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SAT Grammar: Improving Sentences

Improving Sentences

Select the choice that results in the best sentence – the sentence that follows the requirements of standard written English and communicates effectively.

20140213 SAT Grammar.png

A.  finalists, the selected  
B.  finalists; and the selected 
C.  finalists; but the selected  
D.  finalists and the selected  
E.  finalists; the selected 

Knowsys Method

Read the sentence carefully, listening for errors. If you do not find the error immediately, then check the underlined portion against the Big 8 Grammar rules. 

This question tests your understanding of sentence structure.  When you see the comma you should ask yourself, "Is that comma used correctly?"  In this instance, the answer is NO!  It creates a comma splice:  a grammar error in which the writer incorrectly joins two independent clauses (= clauses that could each stand alone as a sentence) with just a comma.  

Choice A:  We know Choice A, which always matches the original, is wrong.  Let's check the other choices.  

Choice B:  This creates a new error because it incorrectly uses a semi-colon instead of a comma.

Choice C:  This makes the same error as Choice B.

Choice D:  This creates a run-on sentence since there are now two independent clauses with no punctuation at all to join them. 

Choice E:  Adding the semi-colon corrects the original comma-splice and does not introduce any new errors.  

 

The correct answer is E.

Level = Easy 

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SAT Writing: Improving Sentences

Improving Sentences

Select the choice that results in the best sentence – the sentence that follows the requirements of standard written English and communicates effectively.

Although genetic factors can predispose a person to develop heart disease, doctors say that in most cases proper diet and regular exercise reduces their risk.

A. exercise reduces their
B. exercise has been reducing their
C. exercise, reducing one’s
D. exercise reduce one’s
E. exercise, it does reduce the


Knowsys Method

Read the sentence carefully, listening for errors. If you do not find the error immediately, then check the underlined portion against the Big 8 grammar concepts.  

The underlined part of this sentence contains a noun and a verb, so your first thought should be, do the subject and verb agree?  The tricky part of this question is that the verb “reduces” seems to agree with the noun “exercise” at first.  If you look again, however, you will notice that the subject is compound (“proper diet and regular exercise”), so the verb should be plural, and the sentence should read, “…proper diet and regular exercise reduce…”  

The other issue in the underlined portion is the pronoun “their.”  Who are “they”?  Earlier in the sentence, the writer referenced “a person,” so this pronoun should be singular, either “one’s” or “your.”

Look for an answer choice that resolves the subject verb issue and includes a singular pronoun.

A. Choice A is incorrect, so you can eliminate it without reading it.

B.  Choice B still includes the pronoun “they.”  Eliminate this choice.

C.  Choice C includes the pronoun “one,” which is good, but this choice does not resolve the subject verb error properly.  The comma cuts the verb off from the nouns and changes the verb to a participle (a verb that acts as an adjective) for no reason.  Eliminate this choice.

D.  Choice D resolves the subject verb issue and uses the pronoun “one.”  Keep this choice and check the last remaining option.

E.  This choice probably strikes you as incorrect immediately.  What is “it”?  Why did the verb tense change?  What is “the risk”?  Eliminate this incorrect choice.

The correct answer is D.

This is a hard level problem.

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SAT Writing: Improving Sentences

Improving Sentences

Select the choice that results in the best sentence – the sentence that follows the requirements of standard written English and communicates effectively.

I laid out the presents that I had purchased so far and mentally tallied the amount of gifts I still needed to buy.

A. I laid out the presents that I had purchased so far and mentally tallied the amount
B. I lay out the presents that I had purchased so far, while mentally tallying the number
C. Laying out the presents that I had purchased so far, I mentally tallied the amount
D. Laying out the presents that I had purchased so far and mentally tallying the number
E.  I laid out the presents that I had purchased so far and mentally tallied the number

Knowsys Method

Read the sentence carefully, listening for errors. If you do not find the error immediately, then check the underlined portion against the Big 8 grammar concepts.

