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Lucas Fink

How Important Is Grammar for The SAT?

Since you’re here, reading this post, I’ll assume you already realize that the SAT is 1/3 writing, and a pretty huge chunk of that third relies on knowing the rules of written English.

So then, the answer to our question is probably that it’s freakin’ important.

But then again, “grammar” is a big word. It includes how commas work, when to use “whom,” and knowing what a relative clause is. Some of that isn’t on the test. And besides, SAT writing takes into account a lot of stuff that’s not exactly grammar, but rather style—like when to use the passive voice. So let’s modify the question to be a bit more appropriate.


Should I study grammar as much as math?

That’s better. Math gets too much attention for a couple of reasons. First, it’s totally learnable. You can train yourself up to high-level math pretty reliably by simply practicing similar types of problems and analyzing their solutions. Raising your reading comp score, by way of comparison, is a much subtler science.

Beyond that, math sounds scarier to a lot of students. Sure there are some of you out there thinking, “but I like math,” and I do to (in a way), but that’s not the popular opinion. So people tend to freak out about the math and forget the other sections are just as valuable.

And writing (especially grammar), similar to math, is totally learnable. But there are fewer topics to cover. Compare it to SAT math, and you’ll see why I emphasize that point.


What you need to know for SAT Math

-Variable manipulation

-PEMDAS (The order of operations)

-Triangle measurements

-Circle measurements

-Miscellaneous geometry (e.g. 3D objects)

-Reading graphs

-Creating expressions from word problems

-Number properties

-Exponents and radicals

-Finding patterns in tables

-Congruent, supplementary, and vertical angles

-Ratios and proportions


-Coordinate geometry

-Quadratic functions

-Linear functions




-Absolute values

-Combinations and permutations

-Data sets


What you need to know about grammar for SAT writing

-Combining independent clauses (run-ons)

-Identifying dependent clauses (fragments)


-Subject–verb agreement

-Wordiness and awkwardness

-Verb tense

-Misplaced modifiers


-Passive voice

-Transition words

-Pronoun number/case

-Pronoun consistency and clarity


-Word choice


Studying grammar can earn you serious points

Because there are fewer grammar topics than there are math topics, they carry more weight on average. So already, you can see how studying it would pay off.

And here’s the kicker: a lot of that grammar is actually already pretty natural to you. Topics like transition words, subject–verb agreement, and tenses may take a keen eye at times, but if you train yourself to watch for them on the test, you’ll be using your innate English knowledge, which you exercise every time you speak.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t study! Even if some of it comes naturally, a lot of it doesn’t. But most of the rules are pretty clean cut, and they can be learned.

Spend time practicing grammar and you’re going to seriously bump up your score.


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About Lucas Fink

Lucas is the teacher behind Magoosh TOEFL. He’s been teaching TOEFL preparation and more general English since 2009, and the SAT since 2008. Between his time at Bard College and teaching abroad, he has studied Japanese, Czech, and Korean. None of them come in handy, nowadays.

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