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Chris Lele

The SAT’s Favorite Idioms

I love logic; the SAT loves logic. If you like logic, you too might love the SAT (though you might be as logical as Socrates and think the SAT is a bunch of crock). So, how, then, is it that something as arbitrary and illogical as the DMV cuing system has made its way upon the SAT?

Specifically, I’m talking about the idioms.

Idiom: a noun or adjective followed by a preposition

(Do not confuse this with the inscrutable sayings like “To eat humble pie”, which are also called idioms.)

Here are a few SAT idioms:

  • Regard as
  • Unique to
  • Representative of

The part that is arbitrary and illogical regards the preposition following each word. For instance, why is “regard as” and not “regard of” or “regard to”? You might try to wrap your logical brain around it (when we regard something we think of it AS something), but these are, at best, post hoc justifications (meaning after the fact).

In reality, the English language has evolved in such a way that a certain preposition just happens to follow a certain word. What the SAT is testing is your ability to recognize these idioms based on how they sound. The SAT is hoping that you listen to the way news broadcasters speak (though I wouldn’t depend on the weatherman for proper diction), or that you pay attention to the way that writers use the correct preposition.

It is important that I mention something before moving on: “Sounding it out” represents a major shift from the “grammar/logic hat” you should be wearing for the rest of the writing section. In other words, don’t try to do non-idiom related questions based on how they sound, or you’ll likely miss most of the difficult questions.

Since you probably don’t have time to sit in front of the nightly news, pen in hand, “idiom hat” on head, I’ve created a cheat sheet for you. The list below contains the common idioms you need to know for the SAT. When memorizing the idioms, you might want to turn them into flashcard form (quizlet.com makes this easy). Also, practice saying them out loud, so you can get a feel for how they sound.
 

Common SAT Idioms

Absent from

Correct: Absent from the debate has been any mention of the governor’s supposed crime.

Incorrect: Absent in the debate has been any mention of the governor’s supposed crime.
 

Acceptable to

Correct: The use of the improper idiom might be acceptable to one’s peers–though the SAT is hardly one’s peer.

Incorrect: The use of the improper idiom might be acceptable with one’s peers–though the SAT is hardly one’s peer.
 

Accustomed to

Correct: Growing up in New York, they are accustomed to the nightly street noise.

Incorrect: Growing up in New York, they are accustomed with the nightly street noise.
 

Acquainted with

Correct: Few are acquainted with string theory, a dominant paradigm in physics.

Incorrect: Few are acquainted in string theory, a dominant paradigm in physics.
 

Associated with

Correct: The name Al Capone is associated with much of the organized crime that occurred in the country before 1950.

Incorrect: The name Al Capone is associated in much of the organized crime that occurred in the country before 1950.
 

Adept at

Correct: Dexter was adept at endearing himself to those in powerful positions.

Incorrect: Dexter was adept to endearing himself to those in powerful positions.
 

Believe to be

Correct: Scientists believe the brain to be the most complicated piece of machinery in the entire universe.

Incorrect: Scientists believe the brain as the most complicated piece of machinery in the entire universe.
 

Capable of

Correct: Many did not believe him capable of such dastardly deeds.

Incorrect: Many did not believe him capable in such dastardly deeds.
 

Collaborate with

Correct: The detective was unwilling to collaborate with the police because he believed the force to be corrupt.

Incorrect: The detective was unwilling to collaborate in the police because he believed the force to be corrupt.
 

Conclude that

Correct: Scientists conclude that much of the present day United States was covered in massive ice sheets as recently as 14,000 years ago.

Incorrect: Scientists conclude much of the present day United States was covered in massive ice sheets as recently as 14,000 years ago.
 

Consider (no preposition)

Correct: The astronomical community no longer considers Pluto a planet.

Incorrect: The astronomical community no longer considers Pluto as a planet.
 

Consistent with

Correct: A high SAT score is consistent with a high GPA, though not always.

Incorrect: A high SAT score is consistent to a high GPA, though not always.
 

Conscious of

Correct: She was not conscious of her mannerisms, and as a result she sent mixed messages.

Incorrect: She was not conscious in her mannerisms, and as a result she sent mixed messages.
 

Contrary to

Correct: Contrary to what most expect, college is not an unending succesion of grueling exams.

Incorrect: Contrary with what most expect, college is not an unending succesion of grueling exams.
 

