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Pronouns

Link of the Day

Sometimes fact can sound like fiction, and produce an extremely interesting current event for your SAT essay.  Scientists have found a way to make a tiny cylinder invisible, creating a lot of excitement about the possible applications of such a feat.   Think about this accomplishment in terms of planning, creativity, imitation, and technology.  How could you relate this article about a current event to past SAT essay prompts?

11/13 Identifying Sentence Errors:  Pronouns

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 check each underlined portion of the sentence against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  If you find an error, mark it and quickly check the remaining underlined words.

Whether the Sumerians were the first people to develop writing is uncertain, but theirs is the oldest known writing system. No error

(A)   Always check to make sure that a verb matches the subject.  The subject, Sumerians, is plural, so “were” is required instead of “was.”  Then check to make sure that the verb is in the correct tense.  This sentence is about the past, so “were” is required instead of “are.”

(B)  It is idiomatically correct to include the preposition “to” before the word “develop.”

(C)  The word “uncertain” denotes that this statement is not definite, clearly conveying the meaning of the sentence.

(D)  When you see a pronoun, you must check to make sure that it refers to a single antecedent and that it agrees with that antecedent.  You already established that the sentence is about certain people, so the pronoun must be plural, and it must show possession.  Think about the “s” on the end of “theirs” as a shorter way to say “their writing system.”  You don’t want to write out “their writing system” because it will make the last portion of the sentence redundant.

(E)  None of the underlined portions of the sentence has an error, so this is the only remaining answer choice.

The correct answer is (E).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 45% of the responses were correct.

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

Modifiers

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.  Then evaluate the underlined portion of the sentence using the Big 8 Grammar Rules that are taught in Knowsys classes.  Focus on the first error that you find to help you eliminate wrong answer choices.

Clara Barton founded the American branch of the Red Cross, a nurse who was sometimes called the “angel of the battlefield.”

This sentence should sound odd to you the first time that you read it.  You know that Clara Barton founded the American branch of the Red Cross, but how does she relate to “a nurse who was sometimes called the ‘angel of the battlefield?’” When you first read the sentence, it sounds as if that nurse is a new person rather than Clara Barton.  How can you fix this sentence?  The phrase following the comma modifies Clara Barton; it explains a little more about her.  Modifiers are part of the Knowsys Big 8 Grammar Rules.  The first rule that you learn about modifiers is to place the modifier as close as possible to the words that they modify.  You cannot move the modifying phrase after the comma because it is not underlined.  Therefore, you will have to move the subject, Clara Barton, closer to the modifying phrase.  Look down at your answer choices.

(A) Clara Barton founded the American branch of the Red Cross,
(B) The founder of the American branch of the Red Cross was Clara Barton,
(C) It was Clara Barton founding the American branch of the Red Cross,
(D) Clara Barton, who founded the American branch of the Red Cross, she was
(E) In founding the American branch of the Red Cross, Clara Barton was

(A)  You do not need to reread this choice because it matches the original sentence, which has an error.  Eliminate it.

(B) This sentence moves Clara Barton as close as possible to the phrase that modifies her, matching your prediction about how to improve the sentence.  Keep this answer choice and quickly check your other options.

(C)  This choice does not fix the fact that Clara Barton is separated from the phrase that modifies her.  It also introduces an expletive construction: “it was.”  Avoid expletive constructions whenever possible.  Eliminate this choice.

(D)  This sentence contains a relative clause that is set off by two commas.  You should be able to ignore the information between the commas and have a complete sentence.  However, when you ignore the relative clause in this sentence, you will see an unnecessary pronoun: "Clara Barton she was a nurse who was sometimes called the “angel of the battlefield.”"  Eliminate this choice.

(E)  This answer is more grammatically correct than some of the other options, but it changes the meaning of the sentence.  This choice makes it sound as if Clara Barton earned her nickname, “the angel of the battlefield,” and became a nurse by founding an organization.  Does that make sense?  No!  She earned the nickname for helping wounded soldiers, and she was a nurse before she founded the Red Cross.

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!

Idioms

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, listening for errors.  Then quickly check each underlined portion of the sentence against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.

