  An entire sentence still comes after the comma, and you must avoid a comma splice.  Eliminate it.

The correct answer is (D).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 57% of the responses were correct.

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

Sentence Structure

Writing: 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 entire sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Then evaluate the underlined portion using the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Focus on the first error that you find to eliminate wrong answer choices. 

The North American continent, first colonized by people from Siberia, crossing the now sunken land bridge between Siberia and Alaska about 15,000 years ago.

Something is clearly wrong with this sentence.  Can you identify the main subject and verb? The subject is North America, but there is no main verb!  As it is written, the sentence seems to say that the continent was “crossing” a land bridge – a nonsensical statement.  The people crossed the bridge.  This sentence is a fragment.  To fix it, you need to add a verb.  Verbs often come right after the subject, so the sentence should say something like “The North American continent was first colonized.”  There is another issue with this sentence, but use the first error that you see to quickly eliminate any answer choices that do not fix this problem. 

(A) The North American continent, first colonized by people from Siberia, crossing
(B) People from Siberia first colonized the North American continent, who crossed
(C) First colonized by people from Siberia was the North American continent, they crossed
(D) First colonized by people from Siberia, who crossed the North American continent,
(E) The North American continent was first colonized by people from Siberia, who crossed

You probably noticed right away that only two choices use the word “was”: (C) and (E).  Of those two choices, only (E) puts the “was” where you predicted it would go.  If you are not always able to identify how to fix the errors that you find, don’t worry; you can also eliminate each other answer choice based on specific flaws.

(A) You know this sentence is a fragment because (A) always matches the original sentence.  Eliminate it without looking at it.

(B) In this case, “people” has become the subject of the sentence.  When the subject of the sentence is people, you do not need the pronoun “who” to link “crossing” to people – it is already understood.  Eliminate this choice.

(C)  In this sentence the subject follows the verb: “was” comes before “continent.”  Your Knowsys handbook tells you to avoid these constructions whenever possible.  This sentence is also a comma splice, which means that there are two complete sentences incorrectly joined by a comma.  Eliminate it.

(D)  This answer changes the intended meaning of the original sentence.  Now people are crossing North America instead of the land bridge, and they are colonizing the land bridge instead of colonizing North America.  Eliminate this choice.

(E) This sentence has a main subject followed by a main verb.  That verb is not “people,” so the sentence has further been clarified by explaining that it is the people “who” crossed the bridge.

The correct answer is (E).


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

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

Sentence Structure

Writing:  Identifying Sentence Errors

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 original sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Next, quickly check the underlined portions of the sentence against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Identify and mark any error that you find, but be sure to check all the answer choices before you select one.

The United States is the largest producer of cranberries and cranberry products, most of them are consumed there and in Canada. No error

Reading this sentence as a whole is vital to understanding the problem with it.  This sentence is actually two sentences incorrectly joined by just a comma: a comma splice.  A problem with sentence structure is not going to be noticeable if you just focus on the underlined portions of the sentence.  You cannot simply insert a semicolon in this sentence, so you must find a way to change one of the underlined portions of the sentence to create a dependent clause.

(A)   The underlined verb “is” matches the subject of the sentence, “United States,” because both are singular.  The United States is one country.  There is no problem here.

(B)  The word “largest” modifies the word “producer,” and it is as close as possible to the word it modifies.  There is no error here.

(C)  Remember that the problem with your sentence is structural.  You have two complete sentences each with a subject and verb.  The word “them” functions as the subject of the second sentence, but it refers to something already stated in the first sentence.  If you change this word, you can create a dependent clause after the comma.  Try inserting the word “which” into this blank.  It works!  It fixes your problem while maintaining the meaning of the sentence.  Quickly check your other options.

(D)  The word “there” refers to the United States, which has already been explicitly mentioned in the sentence.  There is no error here.

(E)  This is not an option because you found an error as you were reading.

The correct answer is (C).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 44% of the responses were correct.

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

Sentence Structure

Writing: Identifying Sentence Errors

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.  Then quickly check each underlined portion of the sentence against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.

Every day, millions of tiny stony bits falling quietly into the atmosphere, burning briefly asmeteors, and leaving behind a vaporized residue that filters slowly to Earth. No error

(A)   When you read the sentence, you should notice that it is a fragment.  Fragments sound as if they should continue because they lack either a subject or a verb.  Start by identifying the main subject in the sentence.  The main subject is “millions of tiny stony bits.”  What is the main verb?  Right now it is in the wrong form: “falling.”   You cannot put the subject and verb together to create a whole sentence: millions of tiny stony bits falling.  Remember that the Knowsys handbook reminds you to check any word ending in –ing to be sure that the –ing is necessary.  Instead of “falling” you need the words “are falling” or simply “fall.”  Mark this error and quickly look at the rest of the underlined portions.

