SAT Identifying Sentence Errors Answers and Explanations

Let’s go through the answers to those identifying sentence error questions.

Remember that this isn’t just about checking whether or not you got the right answers. It’s about understanding how you should get there. When you take the SAT, you should analyze each underlined section in a different way, depending on what part of the sentence is underlined. The explanations below are examples of what your thought process should be like when taking your SAT.

Although they also showed up in that previous post, the questions are reproduced here for easy reference. But this is not the place to do them! Go back to the first post if you haven’t already tried them there, where there are no answers for you to peek at.


Explanation for Question 1

1. Cottage industry, also (A) known as the putting-out system, was the initial phase of industrialization, (B) although it was soon overshadowed by other systems of production (C) that (D) have become widespread during the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century. (E) No error

(A) known: This is in a modifying phrase—an SAT favorite—so you should check that it’s next to the correct noun. “Cottage industry” is what’s known as the putting-out system, so there’s no problem.

(B) although: This linking word shows a contrast. Should there be one? Yep. Move on.

(C) that: What does “that” refer to? A place or time? Nope—it’s a thing (“systems of production”), so it’s fine.

(D) have become widespread: This is a verb, so you should check both the subject and the tense. The “systems” are plural, so “have” is correct in number (not “has”), but the time is wrong! It should say “became widespread.”

The error is (D).


Explanation for Question 2

2. The flower, after (A) fertilization (B) with the grains of pollen that (C) a bee inadvertently transports, will slowly (D) perish and wither. (E) No error

(A) fertilization: a noun like this could possible be a word choice problem, but there doesn’t seem to be any incorrect meaning here.

(B) with: A preposition! Check the words that the preposition is combining (especially the one that comes before it) and make sure that they sound natural together. Although “fertilization with” might sound a little strange, if you said, “They fertilized the flower with pollen,” that’d be just fine, so it’s probably acceptable here.

(C) a bee inadvertently transports: the most likely problem here is a number issue. “A bee” has to be parallel with anything that it logically relates to. In this case, it’s related to “the flower.” Both are singular, so it’s alright. You should also look at the tense of the verb transports, which is just fine, in this case.

(D) perish and wither: This one is a bit hard to see when looking systematically, because it doesn’t have to do with what part of the sentence is underlined. This is about redundancy; “perish” and “wither” mean basically the same thing. You don’t need them both.

The error is (D).

Explanation for Question 3

3. Art and culture flourished (A) briefly during the Prague Spring, (B) a short period (C) when relaxed censorship and (D) looser Soviet control. (E) No error

(A) briefly: Notice the “-ly” in the word. Should it be there (should this be an adjective instead)? It’s correct as it is.

(B) a short period: check that the number of the noun is right, which it is. There was only one Prague Spring.

(C) when: This is a connecting word, so make sure that it makes the right relationship between sentences. Wait a minute… sentences? The second part doesn’t form a complete thought. There should be a subject after “when.” Or it could be changed into a preposition like “of,” which doesn’t connect whole thoughts (a.k.a. clauses) like “when” does.

(D)looser: Check if it should be a comparative (-er) or a superlative (-est). There are only two things being compared—Soviet control before and during the Prague Spring—so “-er” is correct.

The error is (C).


Explanation for Question 4

4. (A) Having died young, Raymond Carver’s career as a short-story writer was cut regrettably (B) short, and (C) we are left with only a fragment of his only (D) attempt at a novel. (E) No error

(A) Having died young,: Alarm bells should be ringing. Like choice (A) in question number 1, this is a modifying phrase. The SAT loves to put these at the beginning of sentences next to subjects that they can’t modify. Raymond Carver’s career didn’t die young. Carver died young.

(B) short,: Check the comma here to see if it’s making a run-on sentence. Since the word “and” comes just after it, there’s no problem.

(C) we: Is “we” the right number and case here? Should it be “I” or “us”? No problems there, and it does work alright as a general pronoun, referring to the public rather than any specific people, so move on.

(D) attempt at: This is a prime place to think twice about the preposition. Should it be “attempt on”? How about “attempt to”? Nope. Sounds pretty good as it is.

The error is (A).


Explanation for Question 5

5. The defendant (A) surprised the jury not only with his candor (B) as well as with (C) what seemed to be genuine goodwill (D) behind his smile. (E) No error

(A) surprised: Find the subject (defendant), and see that that’s okay. Then check the tense. Doesn’t cause any problems.

(B) as well as: Does this link correct forms together? Although “with his candor” and “with what seemed to be…” are parallel, the phrase “not only” that came before should jump out at you. Any time you see “not only” you should find a “but also,” and here, there isn’t one. No good.

(C) what: Should this be “who,” “when,” or “where”? Nope? Okay.

(D) behind: Match this preposition up with the things it joins. “goodwill behind his smile” sounds fine, because “behind” and “smile” go well together.

The error is (B).


Explanation for Question 6

6. Exotic pet enthusiasts prize male peacocks (A) for their feathers (B) because the males are the (C) more colorful of the two (D) sexes; in contrast, female peacocks are mostly for breeding purposes. (E) No error

(A) for: The preposition “for” matches just fine with “prized,” so this is okay.

(B) because: This works to connect the two complete thoughts. There’s no problem in the logic, either, since it’s a cause-and-effect relationship.

(C) more colorful: Although “the more colorful” might sound weird, and you might want to change it to “most,” that wouldn’t make sense. There are only two things being compared here—males and females—so we need to keep “more” as it is.

(D) sexes; in contrast,: The semi-colon has to join up two full thoughts (it acts like a period), which it does, here. “In contrast” is one of many introductory words like “however” which need to be followed by commas, so that’s also fine.

There’s no error. The answer is (E).


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  • 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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