Good news, folks: you already know pretty much all of the grammar on the SAT. The catch? Sometimes the SAT likes to mess with your head just a little bit. In this post, you’ll see learn to recognize 5 common grammar problems.
1. Subject-Verb Agreement
This one is a basic building block of English language sentence structure. Because it is so normal in your speech and writing patterns, your eyes can glide right past well-hidden subject-verb agreement errors. For more a more in-depth look at subject verb agreement, check out this Magoosh video.
Consider this: The teachers, who loaded up their trays with pizza, cookies, and chocolate milk, stands at the back of the cafeteria.
There’s a couple things going on here. Of course you know that “teachers stand” while a “teacher stands.” So what makes you miss the agreement between subject and verb?
- The SAT likes to put extra information between the subject and verb. If you cross out everything between the subject (teachers) and the verb (stand), the correct choice will be much more obvious.
- When the SAT adds all that info, they will often make the word closest to the verb the opposite of the subject. If the subject is singular, the word in front of the verb might be plural, just to throw you off. Sneaky, eh?
What to watch out for: underlined verbs, clauses set off by commas or dashes
The SAT loves semicolons as much as I love pizza (a lot). It’s your job on the SAT to identify when a semicolon is used correctly or incorrectly. The SAT also includes punctuation like dashes, commas, and colons. This Magoosh blog spills all the details you need to know about advanced punctuation!
What to watch out for: hopefully this one’s obvious!
3. Tense Agreement
Like subject-verb agreement, this one is about making sure words in the sentence all match up. Here, instead of looking for plural or singular indicators, you’re watching out for when events happened. In the past, or in the present?
Consider this: Once completely oblivious to climate change, the world had now began to look more seriously at pollution.
a. No change
b. Has now begun
c. Has now began
d. Have now begun
The word “once” earlier in the sentence lets us know that something happened at one point in the past. “Once” also tells us that the second half of the sentence, after the comma, will contrast with the first part. We see that contrast in the word “now.” So, we need to choose the tense that best reflects the sequence of events in the sentence: the present perfect. Those perfect tenses can get a little tricky, but Magoosh has got your back!
What to watch out for: time indicator words like “once” “while” “in recent years” “long ago” and sequential events
Parallelism involves making sure words in a sentence, or sentences in a paragraph, are all alike in structure. You’ll see this most frequently with a list of verbs.
Consider this: As a result, teachers must now be proficient curators of digital information, gathering, catalog, and maintaining these collections.
See how gathering and maintaining both end in -ing? You’ll need to update catalog to cataloguing to match the rest of the words in the list.
What to watch out for: lists of words or phrases
Redundancy is simply repeating the same information over and over again, repeatedly, many times. (See what I did there?) In true SAT style, redundancies will sometimes be hidden in a sentence like, “Annually, my family goes to the beach every year.” We only need to include either annually or every year, since they mean the same thing.
Consider this: Free to users who enjoy their services, websites like Facebook and Google are especially valuable, because they offer free resources for event organization and scheduling.
a. No change
b. During periods of economic recession
c. When it comes to the free services the internet provides
We can immediately eliminate options a and c, because the writer notes the “free resources” later in the sentence. That leaves us with option b, which is not redundant. Option b also makes sense because free services would be even more valuable to users when times are financially tough!
What to watch out for: synonyms in the same sentence