The Bear Gulch Limestone Formation in Montana is a sequence of bedded limestone layers up to 90 feet thick and approximately 8 miles acrossNo error


(A)  The word “in” is the correct preposition to indicate a location such as Montana.
(B)  The phrase “up to” is an idiomatically correct way to inform readers that the layers will not be more than 90 feet thick.
(C)  The word “and” is the correct conjunction to demonstrate the relationship between these two measurements.  There is no contrast between the two requiring a word such as “but,” and the two measurements do not depend on each other so they do not require a word such as “so.”
(D)  You are already given a number to describe the thickness of the layers, so you must have a way of telling what the second number measures.  The word “across” provides the needed information.
(E)  You found no errors.  Remember that you are not looking to revise the sentence; you are only looking for errors.

The correct answer is (E).


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

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

Pronouns

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.  Check the underlined portion of the sentence against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Focus on the first error that you find, and look to see which answer choice fixes the problem.

The modern recreational canoe closely resembles the Native American bark canoe in shape, length, weight, and carrying capacity, differing only in the materials of which they are made.

When there is a pronoun in an underlined portion of the sentence, you must check to make sure that it agrees with its antecedent.  Look at the pronoun “they.”  The word “they” is plural, but is there a plural antecedent for this word?  No.  The antecedent for the pronoun is “modern recreational canoe,” which is singular.  Instead of “they” this sentence requires “it.”  Mark that change, then notice that you now have “it are.”  These two words do not match, so change them to “it is.”  You are ready to look down at your answer choices.

(A) they are made
(B) they make them
(C) they made it
(D) it is made
(E) its making

The correct answer is (D).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 67% of the responses were correct.

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

Idioms

Link of the Day

It is now the month of November!  On the 1st of November in the year 1512, the Sistine Chapel ceiling was opened to the public.  Read an article about this amazing work of art here, and see the whole ceiling here.  This would make an excellent historical example for your SAT essay.  Think about the broad themes of creativity and planning in connection to this historical example.  What other themes connect to this work of art?

11/1 Identifying Sentence Errors:  Idioms

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 consider each underlined portion of the sentence, asking yourself whether it complies with the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  If you find an error, mark it.  Then quickly check the other choices.
Most ships move through the Suez Canal with their own power, but large ships must be assisted by a tugboat. No error

(A)  The word “move” is a verb.  Check to make sure that it agrees with the subject of the sentence.  It does.

(B)  Think about the word “with” in context.  “With” generally means “accompanied by,” or “in the same direction as.”  Is that the meaning that you need in this sentence?  No!  This is an improper idiom.  The power is actually moving the ship.  You need a word that will express that relationship.  Try inserting the word “under” or “by” into the sentence to make it idiomatically correct.

(C)  Check that the pronoun has one and only one antecedent and that it agrees in number with that antecedent.  “Their” refers to multiple “ships,” so it is correct.  Each ship also has its own level of power, so the addition of the word “own” makes sense.

(D)  The phrase “must be” adds important information to this sentence.  You could change it to another word such as “are,” but that would change the meaning of the sentence and is completely unnecessary because there is no error in this underlined portion.

The correct answer is (B).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 45% of the responses were correct.

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

Comparisons

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 of the sentence using the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Focus on the first problem that you find and check to see which answer choice fixes that problem.

Unlike her sister Heather, who would always put spiders safely outside if she found them in the house, Joanne’s fear kept her from going anywhere near the creatures.

This sentence may sound strange to you the first time that you read it.  If it did not sound strange, ignore the portion of the sentence between the commas and read it again.  The word “unlike” sets up a comparison.  What two things are being compared?  A person (Heather) is being compared to a feeling (Joanne’s fear).  This is not a logical comparison.  A person should be compared with a person.  Look down at your answer choices.

(A) Joanne’s fear kept her from going anywhere near the creatures
(B) Joanne’s fear is what kept her from going anywhere near the creatures
(C) fear is why Joanne had not gone anywhere near them
(D) Joanne was too afraid to go anywhere near the creatures
(E) they scared Joanne too much to go anywhere near them

(A) is illogical.  You know that because it matches the original sentence.   (B) and (C) keep comparing a person with the feeling of fear.  (D) compares a person to a person.  (E) adds the pronoun “they.”  Now Heather is compared to “they,” which presumably refers to the spiders.  That does not make sense.

The correct answer is (D).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 56% of the responses were correct.

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

Idioms

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.  Then quickly check the underlined portions of the sentence against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Identify and mark any error that you find and quickly check the other choices.

