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Chris Lele

SAT Writing “Leftovers”

Here are a few common errors the SAT writing section likes to test that don’t fall under the other categories. The first one has to do with comparing two things, in which one of the two things is greater/better/etc. than the other.

Out of all wildcats the cheetah is the fastest, clocking in a top speed of nearly 70 mph.

Between the puma and the lion, the lion is the faster animal, often running down its prey in seconds.

In the first sentence, we are comparing the cheetah to all other cats and therefore use the superlative “-est”. You would not, however, use “-est” to compare two things, the way the second sentence does. Instead this sentence uses “-er”, as in faster.

Though this might seem straightforward to you, it is easy to miss if you are not looking for it, especially as your brain starts to wear down during the test.

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Next, and perhaps a little more subtle than the error above, is as follows:

Nicole and Samantha hoped to become a top model and travel all over the world taking glamour shots.

Sounds fine, right? Well, what the sentence is actually implying is that Nicole and Samantha are going to become this massive one-headed model, four-armed and four-legged. Sure, they’d still travel the world, but I’d hardly call those glamour shots. Instead, the sentence should read as follows:

Nicole and Samantha hoped to become top models and travel all over the world taking glamour shots.

Notice, how the plural “models” indicates that they are two separate models, and not one giant scary-looking model. So make sure there is agreement between the “number case” of the noun or nouns and what  it/they want to become.

Finally, there is the “fewer” vs. “less” rule. Always use “fewer” to describe things you can count and “less” to describe things that aren’t countable.

There are fewer people waiting in line today than there were yesterday.

The teacher was less sympathetic to the Amanda’s plight than she’d hoped.

The noun “people” is a countable. You can have one person; you can have one million (and anything in between). Sympathy, however, is not something you can count, and therefore takes “less” (you would never say “fewer sympathy”). This latter case (the “sympathy” one) is never tested. However, the use of “fewer” instead of “less” is quite common. The reason the use of  “less” in this case sounds acceptable to our ears is that many people—including yourself—probably say this all the time.

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Incorrect: I missed less questions on this SAT practice test than the week’s.

Correct: I missed fewer questions on this SAT practice test than last week’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 10 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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