(B)  Anytime the word “as” is underlined, think about whether the word “like” belongs there instead.  These stone bits are not “like” meteors, they are meteors!  The word “as” can be used to show that something is acting in a particular way.  For example, I can act as a guide and my friend can be hired as a tutor.  There is no error here.

(C)  This answer choice requires you to think about idioms.  The phrase “leave behind” is a common English idiom that can mean anything from forgetting something, to passing something on a journey.  In this sentence “leaving behind” actually means leaving a trace of something, which is exactly what those burning rocks do: they leave a trace of vaporized residue.  This idiom is used correctly, so there is no error here.

(D)  This underlined portion contains an adverb; remember those things ending in –ly?  This particular adverb modifies how a vaporized residue filters.  It is also placed as close as possible to the word that it modifying.  There is no error here.

(E)  This choice cannot be the answer because you have already identified an error.

The correct answer is (A).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 74% of the responses were correct.

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

Sentence Structure

Link of the Day

Today's question involves Jean Piaget, a man who changed the way that we think about thought.  He would make an excellent example for your SAT essay, particularly because most students do not know about his contributions to psychology. Most students will use the same historical figures: George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., or Hitler.  Take a moment to read about Jean Piaget's life here, and consider using him to make your essay stand out.

10/23 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 original sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Evaluate the underlined portion using The Big 8.  Focus on the first error you find to eliminate wrong answer choices.

Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist, and the first scientist that made systematic studies of how children learn.

As you read this sentence, you should be confused when you reach the “and.”  There is no information before the “and” that would necessitate a conjunction.  You are told that Jean Piaget is a Swiss psychologist, but that information is not given as part of a list that would require an “and.”  Once you notice this, you can be sure that your task will be to decide how to deliver the information about Jean Piaget.  Remember that your goal is always to create clear and precise sentences.  Continue reading the sentence and think about its structure.  You will need a verb to fix this sentence fragment: a verb that relates to Jean Piaget.  Notice that the original sentence includes “made” in the past tense.  It is also logical to look for a sentence that is in the past tense because you know that this man was the first to do something.  Look down at your answer choices.

(A) Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist, and the first scientist that made
(B) Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist, also the first scientist making
(C) As a Swiss psychologist, it was Jean Piaget who was the first scientist making
(D) Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, the first scientist in having made
(E) The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget was the first scientist to make

(A)  You already know the original sentence is incorrect, so do not take the time to reread this answer choice.  (B) The verb “was” does not agree with “making." (C)  This answer is not concise.  Try to avoid “it was” constructions.  (D) This answer choice does not fix the sentence fragment, and it uses the awkward phrase “in having made.”  (E) This answer choice presents all the information in the original sentence clearly, without even using a single comma.

The correct answer is (E).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 74% of the responses were correct.

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

Sentence Structure

Link of the Day

School may not be your favorite activity, but it does offer you an opportunity to learn and to discover your dreams.  In Pakistan, a 14 year old girl has been shot because she spoke up about her desire to attend school.  The Taliban has proudly claimed responsibility for the attack because it believes that this girl’s ideas are dangerous.  This is not a historical event.  It is a current event.  As you select current events to write about during the SAT essay, think about the powerful themes in this article.  What is courage?  Should people take responsibility for solving national problems?  Can success be disastrous?  Is the world changing for the better?  These are all previous SAT questions.  The SAT does not have to be just another test to get through.  It is an opportunity to think critically about the world you inhabit, and to reexamine your perspective and priorities.  During the test you should focus on getting the best score you can, but as you prepare for this test, you are preparing your own future by practicing skills that can help you become successful and learning information that will help you direct your efforts.

10/11 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 original sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Evaluate the underlined portion using the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Focus on the first error to eliminate wrong answer choices quickly.

They are smaller than their counterparts in Africa, so Asiatic lions can be found only in Gir, a forest region in northwest India.