In the interior of the Arctic islands during the melting season, even small streams must be crossed with great care because near-zero water temperatures and the typically rocky and unstable nature of stream beds. No error

(A)  Before the word “care,” it is idiomatically correct to use the word “with.”  Think of the phrase “handle with care.”  There is no error in this underlined portion.

(B)  The word “because” may seem right at first.  The word “because” indicates that there is a reason for the previous statement.  Why should you cross with care?  Cross with care because the waters are cold and the stream beds are unstable.  However, if you read until the end of the sentence, you will find that there is no verb after the word because.  That should sound odd to you; you should feel as if you need to add the phrase “are there” or “are dangerous” to the end of the sentence.  Think of other words that you could use to express reasons why you must cross with care.  The phrase “due to” may come to mind.  Replace “because” with “due to,” and you have found the correct idiom.

(C)  The word “typically” modifies the word “rocky.”  It lets you know that the streams in the Arctic are usually, but not always rocky, so it includes essential information.  The modifier is placed as close as possible to the word it modifies, so there is no error in this underlined portion.

(D)  What kind of bed is unstable as the ice melts?  You are not concerned with the beds in your home, only stream beds.  There is no error in this underlined portion.

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

The correct answer is (B).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 53% of the responses were correct.

For more help with SAT writing questions, 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!

Parallelism

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.  After you have read the whole sentence, quickly check the underlined portions of the sentence against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  When you think you have found an error, mark it.  Quickly check to see whether there is an error in any of the remaining answer choices before moving to the next question.

As a Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall was known for his quest to end racial discrimination, his opposition to the death penalty, and he supported free speech and civil liberties. No error

(A) Think about the function of the word “as” in this sentence.  It is part of an introductory phrase and lets you know the context of the sentence.   You are not concerned with Thurgood Marshall as a private citizen; you are only interested in Thurgood Marshall “as” a Supreme Court justice.  The “as” represents an essential part of the information that you are given in this sentence, and it does not need to be changed in any way.

(B)  You have probably heard from your English teachers that you should avoid the passive voice.  Although “was known for” is in passive voice, it is not an error.  If you changed “was known for” to an active verb, you would change the meaning of the sentence from emphasizing Thurgood Marshall’s reputation to emphasizing his actions.  The “was” is singular and matches “Thurgood Marshall,” while “for” is the idiomatically correct preposition to use after “known,” so there is no error in this portion of the sentence.

(C) When you reach a series of things that are listed, check the parts of the list that are not underlined so that you know how each part of the list must be presented to be parallel.  The first element in this list is “his quest,” and the second element is “his opposition.”  These two things are listed in the same format.  You also know that the correct preposition to follow “opposition” is the word “to.” Expressing that someone is opposed “to” something is idiomatically correct.  There is no error here.

(D) After the “and,” you know that you have the final element in the list.  However, this time you have a problem when you check parallelism.  The first item is “his quest,” the second item is “his opposition,” and the third item is “he supported.”  In order for this list to be parallel, the third item should be “his support of free speech and civil liberties.”

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

The correct answer is (D).


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

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

Comparisons

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.  Then evaluate the underlined portion of the sentence using the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Focus on the first error that you find to eliminate wrong answer choices.

It is thought that a dog’s sense of smell is generally 10,000 to 100,000 times better than humans.

If this sentence did not make you laugh, read it again.  What are the two things that are being compared in this sentence?  A dog’s sense of smell is being compared to humans.  This sentence is telling you that a dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times better than anything about humans or anything a human could do.  It just does not make sense to compare an ability to multiple people.  The underlined portion of the sentence is “humans,” so change that to “a human’s sense of smell” for a parallel comparison to “a dog’s sense of smell,” and then look down at the answer choices.

(A) humans
(B) humans’ are
(C) humans have
(D) a human’s
(E) a human has

(A) can be eliminated because it matches the original sentence.  (B) can be eliminated because it is plural.  You are not going to compare “a dog’s sense of smell” (singular) with “humans’ are” (plural).  (C) can be eliminated because it is plural, ambiguous, and does not match the possessive form of “a dog’s sense of smell.” (D) this answer is more concise than your prediction, but it matches your prediction.  It uses the same “–‘s” to show that the sense of smell belongs to “a human” (singular) and can easily be compared to “a dog’s sense of smell.”  Think of the last part of your prediction “sense of smell” as implied.  This is an elliptical sentence: something has been left out to avoid repetition, but you can tell what it would be from reading the sentence. (E) can be eliminated because two things that are being compared must have the same form.  If you want to talk about the sense of smell that “a human has,” you would have to compare it to the sense of smell that “a dog has.”  Remember that you cannot change any portion of the sentence that is not underlined.

