Get into your dream school! 

Sign up or log in to Magoosh SAT Prep.

Chris Lele

Common SAT Writing Error: Illogical Comparisons

One of the sneakiest question types on the SAT Writing section is when two things or people are being illogically compared. I always tell students to remember that you can only compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges.

Let’s see if you can spot the illogical comparisons below:

  • She enjoyed Haydn’s symphonies more than Mozart, though she preferred Mozart’s piano music to Haydn.
  • The number of exports in Arlandia this year was less than the exports in 2007, prompting austerity measures from the government.
  • I prefer the novels of George Orwell to Aldous Huxley, because the latter is more concerned with affecting a air of erudition than telling a good story.

For the first sentence, we are illogically comparing Haydn’s symphonies to Mozart himself. You can’t compare a musical piece to a man. Instead, we want to compare the symphonies of Haydn to the symphonies of Mozart.

  • She enjoyed Hayden’s symphonies more than those of Mozart, though she preferred Mozart’s piano music to that of Haydn.

Notice that I did not just says “Mozart’s symphonies”, but those of Mozart. The ‘those’ is a pronoun that refers to symphonies. Had we only been comparing one thing, say a “symphony”, then we would have that of Mozart, where that refers to a singular noun. Also, notice the second part of the sentence: “Mozart’s piano music to THAT of Haydn”. Without the “that of”, I’d be making an illogical comparison of Mozart’s music and Haydn.

Now, let’s take a look at both sentences 2 and 3 corrected:

  • The number of exports in Arlandia this year was less than that of 2007, prompting austerity measures from the government.
  • I prefer the novels of George Orwell to those of Aldous Huxley, because the latter is more concerned with affecting a air of erudition than telling a good story.

Takeaway

Always make sure you are comparing the same two nouns. In order to avoid wordiness you can replace a singular noun with that and a plural noun with those.

 

P.S. Ready to get your highest SAT score? Start here.
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!


4 Responses to “Common SAT Writing Error: Illogical Comparisons”

  1. Magoosh says:

    A little typo — I think you meant “I prefer the novels of George Orwell to those [of] Aldous Huxley…”

  2. Michelle says:

    Hi, I have a question.

    She enjoyed Hayden’s symphonies more than Mozart, though she preferred Mozart’s piano music to Hayden.

    You changed it to be grammatically correct by doing this:

    She enjoyed Hayden’s symphonies more than those of Mozart, though she preferred Mozart’s piano music to Hayden.

    But why doesn’t the same rule of putting those apply to the next part of the sentence? Why is it not
    though she preferred Mozart’s piano music to those of Hayden?

    • Chris Lele Chris Lele says:

      That’s very observant of you :).

      The reason is I actually made a mistake! You are totally right–it should be “preferred Mozart’s piano music to that of Hayden”.

      Thanks so much for catching that. That kind of sharp eye will definitely help you do very well on the SAT writing section :).

Leave a Reply

Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will approve and respond to comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! :) If your comment was not approved, it likely did not adhere to these guidelines. If you are a Premium Magoosh student and would like more personalized service, you can use the Help tab on the Magoosh dashboard. Thanks!


Share
Tweet
Share
Pin