Paraphrase the sentence as you read it.  They are small so these lions are only in a forest in India.  Paraphrasing the sentence should help you see immediately that there is a logic problem in this sentence.   Using the word “so” implies that one thing depends on another: something happened so that something else happened.  However, being small is probably not the not the main reason that these lions are limited to a single forest.  Remove the “so” from the sentence.  You have identified the first error, so you could examine your answer choices for logical conjunctions.  However, in eliminating the logic problem, you created a new problem.  Without the “so,” the original sentence becomes a comma splice.  Look again at the first portion of the sentence.  How could you change this sentence so that there are no longer two independent clauses joined by a comma?  It would be very easy to remove the first two words of the sentence and create a dependent clause.  The first time that you read “They are” you do not know what the pronoun “they” refers to anyway.  The sentence will be clearer once you eliminate that extra pronoun and verb.  Look down at your answer choices:

(A) They are smaller than their counterparts in Africa, so Asiatic lions
(B) Its counterparts in Africa are bigger, but the Asiatic lion
(C) The Asiatic lion is smaller than their counterparts in Africa, they
(D) The counterparts of African lions in Asia are smaller, although they
(E) Smaller than their counterparts in Africa, Asiatic lions

(A) is your original sentence.  Remember that it was illogical.  (B) replaces the “so” with a “but” that is also illogical.  There is no relationship between the size and location of the lions.  Those are two separate facts.  (C) has a comma splice.  (D) includes the word “although” which is also illogical.  Again, there is no relationship between the size and location of the lions.  (E) is concise and logical, and it matches your prediction. 

The correct answer is (E).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 66% of the responses were correct.

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

Sentence Structure

Link of the Day

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

Top of Form
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.

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

Sentence Structure

Link of the Day

Woody Guthrie is the subject of today’s SAT question, and he is also a fascinating folk musician who would make an excellent historical example for your SAT essay.  Singers and songwriters influence culture in profound ways.  Guthrie's message was about love.  He wrote, "I hate... songs that run you down or songs that poke fun of you on account of your bad luck or your hard traveling.  I am out to fight those kinds of songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood."  You can find out more about Guthrie and the songs he wrote here.   

Today also marks the 11th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.  Take a moment out of your busy day to remember the victims and their families.  You can read more about the 11th anniversary here.

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 sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Then evaluate the underlined portion of the sentence using the Big 8 Grammar Rules.

Woody Guthrie wrote and adapted more than a thousand songs, many of them are about the struggles of workers and the poor in the United States.

Notice that the underlined portion of the sentence comes directly after a comma.  This is a good indication that you should check sentence structure.  When you read the sentence, does it seem as if it includes two separate thoughts?  This sentence is a comma splice; the comma should be a period.  Which underlined word could you replace in the original sentence to create a grammatically correct sentence?  If you immediately see a way to fix the problem, make a note of it.  You are now ready to look down at the answer choices.

(A) many of them are
(B) many of which are
(C) many are
(D) which are, many of them,
(E) and many of them that are

You do not need to read (A) because it matches the original sentence and you found an error in the original.  (B) fixes the comma splice by changing the second independent clause into a relative clause that modifies “songs.” (C) fails to remedy the comma splice.  (D) and (E) are needlessly complex and introduce new errors into the sentence.

The correct answer is (B).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 66% of the responses were correct.

For more help with the writing section of the SAT, visit www.myknowsys.com!

Sentence Structure

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 sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Evaluate the underlined portion using The Big 8 Grammar Rules.

Althea Gibson, the first African American tennis player to be recognized as a world champion, beginning to play amateur tennis in the 1940s.

This sentence may look really long, but you only have to worry about a part of it.  Look at the section enclosed by commas (the…champion).  This whole phrase is known as an appositive phrase and it simply gives information about the subject of the sentence.  Since the part of the sentence that is underlined is outside the two commas, you can ignore everything inside the commas.  Now the sentence is much shorter:

Althea Gibson beginning to play amateur tennis in the 1940s.

This sentence is a fragment; it sounds as if something else should follow it.  In order to make the sentence a complete sentence, you must change the verb tense.  Think of a way that you could improve the underlined portion without looking at the answer choices.  The correct words might just come to mind. Then look down at your answer choices.

(A) beginning to play
(B) began playing
(C) and she began playing
(D) she began to play
(E) she had begun playing

Do not read (A) because you already know it is wrong.  Only one answer choice begins with the word “began.”  Did you predict the word "began?"  Do not get caught up in worrying about whether it is more correct to write “playing” or “to play” because you can see that all of the options except one add the unnecessary pronoun “she.”  The correct answer must be both concise and clear.