The correct answer is (D).


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

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

Pronouns

Link of the Day

As you look for current events to include as excellent examples on your SAT essay, you will probably come across quite a few controversial subjects.  There are people in situations around the world who need passionate supporters.  However, don’t let your passion for a subject allow you to become sidetracked during the SAT.  Your SAT essay will be read by two people.  Use other forums to make your opinion about current events known.  On the SAT, the current events that you use must support a broader opinion on the prompt, rather than interject a new argument.  Read this article about the plight of refugees from violence in Syria.  Think about the human themes in this story and how it could easily relate to prompts concerned with point of view, change, motivators, adversity, responsibility, knowledge, information, and feelings.  Choose 5 current events that you will be able to relate to a wide variety of themes, and become an expert on those 5 events.  Even if you only use 1 of the events on the SAT, you will be prepared for any question, and you will be a more informed individual.

10/14 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 through the original sentence, listening for errors.  Then quickly check the underlined portions against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Identify and mark any error you find.  There will only be one error, but be sure to check each part of the sentence to make sure that you are not simply revising a portion that is technically correct.
Although it is not a fast runner, wolves can maintain a loping run for many miles, runningthroughout the night if necessaryNo error

(A)  When the word “although” is used at the beginning of the sentence, it signals that a dependent clause is coming.  This means that there should be a comma after the first portion of the sentence.  This comma is present, so there is no error.

(B)  Right after an introductory phrase or a clause that only uses a pronoun, you should find the subject of the sentence.  “Wolves” is the subject of the sentence, but it does not match the pronoun used in the first portion of the sentence.  The word “it” is singular, while the word “wolves” is plural.  Mark this error by changing the word “wolves” to “a wolf,” and quickly check the remaining answer choices.

(C)  When you see “-ing” on the end of a verb, check to make sure that it makes sense in context.  In this case, it does make sense to use “running” rather than another form because it emphasizes the continuous action of the wolf throughout the night.

(D)  Think of the words “if necessary” as modifying the phrase “running throughout the night.”  You could leave them out, but they give us extra information by letting us know that wolves don’t normally run all night.  Remember, you are not looking for things that you could change; you are looking for specific errors.

(E) This cannot be the correct answer because you have already indentified an error.

The correct answer is (B).


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

For more help with SAT writing, 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!

Comparisons

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.  Quickly check the underlined portions against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Identify and mark any error, then quickly check the remaining underlined portions.

A meteorite shows an enormous variation in size, from micron-sized dust particles filtering slowly through the atmosphere to giants weighing many tons. No error

This sentence demonstrates just how important it is to read the entire sentence carefully before looking at the underlined portions.  If you only look at the underlined portions, you will not find an error.

(A)  includes a subject and verb, and they agree in number.  (B) includes the correct prepositional idiom for “variation in size” and also includes the “from” that precedes the “to” in the idiom “from x to y.”  (C) includes the modifier for filtering, “slowly,” placed as close to the modified word as possible.  (D) includes a parallel verb ending in “ing” that matches the earlier use of “filtering,” and it also correctly includes the count word “many” to describe tons, which can be counted, rather than the non-count word “much.”   If you have not read the whole sentence carefully, (E) looks like the correct answer choice.

However, if you read the whole sentence, you will notice that there is a comparison involving different sizes of meteorites, from tiny ones to enormous ones.  You have multiple tiny “particles” and multiple “giants,” so you must also have multiple meteorites.  Look back at answer choice (A).  Instead of “A meteorite shows,” you need “Meteorites show.”

The correct answer is (A).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 40% of the responses were correct.

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

Idioms

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 that you find to eliminate wrong answer choices.

The first public botanical garden in the United States, the Elgin Botanic Garden in New York City was established to provide plant materials for studying by medical students.

As you read the sentence, you probably noticed that the phrase “for studying” is awkward.  Take a moment to think about the information that is presented in the underlined portion.  You are given the purpose of the provision and then who it is provided for.  What phrase was just used with the “who?”  The phrase “provided for.”  If the who is “provided for” and that information is logically linked, it makes sense to place the who directly after the “provide plant materials for” and let the information about why it is provided come next.  You are simply inverting the order of the information in the underlined portion to better match the prepositional idiom.  Look down at the answer choices and see which one includes “medical students” right after the “for” and then places the information about studying at the end.