The concept tested here is idioms.  Two frequently tested idioms appear in this question, “lay/lie,” and “amount/number.”  Figure out which combination you are looking for before you look down at the choices.  

Lay/lie
“Lay” means “to place” and is used with objects.  “Lie” means “to rest” and is used for people.  The person in the sentence is laying out presents, so the writer must choose “lay.”  Unfortunately, it is a little more complicated than that because the sentence is in the past tense.  The past tense of “lay” is “laid,” and the past tense of “lie” is “lay.”  Thus, you are looking for “laid,” NOT “lay.”  Confused?  For more clarification on lay/lie click here.  

Amount/number
“Amount” is used for non-countable terms (money, happiness, food, etc.), and “number” is used for countable items (dollars, hours, meals, etc.).  Presents can be counted, so the writer should use “number.”

Now that you know you what words you are looking for, get rid of choices that use “lay” (past tense of lie) or “amount.”  That eliminates choices A, B, and C.  Look at your remaining choices.  

D.  Choice D is a sentence fragment.  Who is completing these actions?  Eliminate choice D.  

E.  Choice E uses the correct idioms (“I laid out the presents,” “[I] mentally tallied the number of gifts”).  Choice E is the correct answer.  


The correct answer is choice E.

This is a hard-level problem.

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SAT Writing: Improving Sentences

Improving Sentences

Select the choice that results in the best sentence – the sentence that follows the requirements of standard written English and communicates effectively.

The drought had a much more profound economic impact on farmers than the people who complained about the skyrocketing prices of fresh produce in grocery stores.

A.  the people who complained
B.  on the people who complained
C.  the people who were complaining
D.  it did on people who are complaining
E.  on complaints from the people

Knowsys Method

Read the entire sentence carefully, listening for errors.  Then focus on the underlined part.  Evaluate it by checking it against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  If you find an error, use that error to quickly eliminate any answer choices that do not fix the problem you found.

The rule tested here is comparisons.  One important thing to note about comparisons is that they must be parallel.  So in this sentence, if the drought has an impact “ON farmers,” it must also have an impact “ON the people” who complain about increasing prices.   Thus, you should automatically eliminate all answers that do not say “on the people.”  That leaves only B and D for us to consider.  (Note: E begins with “on,” but we are comparing farmers with people, not complaints.)  

B.  This choice fixes the problem in the original sentence.  The drought has an effect “ON farmers” and “ON the people.”  Keep this choice and check the other.

D.  This choice starts out fine.  The “drought had a stronger impact on farmers than … it did on the people.”  However, the verb tense is now wrong.  “Are complaining” should be “complained” because this action happened in the past.  Eliminate this choice.
 
The correct answer is B.
This is a medium-level problem.

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SAT Writing: Improving Sentences

Improving Sentences

Select the choice that results in the best sentence – the sentence that follows the requirements of standard written English and communicates effectively.

John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, who was assassinated in November 1963 in Dallas, Texas.

A.  John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, who was assassinated
B.  The 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated
C.  The 35th president of the United States who was assassinated, John F. Kennedy,
D.  John F. Kennedy was assassinated, being the 35th president of the United States
D.  John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, was assassinated

Knowsys Method

Read the sentence carefully, listening for errors. If you do not find the error immediately, then check the underlined portion against the Big 8 grammar concepts.


This question tests your understanding of sentence structure.  What do you notice when you read the original sentence?  It is a sentence fragment that lacks a verb.  Why isn’t “was assassinated” the verb in the original sentence, you ask?  The verb “was assassinated” is part of a relative clause, so it cannot function as the main verb in the sentence. Find the answer choice that creates a sentence with a complete subject and verb.

A.  Choice A is always the same as the original sentence.  You found an error in the original sentence, so you can eliminate choice A without even reading it.  

B.  This choice merely rearranges the first two parts of the sentence.  The sentence created by choice B still lacks a complete subject and verb.  Eliminate it.

C. The sentence created by choice C sounds awkward and lacks a complete subject and verb.  Eliminate this choice.  

D.  Always avoid answer choices that include the word “being.”  This choice makes it sound like Kennedy was temporarily taking on the role of  president, which does not make sense.  Eliminate this choice.

