In this article I'll cover everything you need to know to ace the 35-minute multiple-choice section of the SAT Writing Test. Remember: these proofreading and editing questions are just as important to your final writing score as the essay.
First we'll review the fourteen simple grammatical concepts tested in this section. That may sound like a lot to review, but I'm sure you're familiar with most of these grammatical concepts already. Once we've gotten the basic information out of the way, I'll show you specific techniques for handling the three different question formats.
If you've never taken a grammar course, relax: there's not much you need to know, and we'll be covering everything thoroughly. Still, to move things along we won't linger too long on the fundamentals; students who have trouble telling the difference between a noun and a verb should consider postponing taking the SAT.
There's a lot of material in this chapter. Even though you are probably familiar with much of it already, I strongly recommend that you skim the section first. Spread your indepth review over several days in small sessions rather than trying to digest everything in one sitting.
SAT-Specific Grammar Only
We'll be reviewing all the grammar you need to know for the SAT, but only that grammar. Moreover, I'll be covering these concepts as tested on the SAT. I'll occasionally take liberties with grammatical terms, rules, and even definitions.
For example, if a particular grammatical rule has an exception but that exception never shows up on the SAT, I'll state that rule absolutely. To point out rare exceptions to simple grammatical principles, or to discuss grammatical nuances that vex and confound college English professors, would complicate matters needlessly.
Often a single grammatical misunderstanding will lead to several errors. If so, I will group the analogous grammatical concepts under the same heading even though the concepts may not be related.
In short, I'll take shortcuts to keep things simple (even though some of these shortcuts may horrify traditionalists). My goal here is to raise your SAT Writing score as quickly and efficiently as possible, not to turn you into a grammarian.
Before we get to the details, now's a good time to alert you to a major pitfall awaiting unsuspecting students: using your "ear" to spot writing errors.
First, a Peek Ahead at the Three Question Formats
Here is a quick overview.
- The first question format deals primarily with errors with particular words or phrases (usage questions).
- The second question format deals with errors between different words and phrases (sentence correction questions).
- The third question format deals primarily with errors between different sentences (paragraph correction questions).