(A) for studying by medical students
(B) for medical students to study
(C) to medical students for their study
(D) for the study of medical students
(E) that medical students will study

(A) is the same as the original.  (B)  matches your prediction about the changes that needed to be made. (C) is not as concise as (B) and requires an extra pronoun to say the same thing.  (D) changes the meaning of the original sentence in a humorous way.  Now it seems as if the medical students are being studied!  (E) lacks the emphasis that the original sentence places on the purpose of the plant materials.  Changing from “for” to “that” creates a subtle shift in meaning; it becomes more important to know that the garden provides materials than to know why they are provided.

The correct answer is (B).


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

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

Verb Tense

Link of the Day

What is the largest structure made by living beings?  The answer is the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia.  Billions of tiny organisms have created a structure that can be seen from space.  Unfortunately, a study published yesterday shows that half of the Great Barrier Reef has disappeared since 1985.  Read this article and think about how you can relate this current event to common themes found in SAT writing prompts.

10/2 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.  Then quickly check the underlined portions against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Identify and mark any error that you find, and quickly check the remaining choices.

Although Mrs. Griffin has not previously been very enthusiastic about preparing her students for the annual piano competition, she put in extra time this year to ensure that her star pupil would win first prize. No error.

As you read this sentence carefully, did you notice something that a lot of the blanks have in common?  There are a lot of underlined verbs!  If you notice something like that, make sure you have identified the tense of the main verb before you wade through a number of verbs that might be incorrect.  In this sentence, notice that “she put” is not underlined.  This subject and verb must be correct, and the word “put” indicates that the sentence is in the past tense.

(A)  Think about the fact that your main verb is past tense, and then look to see whether this phrase makes sense in context.  “Has not… been” is present perfect, but immediately after the underlined portion, you are reminded that the sentence is in past tense by the word “previously.”  Rather than present perfect, you need the past perfect phrase “had not… been.”

(B)  The underlined “for” tests your knowledge of prepositional idioms.  After “preparing” it is idiomatically correct to use the preposition “for.”

(C) The underlined portion, “to ensure,” is an infinitive.  Infinitives do not need to match the tense of the main verb.  It is okay to write “She wanted to do that,” “She wants to do that,” or “She will want to do that.”  The verb after “to” remains the same in all three of these tenses.  The underlined portion is correct.

(D) The underlined phrase “would win” is correct.  It lets you know that the competition, as well as the hard work that Mrs. Griffin did, occurred in the past.

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

The correct answer is (A).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 53% of the responses were correct.

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

Idioms

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.  Get an overview of the whole sentence so that you understand the structure and the meaning.  Then evaluate the underlined portion using the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Focus on the first error that you find to eliminate wrong answer choices quickly.  If an answer choice does not fix the error that you found, it must be incorrect.

Lady Day, as Billie Holiday was usually called, was the finest jazz singer of her generation, and it was the opinion of her fans, she was the greatest jazz singer of the twentieth century.

This sentence just sounds awkward, doesn’t it?  Look at how the sentence tries to introduce an opinion by stating “it was” the opinion of her fans.  How do you normally introduce an opinion?  Have you ever typed or texted IMO or IMHO?  Those are acronyms for “in my opinion” and “in my humble opinion.”  Notice that the preposition that introduces an opinion is “in.”  In my opinion…  In her opinion…  In their opinion…  Look down at your answer choices and check whether any use the correct idiom to introduce an opinion. 

(A) it was the opinion of her fans, she was
(B) the opinion of her fans was of her as
(C) her fans had this opinion, she was
(D) for her fans, the opinion was of her as
(E) in the opinion of her fans, she was

(E) is the only answer choice that uses the word “in!”  None of the other choices fix the awkward phrasing of the original.  (A) matches the original phrasing.  (B) uses the phrase “of her as,” which takes the “she was” from the original sentence and makes it awkward.  Idiomatically, it is much more common to say “the opinion of her fans was that she was… (C) would require a colon rather than a comma.  (D) uses the phrase “for her fans.”  This phrase introduces Billie Holiday again (through the perspective of her fans), so something referring to her must come next, either her name or “she.” Instead there is “the opinion was of her.”

The correct answer is (E).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 80% of the responses were correct.

