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Chris Lele

SAT Writing Tips: Apostrophes Meet Agreement


On more difficult writing questions, the SAT can lump together several concepts. Below is a question that ties together two concepts: apostrophe use and agreement.

First off, apostrophes. The SAT doesn’t typically test the possessive because it knows most students in high school know that adding an apostrophe ‘s’ shows possession. The SAT is going to try to trip you up on distinction that many, even seasoned writers, flub. For instance, it vs. it’s and their vs. they’re.

Its = possessive

It’s = it is

This is confusing because many assume that an apostrophe always means possessive. It doesn’t. It can also be a contraction, or a shortening. In this case, the shortening is of ‘it is’.

A marathon is a challenging race. It’s a combination of endurance, grit, and focus.

Next, we have agreement in number. By number I mean either singular or plural. For instance, in the previous sentence, the subject is marathon, so the pronoun needs to be singular. In other words we want to use ‘it’s’, not ‘they are’, or ‘they’re’. Had the subject been marathons the pronoun would be ‘they are’ or ‘they’re’.

Now see if you can tackle this question.

The SAT reading section has become less difficult for most students, their obscure vocabulary replaced by lots of reading.

B) they’re
C) its
D) it’s


The answer is (C), since the subject (SAT reading section) is singular. Finally, we want to show possessive, so we need ‘its’, not ‘it’s’.

About Chris Lele

Chris Lele is the GRE and SAT Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh Online Test Prep. In his time at Magoosh, he has inspired countless students across the globe, turning what is otherwise a daunting experience into an opportunity for learning, growth, and fun. Some of his students have even gone on to get near perfect scores. Chris is also very popular on the internet. His GRE channel on YouTube has over 8 million views.

You can read Chris's awesome blog posts on the Magoosh GRE blog and High School blog!

You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook!

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