E. By process of elimination, E must be right, but you should read the choice just to be sure.  Choice E contains a complete subject and verb  (John F. Kennedy was assassinated).  This is the correct answer.  


The correct answer is E.
This is a medium level question.

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SAT Writing: Improving Sentences

Improving Sentences

Select the choice that results in the best sentence – the sentence that follows the requirements of standard written English and communicates effectively.

Since that restaurant requires for customers to pay in cash, we will have to stop by the ATM beforehand.

A. Since that restaurant requires for customers to pay in cash
B. Since that restaurant requires that customers should pay in cash
C. That restaurant has a requirement that customers pay in cash
D. When you go to that restaurant it is required for customers to pay in cash and therefore
E. Since that restaurant requires customers to pay in cash

Knowsys Method

Read the entire sentence carefully, listening for errors.  Then focus on the underlined part.  Evaluate it by checking it against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  If you find an error, use that error to quickly eliminate any answer choices that do not fix the problem you found.

If you noticed that the underlined portion sounds “off,” then you have a good ear for idioms.  A restaurant does not “require for customers to pay in cash”, a restaurant “requires that customers pay in cash,” or it “requires customers to pay in cash.”  We need to find a choice that uses one of these idiomatically correct phrases.  

A.  Choice A is the same as the original sentence, which contains an error.  Eliminate this choice.

B.  This choice would work, except that it includes an unneeded word, “should.”  Eliminate this choice.

C.  There are two problems with this choice.  First, the wording of the phrase “has a requirement that customers pay in cash” is awkward and unnecessarily wordy.  Second, this choice creates a comma splice because it turns the sentence into two independent clauses joined by a comma alone.  Eliminate this choice.

D.  This choice is wordy, which you should always avoid.  Additionally, this choice results in an incorrectly punctuated sentence.  There needs to one comma after “restaurant” and another after “cash.”  Eliminate this choice.

E.  This choice uses an idiomatically correct expression, “requires customers to pay in cash,” and it does not introduce any new errors.  This must be the correct answer.  

The correct answer is (E).

This is an easy level question.

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SAT Writing: Improving Sentences

Improving Sentences

Select the choice that results in the best sentence – the sentence that follows the requirements of standard written English and communicates effectively.

The Honeycrisp apple, developed by horticultural scientists at the University of Minnesota, is often described as one of the sweetest apple varieties as well as one of the most crisp of them.

A.  one of the sweetest apple varieties as well as one of the most crisp of them 

B.   not only one of the sweetest apple varieties, but also more crisp than others

C.   one of the sweetest and most crisp apple varieties

D.   at once one of the sweetest and also most crisp apple varieties

E.   one of the sweetest and it is also one of the most crisp apple varieties

The Knowsys Method

Read the entire sentence carefully, listening for errors.  Then focus on the underlined part.  Evaluate it by checking it against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  If you find an error, use that error to quickly eliminate any answer choices that do not fix the problem you found.

The grammar rule that is tested here is comparisons.  Read the sentence carefully.  It sounds fine until you get to "as well as," and then the rest of the sentence sounds awkward and repetitive.  Note this problem and then look through the answer choices.

A.  This choice matches the original sentence, in which you found an error.  Eliminate it. 

B.  This answer choice changes the meaning of the end of the sentence.  In the original sentence, Honeycrisp apples are one of the most crisp apple varieties, but in this choice, they are only more crisp than others.  Eliminate this choice. 

C.  This answer choice fixes the problem that you found by eliminating the unnecessary wordiness at the end of the sentence. The two parts of the comparison, "sweetest" and "most crisp," are also appropriately parallel.  Keep this choice and check the last two. 

D.  This choice cuts down on the wordiness of the original sentence, but it still includes unnecessary words ("at once," "also").  Eliminate it. 

E.  This answer introduces a new subject and verb that are not necessary.  Eliminate it. 

The correct answer is (C).