The correct answer is (B).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 87% of the responses were correct.

For more help with the writing section of the SAT, visit www.myknowsys.com!

Sentence Structure

Link of the Day

The SAT question today is about fossils and bugs.  Old stuff is interesting – really!   Some of you might not enjoy history, so you might not have put much thought into the historical examples you chose for your SAT essay.  This is a mistake!  Find something that interests you, something that you enjoy thinking about, so that you will immediately be able to connect that historical person or event to an essay prompt.  Maybe you cannot memorize military battles or names of rulers.   Maybe you wish you could have squished the first flying bug.  That is fine.  Identify your passion.  If your passion is art, or if you are even remotely interested in looking at art, take a look at this article describing new discoveries about the beginning of artistic endeavors.  Then do your own research.  When did your passion first become important to humanity?

8/30 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 this sentence carefully, using your knowledge of the Big 8 Grammar rules to decide whether there is an error in the underlined portion.  Remember that this kind of question might include no error or more than one error in the underlined portion.

New analyses of a fossil suggest winged insects having possibly emerged as early as 400 million years ago.

Is there a problem with this sentence?  Some sentences may just sound strange to you.  If you cannot immediately identify the error, try simplifying the sentence before looking at your answer choices.  In this sentence, you can remove a prepositional phrase (“of a fossil”) to see whether the subject and verb match.  “New analyses suggest,” correctly matches, so try simplifying the sentence even further.  You could end up with something like this:

New analyses suggest insects having possibly emerged a long time ago.

Without all the extra words it is easier to recognize the part of the sentence that is incorrect.  Idiomatically, the sentence should say that these analyses “suggest that” this fact is true.  The word “that” is necessary before the statement naming the precise suggestion.  Mark the error you found and read the sentence one more time.  Can you spot another error?  You would never say “insects having possibly emerged a long time ago” and expect others to understand this as a complete statement.  The verb tense is incorrect.  Instead, you would say “insects possibly emerged,” or “insects may have emerged.”  There can be more than one way to fix a sentence, but you are less likely to be distracted by wrong answer choices if you have identified all the problem areas.  Look down at your answer choices.

(A) suggest winged insects having possibly
(B) suggest that winged insects may have
(C) suggesting that winged insects, they may have
(D) that suggests winged insects as having possibly
(E) that suggest winged insects to have possibly

You know that (A) is incorrect.  (B) matches your prediction exactly. All the other answers only fix one of the errors in the sentence; they all include the word “that.” (C) adds an unnecessary pronoun that creates sentence structure problems.  (D) and (E) create sentence fragments that lack a main verb.


On sat.collegeboard.org, 81% of the responses were correct.

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

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!

Sentence Structure

Link of the Day

Hawaii has become one of the most popular vacation destinations in the United States, but do you know how this cluster of islands became a state?  President Eisenhower signed a proclamation welcoming Hawaii as the 50th state on August 21, 1959.  This action was not without controversy and intrigue.  Do you know the role that sugar played in the story?  What about the conflicting desires of Queen Liliuokalani and Prince Kuhio of Hawaii?  The difficulties that Hawaii faced on its road to statehood would make a great historical example for your SAT essay.  Read some of the facts here and look at some relevant documents here, but also search for some of the current opinions about this historical event.

8/21 Identifying Sentence Errors

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. 

As you read the original sentence to yourself, listen for errors.  Check the underlined portions of the sentence against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  If you see an error, mark it, but be sure to quickly check the other choices.

The Sun has been shining for nearly five billion years and is thought that it has sufficient thermonuclear fuel in its core to shine for about another five billion. No error

Look first at (A).  The word “nearly” modifies the “five billion years.” It is as close as possible to the words it modifies and it takes the –ly ending that most adverbs take, so there is no error in this underlined portion.  (B) should sound awkward to you.  Take out the words that are underlined and read the sentence.  “The Sun is thought __________ sufficient fuel.” You would not immediately place the word “it” in this blank because you already know that the subject is the Sun.  The word “it” is an unnecessary pronoun.  The correct phrasing is “to have.” Mark this error, but quickly check the other blanks. (C) is idiomatically correct because it uses the word “to;” you have enough fuel to do something.  (D) is idiomatically correct as well because you do something “for” a certain amount of time.   (E) cannot be correct because you already marked an error.

The correct answer is (B).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 59% of the responses were correct.

For more help visit www.myknowsys.com!

