Blog

The Knowsys Big 8 Grammar Rules

When working through the grammar questions in the Knowsys blog, you'll see lots of references to "The Knowsys Big 8 Grammar Rules."  Here's the list.  We recommend you memorize the list and the questions and then use them to analyze the grammatical elements tested.

The Knowsys Big 8 Grammar Rules

 

1.     Idioms   
Is the expression or word choice correct?

2.     Sentence Structure 

Is it a complete sentence (good)?
Is it a run-on (bad)
Is there a comma splice (bad)?

3.     Subject-Verb Agreement 
Where’s the subject?  Where’s the verb?  Do they agree?

4.     Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement 
Is there one and only one clear antecedent? 
Does the pronoun match the antecedent in gender and number?  

5.     Modifiers
Is the modifier clear and effective? 
Is the modifier close to what it modifies?

6.     Parallelism 
Are the items in a series in parallel format?

7.     Comparison 
What is being compared grammatically? 
Is the comparison clear and logical? 

8.     Style 
Is the sentence clear and concise? 
Is the voice active? 
Is there no redundancy?  

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 

Want some help with SAT Vocabulary?  Check out these helpful resources:

Subscribe to Knowsys SAT & ACT Blog by Email

SAT Writing: Identifying Sentence Errors

Identifying Sentence Errors

Read the sentence and select the portion of the sentence that contains an error.  If there is no error, select E.

20140405 ISE image.png

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. 

A.  Anytime you see the pronoun "I" after a preposition (between), think:  preposition + me.  The correct answer will never be "preposition + I" since prepositions require objective case pronouns.  "I" is a subject pronoun since it can be the subject of the sentence.  "Me" is the objective case pronoun.  Quickly check the other choices before marking A.  

B. Anytime you see a verb underlined, check to make sure that it agrees with its subject.  In this case, the subject is "differences" and the verb is "are."  This agrees.  One of the common tricks on the SAT is to separate the subject "differences" from the verb "are" by an intervening prepositional phrase that might confuse you about the actual subject of the sentence.  Always remember that prepositional phrases NEVER control the verb.  Choice B is correct.  Eliminate this choice.

C. The semi-colon is underlined.  Verify that this is the correct sentence structure.  A semi-colon is used to introduce an explanatory statement, in this case the description of the personality differences.  Choice C is correct.  Eliminate it.

D. Here, the issue is also sentence structure.  Should this be a comma or something else?  The comma is correct because it separates two independent and equal clauses (just as "and" does).  This choice is not an error.  Eliminate this choice. 

E.  We found the error in A.   

The correct answer is A.

Level = Medium

Want some help with SAT Vocabulary?  Check out these helpful resources:

Subscribe to Knowsys SAT & ACT Blog by Email

SAT Writing: Identifying Sentence Errors

Identifying Sentence Errors

Read the sentence and select the portion of the sentence that contains an error.  If there is no error, select E.

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 10.17.17 PM.jpg

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. 

A. "Neither" must always be paired with "nor."  This choice is not an error, so eliminate it.  

B. Anytime you see a verb underlined, check to make sure that it agrees with its subject.  Nouns used with either/or or neither/not are called "compound pairs."  In compound pairs, the subject always agrees with the second subject in the pair.  The verb "know" agrees with "I," so this is not an error.  Eliminate this choice.

C. When you see "which" underlined, you should ask yourself whether it should be "that" instead.  The word "which" must always be preceded by a comma, and since the comma in this sentence cannot be eliminated, "which" must be correct. Eliminate this choice.

D. This choice tests parallelism.  Both verbs ("making" and "giving") must match with each other.  They do match, so this choice is not an error.  Eliminate this choice. 

E.  There is no error in the sentence, so E is correct. 

The correct answer is E.

Want some help with SAT Vocabulary?  Check out these helpful resources:

Subscribe to Knowsys SAT & ACT Blog by Email

SAT Grammar: Improving Sentences

Improving Sentences

No sooner had I lain my head down on my pillow and closed my eyes but my phone rang shrilly, shocking me out of my restful state.

A.  lain my head down on my pillow and closed my eyes but my phone rang shrilly, shocking
B.  lain my head down on my pillow and closed my eyes than my phone rang shrilly then shocked
C.  laid my head down on my pillow and closed my eyes but my phone rang shrilly, shocking
D.  laid my head down on my pillow and closed my eyes than my phone rang shrilly and was shocking
E.  laid my head down on my pillow and closed my eyes than my phone rang shrilly, shocking

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. 

This question tests your understanding of idioms, words or expressions that are always said the same way.  Idioms sometimes sound peculiar, but they are grammatically correct.  Two idioms appear in this question.  

1. "no sooner had x than y"

as in: "No sooner had I walked out the door " or "No sooner had John sat down for dinner than the doorbell rang." 

2. lay versus lie

Lay takes an object and means "to place." The past tenses of lay are: laid/had laid.

Lie does not take an object and means "to rest." The past tenses of lie are: lay/had lain.

