One of the most common question types you will see on the SAT writing section is called Identifying the Errors. These questions are pretty straightforward: choose the underlined segment that is incorrect. If none of the underlined segments (A-D) are incorrect, then the answer is (E), which stands for “No error.”
Let’s take a look:
You probably recognize these questions as well, if you’ve ever taken the PSAT. Familiar though these questions may seem, there are still some important points to keep in mind when dealing with the Identifying the Error questions.
1) You don’t have to know why it is wrong
The great thing with “Identifying the Error” is you only have to identify the error (makes sense!). You don’t need to correct the error (that’s what Improving the Sentence is for).
That said, it is a good idea to know what the correct answer should be. For instance, in the question above, the answer is (D). If you discover this and just think – Oh, I see, it kinds of sounds weird – you are not learning anything.
On the other hand, knowing that “it” doesn’t refer to a noun in the sentence (the noun used in the sentence is “turtles”, so “it” should be “they”) will help you avoid similar mistakes in the future.
2) Read the entire question
Sometimes, you get hung up around answer (B) or so, thinking, something doesn’t sound right with that. That may very well be the case. However, read the entire sentence. Sometimes a far more obvious answer is waiting at the end, and you realize that what you thought was questionable was right all along.
3) The dreaded “No error”
First off there will be some questions in which the answer is “No error”—usually 4-5 or five such questions. Second, don’t overthink this and change your answers just because you think you should have more answer (E)’s (or fewer). At the same time, if you only marked one of the questions 12-29 as (E), you should go back and look a little more carefully at some of the questions.
4) It gets harder
This one is pretty simple. The higher up you go, the harder it gets. The first question in “Identifying the Error” always begins with question #12. That’s the real easy one. That fact should give you license just to whiz through the first few questions (you don’t want to be a victim of the careless error!). Around #18 things start getting a little trickier.
By the time you hit question #25, you are looking at some real tough stuff. Knowing that a question should be tough can help you. Say you are on question #29 and right away you think, hey that answer (B) just sounds weird. Well, you are not alone. Probably 95% of high schools students will think the same thing and will get the question wrong. #29 will never be easy and remember “sounds weird”, especially on the last few problems, usually means that whatever sounds weird is actually grammatically correct.
5) Don’t use your ear
Sounding stuff out will only help you in two instances: idiom questions (and that’s if you know the idiom) and those really easy questions at the very beginning.
For the majority of the Identifying the Error questions, make sure to apply your grammatical rules. That’s the only way you’ll get better.
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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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