Sentence Structure

Link of the Day

This SAT question mentions the writer Toni Morrison.  Toni Morrison is an African American novelist whose novels have received numerous awards.  She would make an excellent historical figure to write about in your SAT essay, and any of her works of literature would also make excellent examples.  Take a moment to read about Toni Morrison’s life here or here.  You just might be inspired to pick up one of her celebrated novels.


8/12 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 original sentence to yourself and evaluate the underlined portion by checking it against the Big 8 Grammar Rules. Your goal is to create clear and precise sentences.

With the 1977 publication of Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison both received popular and critical acclaim.

Did the original sentence sound odd to you?  Your first task is to identify the problem.  This sentence is hard to understand because the word “both” is misplaced.  The formula for linking two things by conjunctions is “Both X and Y.”  With the word “both” before the verb “received,” it sounds as if there are two people receiving things rather than two kinds of things being received.  You know that the person who wrote this sentence wants to emphasize the idea that there are two kinds of acclaim, but that the sentence is not as clear as it could be.  Look down at the answer choices.

(A) both received popular and
(B) both received popular and also
(C) received popular, along with
(D) received popular as well as
(E) received both popular and also

(A) and (B) can be eliminated right away because they maintain the incorrect structure of the original sentence with the word “both” before the word “received.”  (C) adds an unnecessary comma that complicates the sentence rather than making it more clear.  (D) correctly uses the idiomatic phrase “as well as,” which maintains the emphasis on two different types of acclaim while making the meaning of the sentence clearer.  Remember to check (E) even if (D) seems like a good answer.  (E) may look correct at first glance because the word “both” is moved to a position after the word “received.”  However, this choice adds to the word “both” an “also.”  The function of both of these words is to draw attention to the fact that there are two different types of acclaim, so choosing either “both” or  “also”  would be more concise.  Remember that you want to avoid redundancy.

The correct answer is (D).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 66% of responses were correct.

For more help, visit www.myknowsys.com!

Sentence Structure

Link of the Day

The 2012 Olympic Games have proven to be historic in more than one regard. One landmark is the fact that these Games are the first in which every country has sent both male and female athletes. Most notable is the nation of Saudi Arabia, which was nearly barred from sending male competitors if it did not also send female athletes and finally agreed only two weeks before the start of the Olympics. Because participation in sports (among many other things) is severely restricted for Saudi women, the two athletes who were accepted into the Olympics did not actually have high enough scores to qualify--not that it mattered, as screaming crowds cheered them on. Instead, the International Olympic Committee admitted them under the Olympics' universality clause, which "allows athletes who didn't meet qualifying times to compete when their participation is deemed important for reasons of equality." This clause has been used in the past to promote participation from underrepresented nations. Read more here and here.

8/9 Identifying Sentence Errors

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.

The Knowsys method for identifying sentence errors requires you to read the original sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Quickly check each underlined portion of the sentence against The Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Identify and mark any error, being sure to check all of the underlined portions of the sentence for errors before moving on to the next question.
One of the northernmost countries of EuropeFinland's borders are Russia on the east, Sweden on the west, and the tip of Norway on the north. No error

(A) is correct because even though this sentence mentions other countries, it is primarily concerned with only one: Finland. (B) is a prepositional phrase modifying “countries” that is correctly placed next to the noun it modifies. (C) does not contain any glaring errors in the underlined portion, but examine this section within the context of the whole sentence.  When you have an introductory phrase followed by a comma, the very next independent noun must be the subject of that phrase.  The introductory phrase informs you that the subject must be a country, but instead of the word “Finland,” it is followed by “Finland’s borders.” “Finland’s borders” is not a country, so (C) contains an error. (D) is correct because three countries that form the borders for Finland are listed, and lists require a conjunction before the final member of the list.

The correct answer is (C).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 52% of responses were correct. 


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

Sentence Completions

Link of the Day

In 1998, Tom Whittaker became the first disabled person to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Whittaker lost his right leg in a car accident in 1979 but he never gave up (he actually refused pain medication so that he could plead with the surgeon to only amputate one of his legs). His resolve and determination make him a great "Excellent Example" for your essay. You can learn more about him here.

6/24 Sentence Completions

Choose the word or set of words that, when inserted in the sentence, best fits the meaning of the sentence as a whole.

You should always remember to make a prediction before you look at the answer choices. All of the information that you need to choose the correct answer is given in the sentence. By reading carefully and making a prediction, you can avoid falling for trap wrong answers. 