So, the correct version of this sentence should say "no sooner had I LAID my head down . . . THAN my phone rang . . . " You might be wondering why the correct word is "laid" (past perfect tense of lay) when the person in the sentence is trying to rest.  "My head" is an object, so the word must be "laid" (past perfect tense of lay), not "lain" (past perfect tense of lie).   

Choices A and B do not work because they begin with "lain."  Eliminate these choices.

Choice C says "no sooner had I laid my head down . . . BUT my phone rang."  Eliminate this choice.

Choice D gets both idioms correct but changes "shocking" to "and was shocking," which is inconsistent with the verb tense established in the sentence.  Eliminate this choice.

Choice E gets both idioms correct and does not make any unnecessary changes. 

The correct answer is E.

This is a medium level problem.

Want some help with SAT Vocabulary?  Check out these helpful resources:

Subscribe to Knowsys SAT & ACT Blog by Email

SAT Link of the Week: The Power of the Internet

This week's link is a testament the power of crowdsourcing on the Internet.  Nearly twenty years ago, an elderly woman who had been rendered non-communicative by a fast-moving cancer scribbled out patterns of letters onto dozens of note cards.  Her granddaughters believed that their grandmother had left them a code, and though they attempted to decode the seemingly random patterns of letters for months, the girls were unable to find a solution.  One of these granddaughters recently posted images of the cards on the website Ask Metafilter, and within a few minutes, site users had partially cracked the code.  Read more here.

 

Consider the application of this fascinating story to past SAT prompts such as:

  •  Has today's abundance of information only made it more difficult to understand the world around us?
  •  Is the most important purpose of technology different from what it was in the past?
  •  Have modern advancements truly improved the quality of people's lives?

 

Good luck to those of you taking the SAT today!  Check back here next week for a new link.

SAT Writing: Identifying Sentence Errors

Identifying Sentence Errors

Read the sentence and select the portion of the sentence that contains an error.  If there is no error, select E.

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 2.57.42 PM.jpg

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. 

A. The phrase "straining to reach" is idiomatically correct.  If this phrase looks strange to you, add it to your idioms list and read it over until it sounds right to you.  Eliminate this choice.

B. Whenever you see a reflexive pronoun (myself, yourself, herself, himself, themselves, ourselves) underlined, check to see whether that reflexive pronoun refers back to an antecedent that is already stated in the sentence.  In this case, "herself" clearly refers back to "the woman," so this usage is correct.  Eliminate this choice.

C. This choice may look right at first glance, but "was" should be "were."  If you are writing about something that you wish were true or that could be true but is not true, you should use "were."  For instance, you would say, "If I were a bird, I would fly away."  You are not a bird, have never been, and will never be, so the correct word is "were."  This choice is an error, but you should check choice D just to be sure. 

D. "Taller" is the comparative form of the adjective "tall."  The comparative form is used when you are comparing two things ("Of the two dogs, this one is cuter").  The superlative form is used when you are comparing three things ("Out of all these dogs, this one is the cutest").  The sentence is comparing two things: the way the woman is and the way she wishes she could be.  This choice is not an error. 

E.  We found an error in choice C, so E cannot be correct.

The correct answer is C.

Want some help with SAT Vocabulary?  Check out these helpful resources:

Subscribe to Knowsys SAT & ACT Blog by Email

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.

Elaine's decision to attend State College was influenced by the college's reasonable tuition rates and because of its convenient location

A.  because of its convenient location
B.  because it is conveniently located
C.  it is conveniently located
D.  by its convenient location
E.  due to its convenient location

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. 

This sentence completion tests your understanding of parallelism.  Whenever two or more elements are listed in a sentence, they should be in the same format (parallel).

For instance, these two constructions are parallel:

        Alisha likes to ski, to rock climb, and to swim.

        Alisha likes to ski, rock climb, and swim. 

These two constructions are incorrect because the elements in the list are not parallel:

        Alisha likes to ski, rock climb, and to swim.

        Alisha likes skiing, to rock climb, and swimming. 

So, what is wrong with the parallel construction in the sentence above?  "Elaine's decision . . . was influenced BY the college's reasonable tuition rates and BECAUSE OF its convenient location."  The phrase "because of" must be eliminated or replaced to make the construction parallel.  You could rewrite the sentence as either:

1.  "Elaine's decision . . . was influenced BY the college's reasonable tuition rates and BY its convenient location."  (both elements begin with "by")

OR

2.  "Elaine's decision . . . was influenced by THE COLLEGE'S reasonable tuition rates and ITS convenient location." (both elements begin with a possessive noun/pronoun)

If you scan the answer choices, you will see that the only choice that works is D. 

The correct answer is D.

This is a medium level problem.

Want some help with SAT Vocabulary?  Check out these helpful resources:

Subscribe to Knowsys SAT & ACT Blog by Email

SAT Writing: Identifying Sentence Errors

Identifying Sentence Errors

Read the sentence and select the portion of the sentence that contains an error.  If there is no error, select E.

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 10.04.03 AM.jpg

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. 