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

Idioms

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 original sentence to yourself, listening for errors. Then quickly check each underlined portion of the sentence using the Big 8 Grammar Rules. If you identify an error, mark it and quickly check the rest of the sentence. Remember, you are checking the sentence for errors, not for parts that could be rephrased to sound better.

Modern vegetable farming ranges from small-scale, low-technology production and local sale and vast commercial operations that utilize the latest advances in automation and technology. No error

Begin by asking yourself, “Are there any problems?” If something sounds odd to you, identify the rule that has been broken.

(A) The word “modern” is a modifier that helps you understand what kind of vegetable farming the author is talking about. It is already placed as close as possible to the phrase that it modifies, so there is no error in this portion of the sentence.

(B) The word “and” is used twice in this sentence, but repetition is not the real problem. Go back to the phrase “ranges from.” If something ranges “from” one thing, it must range “to” another thing. The correct idiom is not “ranges from x and y,” but “ranges from x to y.” Mark this error and quickly check the other answer choices.

(C) Check that the word “utilize” matches “commercial operations.” It does: “commercial operations utilize” makes sense. The “that” is present because this is not the main subject of the sentence. If you remove the “that” you will create sentence structure problems because there will be a complete sentence within the sentence.

(D) The “latest advances” are definitely things that commercial operations could utilize. There is no error here.

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

The correct answer is (B).


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

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

Modifiers

Link of the Day

Today’s question mentions Enrico Caruso, an opera singer who became an international celebrity without the use of radio or television.  He relied on newspapers, silent films, and phonographic records to reach his audiences when he was not traveling.  Click here to learn more about Enrico Caruso’s career and hear his voice.  He would be an excellent historical figure to mention in an example for your SAT essay.

9/23 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 Grammar Rules.  Your goal is to create a clear and precise sentence.

Enrico Caruso sang opera in Italy before traveling to the United States, then he gave his first performance at the Metropolitan Opera in November 1903.

Paraphrase this sentence.  Enrico sang opera in Italy before going to the US, then gave his first performance at the Metropolitan Opera.  Does that make sense?  The timing in the original sentence is illogical.  The man cannot give his first performance after going to the United States because he sang opera in Italy before that.  An opera is a performance!  If the underlined word is misleading, how can you change it?  The second part of the sentence describes where Enrico performed (at the Metropolitan Opera).  Replace the word “then” with “where” and see whether that improves the sentence.  Now the first performance at the Metropolitan is Enrico’s first performance in the United States, rather than his first performance ever.  That makes sense. Look down at your answer choices.

(A) then
(B) when
(C) and which
(D) in that
(E) where

The correct answer is (E).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 77% of the responses were correct.

For more help with SAT writing questions, 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!

Comparisons

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.   When you find an error, focus on what you need to fix that error so that you can quickly eliminate answer choices that do not address the error.

Modern discus throwers use much the same technique of ancient Greece.

This sentence should sound strange to you the first time you read it.  “Modern discus throwers” are being compared to “ancient Greece.”  You cannot compare people to a location!  Cover up the end of the sentence and fill in the blank.  You might predict the words “as the people of ancient Greece once used.”  In order to make the comparison more clear, you used the word “as.”  A quick note on using the words “like” and “as” to compare: “as” is used when the following phrase includes a verb, while “like” is used when the following phrase only has nouns or pronouns.  Parallelism dictates that the last phrase of this particular comparison must include a verb because the first part of the comparison includes the verb “use.”  Look down at your options to see which ones begin with “as.”
(A) of ancient Greece
(B) of ancient Greeks
(C) as ancient Greeks did
(D) as they did in ancient Greece
(E) like ancient Greeks

There are two choices that begin with “as.”  (C) looks very similar to your prediction.  It includes the word “as” and the verb “did.”  (D) introduces a new problem: all pronouns need an antecedent and there is no antecedent for the word “they.”  You should be able to select your answer choice now.

Just for practice, here are the problems with the other choices:  (A) is the same as the original sentence.  (B) is a distraction if you read the sentence too quickly and did not realize that there is a comparison.  The key words “much the same” let you know that this is a comparison.  The sentence “Modern discus throwers use the technique of ancient Greeks” would be correct, but you cannot change part of the sentence that is not underlined.  (E)  lacks parallelism because there is no verb and you know it will be incorrect because it uses the word “like.”

The correct answer is (C).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 45% of the responses were correct.

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