This is an easy level question.

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SAT Writing: Improving Sentences

Improving Sentences

Select the choice that results in the best sentence – the sentence that follows the requirements of standard written English and communicates effectively.

A.  Alina's ability to organize her thoughts improved dramatically

B.   Alina's organizational thoughts dramatically improved

C.   Alina organized her thoughts and dramatically improved

D.   Alina dramatically improved her ability to organize her thoughts

E.   Alina gained an ability of organizing her thoughts dramatically

The Knowsys Method

Read the entire sentence carefully, listening for errors.  Then focus on the underlined part.  Evaluate it by checking it against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  If you find an error, use that error to quickly eliminate any answer choices that do not fix the problem you found.

The grammar rule that is tested here is modifiers.  Read the sentence carefully, and you will notice something odd about it.  Does the sentence sound as if only Alina's ability attended the workshop?  All of Alina must have attended the workshop!  The introductory phrase needs to be followed by the subject of that phrase.  After the comma you need the word "Alina," not "Alina's ability."  Mark this error and look down at your answer choices.

A.  This choice matches the original sentence, in which you found an error.  Eliminate it. 

B.  This answer choice does not fix the error you found.  Now it sounds like only Alina's thoughts attended the workshop.  Eliminate it. 

C.  This answer choice fixes the error that you found, but it changes the meaning of the sentence.  Now Alina has accomplished two things at the workshop instead of just one.  Also, the wording in this choice is vague.  What did Alina dramatically improve?    Eliminate it.

D.  This choice sounds awkward, but read it.  It fixes the error that you found, and none of the words are misplaced.  Keep this choice and quickly check the last.  

E.  Remember the Knowsys rule to avoid words ending in "-ing" unless this structure is necessary for the sentence.  One has an ability "to" do something, not "of doing" something.   Eliminate this choice.

The correct answer is (D).

This is a medium level question.

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SAT Writing: Improving Sentences

Improving Sentences

Select the choice that results in the best sentence – the sentence that follows the requirements of standard written English and communicates effectively.

The phone which had been dropped into the pool, never worked properly.

A.      phone which had been dropped into the pool,

B.      phone, which had been dropped into the pool,

C.      phone, that had been dropped into the pool,

D.      phone that had been dropped into the pool,

E.       phone had been dropped into the pool,

 


The Knowsys Method

Read the entire sentence carefully, listening for errors.  Then focus on the underlined part.  Evaluate it by checking it against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  If you find an error, use that error to quickly eliminate any answer choices that do not fix the problem you found.

The grammar rule that is tested here is idioms!  When do you use the word “that” and when do you use the word “which"?  The word “that” is for phrases that are vital to a sentence.  The word “which" is for phrases that can be omitted.  This author chose to use the word "which," but it is not used correctly.  Remember your Knowsys tip:  Always put a comma before the word “which."  Make that correction and then look down at your answer choices.

A.       The first choice is always the same as the original!  Selecting it is the same as selecting “no change." This choice cannot be correct because you found an error.  Eliminate it.

B.      This answer choice matches your prediction exactly!  Quickly check the other choices.

C.      This answer choice adds a comma, but it is in front of the word “that."  You do not need a comma in front of the word “that;"  you need a comma in front of the word “which."  Eliminate this choice.

D.      This answer choice changes “which" to “that," but it still fails to use the correct punctuation.  Remember that commas often help set off nonessential information.  In the correct choice, the comma signals that a nonessential phrase is coming, this information is confirmed with the word “which," and then another comma signals the end of the nonessential information.  If the phrase starts with the word “that," then no commas are needed in this sentence because all of the information is essential.  This choice has a comma error.  Eliminate it.

E.       This answer choice eliminates the word “which" altogether, which creates a structural problem in the sentence.  Now the information that the phone had been dropped seems to be the main point of the sentence.  The words “never worked properly" seem to modify or describe the pool rather than the phone.  This choice is awkward and incorrect for multiple reasons.  Eliminate it.

The correct answer is (B).

 

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