A. Chances are, the phrase "almost all of the board members" does not strike you as incorrect.  "Almost" is an adverb, and it modifies "all," which in this case is functioning as an adjective.  This is not the error, so eliminate this choice.

B. Whenever you see a verb underlined, check to make sure that it agrees with its subject and with the tense of the sentence.  The verb "agreed" agrees with the subject "board members," and it is in past tense like the rest of the sentence.  This is not an error, so eliminate this choice.

C. Here's another verb, so check to make sure that it agrees with its subject and with the tense of the sentence. The verb "was" agrees with the noun "John Smith," and it is in past tense like the rest of the sentence.  This is not an error, so you can eliminate this choice.

D.  The clause "John Smith was the more qualified" probably sounds strange to you, but it is grammatically correct!  When you are comparing two items, people, etc., the correct word is "more."  When you are comparing three items, people, etc., the correct word is "most."  If you rearrange the sentence, the use of "more" might sound a little more natural.  "Almost all of the board members agreed that John Smith was the more qualified of the two job candidates they had interviewed."  This is not an error, so eliminate this choice.

E.  We did not find an error, so the answer must be E, no error.

The correct answer is E.

This is a hard level problem

Want some help with SAT Vocabulary?  Check out these helpful resources:

Subscribe to Knowsys SAT & ACT Blog by Email

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.

Of all the plays in which I have ever performed, my experience in Shakespeare's King Lear was the most challenging because the lines are so complex.

A.  my experience in Shakespeare's King Lear was the most challenging because the lines are so complex.
B.  my experience in Shakespeare's King Lear challenged me the most because of the complexity of the lines.
C.  the challenge presented by the complex lines of Shakespeare's King Lear was the worst for me.
D.  Shakespeare's King Lear, because of the complexity of the lines, challenged me mostly.
E.  Shakespeare's King Lear was the most challenging for me because the lines are so complex.

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. 

What do you notice about the original sentence?  It sounds a little like "my experience" is a play.  The modifier at the beginning of the sentence describes plays, so the name of a play should directly follow that modifier.  That eliminates answer choices A, B, and C right off the bat. 

D.  Choice D begins with the name of a play, so it fixes the modifier error, but it introduces new problems.  Placing the phrase "because of the complexity of the lines" in commas interrupts the sentence unnecessarily and reads awkwardly.  The use of "mostly" is also incorrect because it changes the meaning of the sentence.  Eliminate choice D.

E.  Choice E fixes the modifier error, it does not change the meaning of the sentence, and it follows a logical sentence structure.  Choice E is correct. 

The correct answer is E.

This is a medium level problem

Want some help with SAT Vocabulary?  Check out these helpful resources:

Subscribe to Knowsys SAT & ACT Blog by Email

Link of the Week: Top 10 Stories of 2013

Taking the SAT in the Spring of 2014?  What better way to get some current events ideas and relive some of the most climactic moments of the past year than to check out the Top 10 U.S. News Stories of 2013?  This list, compiled by Time Magazine, overviews the ten most news-worthy events that rocked the nation this past year.  If you would like to see stories about pop culture, best and worst Tweets, or international news, head over to Time's complete listing of all 2013 Top 10 lists. There, you can navigate through 54 lists on a wide range of topics, one of which is sure to spark your interest.  

Then, try a practice essay on one of these topics using your newly-generated Excellent Examples

  • Do we need other people in order to understand ourselves?
  • Is it important to question the ideas and decisions of people in positions of authority?
  • Is the world changing for the better?
  • Is it more important to remain consistent than to change our minds when circumstances change?

Good luck, and check back here next week for a new link!

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.

Want some help with SAT Vocabulary?  Check out these helpful resources:

Subscribe to Knowsys SAT & ACT Blog by Email

Link of the Week: Batkid

An analysis of SAT essay prompts over the past several years indicates that certain themes reoccur over and over again.  For instance, all of the following prompts feature questions about heroism:

  • Should heroes be defined as people who say what they think when we ourselves lack the courage to say it?
  • Should we admire heroes but not celebrities?
  • Should we limit our use of the term "courage" to acts in which people risk their own well-being for the sake of others or to uphold a value?
  • Is there a value in celebrating certain individuals as heroes?

One recent current event would be a great illustration to use with any of these prompts. 

Chances are, you have heard about Batkid, aka Miles Scott, a five-year-old in remission from Leukemia who was granted the opportunity to be a superhero for a day by the Make-a-Wish foundation.  San Francisco was transformed into Gotham City as Miles, accompanied by a full-sized batman, saved a damsel in distress, foiled the Penguin, and even helped to put the Riddler behind bars.  News of the story spread via Twitter and Facebook in the weeks leading up to the event , inspiring celebrities and even the president himself to post in support of Miles.  When the big day arrived, thousands lined the streets of San Francisco wearing Batkid T shirts, waving encouraging posters, and cheering on Miles as he fought crime alongside his hero.  Check out the full story here or here and consider having some tissues on hand. 

 

Subscribe to Knowsys SAT & ACT Blog by Email