Bolstered by his unflagging determination and___________physical preparation, Tom Whittaker became the first amputee to successfully climb to the summit of Mount Everest.

Look carefully at the information given in the sentence above. Tom Whittaker is "Bolstered by his unflagging determination and ____________ physical preparation . . ." whatever it is that bolsters him must be positive. Since he climbed Mount Everest, his physical preparation must have been "very good"or "thorough". Now, take a look at the answer choices and see which one matches your prediction.

(A) fortuitous
(B) assiduous
(C) heedless
(D) expeditious
(E) pedantic

(A) fortuitous implies that his preparation was "lucky." That doesn't really fit your prediction (and in fact, it would detract from Whittaker's accomplishment).  (B) Fits your prediction well. Clearly you are mean to admire Whittaker and diligent physical preparation is something to be admired. (C) (D) and (E) don't fit your prediction at all so you can eliminate them.

The correct answer choice is (B).

Vocab tested in this SC:

fortuitous: happening by chance; coincidental
assiduous: hard working, diligent, regular
heedless: unaware, without noticing
expeditious: fast, prompt, speedy
pedantic: overly concerned with formal rules and trivial points of learning


On sat.collegeboard.org 38% of the responses were correct

Need to build your SAT vocab? Visit www.myknowsys.com to check out the Knowsys Vocabulary Builder Program.

Modifiers

Link of the Day

American artist Willem de Kooning was born in 1904 in the Netherlands. He was famous for blending elements of Cubism, Surrealism, and Expressionism. Although his paintings often seem to express anger and strong emotion, he is considered to have been one of the most technically skilled artists of the New York School. Learn more about de Kooning here and see some of his paintings here.

 

6/19 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 other alternatives, select choice A.

 

When you are working on an "Improving Sentences" problem, it is always a good idea to carefully read the sentence as it is and look for an error. If possible, always try to predict a way to fix the sentence. Even though your prediction may not match the correct answer (there are often several different ways to fix an error), it will help you to identify the key grammatical principles that are being tested.

 

Combining both figurative and abstract elements in his paintings, such painters as Franze Kline and Richard Deibenkorn were greatly influenced by American artist Willem de Kooning, a key figure in the post-war Abstract Expressionist movement.


 

You probably notice that as the sentence stands, it's a little difficult to read. Take a moment to carefully reread the sentence and analyze what it is actually saying. You should now notice that the sentence is trying to tell you that a painter named "Willem de Kooning" is famous for "Combining both figurative and abstract elements in his paintings." Since he was a "key figure in the post-war Abstract Expressionist movement", he influenced other painters ("Franze Kline and Richard Diebenkorn"). Right now, however, that isn't clear. The modifier "combining both figurative and abstract elements in his paintings," is followed by "such painters as Franze Kline . . ." Notice that as it stands, the sentence appears to be saying that it was "such painters as Franze Kline . . ." who combined figurative and abstract elements. Remember that, as a rule, modifiers should be placed as close as possible to the thing that they modify. In other words, you can predict that the correct answer will look more like this. "Combining both figurative and . . . , Willem de Kooning greatly influenced . . . " Now look at the answer choices:

 

(A) such painters as Franze Kline and Richard Diebenkorn were greatly influenced by American artist Willem de Kooning, a key figure in the post war Abstract Expressionist movement

(B) a key figure in the post-war Abstract Expresionist movement who greatly influenced such painters as Franze Kline and Richard Diebenkorn was American artist Willem de Kooning

(C) American artist Willem de Kooning became a key figure in the post-war Abstract Expressionist movement and greatly influenced such painters as Franze Kline and Richard Diebenkorn

(D) Willem de Kooning, an American artist who became a key figure in the post-war Abstract Expressionist movement and greatly influenced such painters as Franze Kline and Richard Diebenkorn

(E) and a key figure in the post-war Abstract Expressionist movement, Willem de Kooning greatly influenced such painters as Franze Kline and Richard Diebenkorn as an American artist

 

As always, you do not need to read or evaluate (A) because it is identical to the original sentence. (B) still has the same problem: the modifier is placed too far away from the thing that it modifies. (C) matches our prediction well. Now the modifier is followed immediately by "American artist Willem de Kooning." (D) also has the modified element in the correct location. However, if you read it carefully, you will notice that if you substitute (D) into the sentence, you do not have a complete sentence. (E) again has the modifier placed too far away from the thing it modifies. 

 

The correct answer choice is (C)

 

On sat.collegeboard.com 66% of the responses were correct.

 

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