Credit with

Correct: Galileo is credited with many scientific discoveries.

Incorrect: Galileo is credited in many scientific discoveries.
 

Depict as

Correct: The events depicted as the unvarnished truth were actually distorted to fit the director’s political biases.

Incorrect: The events depicted to be the unvarnished truth were actually distorted to fit the director’s political biases.
 

Different from

Correct: Poetry is different from mere writing–ask any novelist.

Incorrect: Poetry is different than mere writing–ask any novelist.
 

Distinguish from

Correct: The victim was unable to distinguish the culprit from the others standing in the line-up.

Incorrect: The victim was unable to distinguish the culprit and the others standing in the line-up.
 

Emerged as

Correct: From amongst the 32 singing contestants, Amanda emerged as the victor, her voice taking on notes she did not ever know she was capable of.

Incorrect: From amongst the 32 singing contestants, Amanda emerged the victor, her voice taking on notes she did not ever know she was capable of.
 

Encourage to

Correct: He was encouraged to pursue a degree in computer science.

Incorrect: He was encouraged in pursuing a degree in computer science.
 

Essential to

Correct: Amino acids are essential to our health.

Incorrect: Amino acids are essential for our health.
 

Familiar with

Correct: She is familiar enough with the neighborhood to be able to find her way home.

Incorrect: She is familiar enough in the neighborhood to be able to find her way home.
 

Fascinated by

Correct: The infant was fascinated by all the shadows that seemed to prance about the ceiling.

Incorrect: The infant was fascinated with all the shadows that seemed to prance about the ceiling.
 

Forbid to

Correct: His mother forbid Charlie to eat cookies, so round had his tummy become.

Incorrect/Questionable: His mother forbid Charlie from eating cookies, so round had his tummy become.
 

Inclined to

Correct: She is inclined to be late, so plan ahead.

Incorrect: She is inclined on being late, so plan ahead.
 

Indifferent towards

Correct: Though he pretends to be indifferent towards video games, he actually has a Nintendo at home that he played when lonely.

Okay: Though he pretends to be indifferent to video games, he actually has a Nintendo at home that he played when lonely.

Incorrect: Though he pretends to be indifferent about video games, he actually has a Nintendo at home that he played when lonely.
 

Insist that

Correct: Organizers of the obstacle course insist that everyone entering is in top physical condition.

Incorrect: Organizers of the obstacle course insist upon everyone entering to be in top physical condition.
 

Manage to

Correct: In three short weeks, the new hire had managed to isolate his colleagues, so bad was his attitude.

Incorrect: In three short weeks, the new hire had managed in isolating his colleagues, so bad was his attitude.
 

Mistake for

Correct: With his red shock of dyed hair and multiple face piercings, Chester had somehow been mistaken for an accountant.

Incorrect: With his red shock of dyed hair and multiple face piercings, Chester had somehow been mistaken as an accountant.
 

Modeled after

Correct: The downtown high school was modeled after the Greek symposium.

Incorrect: The downtown high school was modeled around the Greek symposium.
 

Native to

(Same meaning as “indigenous to”)

Correct: The platypus is native to Australia.

Incorrect: The platypus is a native of Australia.
 

Oblivious to / Be oblivious of

Correct: She pretended to be oblivious to the other students, so concerned was she with coming across as unconcerned.

Also Correct: Oblivious of social niceties, the mathematician nonetheless impressed all those present with his formidable intellect.

Incorrect: Oblivious to social niceties, the mathematician nonetheless impressed all those present with his formidable intellect.
 

Originate in

Correct: Though chili peppers originated in what is today southern Bolivia, they are found in cuisines all over the world.

Incorrect: Though chili peppers originated around what is today southern Bolivia, they are found in cuisines all over the world.
 

Perceive as

Correct: Many perceived as musical geniuses actually owe much of their success to early practice and ceaseless training.

Incorrect: Many perceived to be musical geniuses actually owe much of their success to early practice and ceaseless training.
 

Predisposed to

Correct: Children predisposed to music are more likely to practice playing an instrument without anyone having to tell them.

Incorrect: Children predisposed for music are more likely to practice playing an instrument without anyone having to tell them.
 

Preferable to

Correct: For many, forgoing grad school is preferable to years of unpaid student loans.

Incorrect: For many, forgoing grad school is preferable over years of unpaid student loans.
 

Prejudiced against

Correct: Basketball tryouts seemed inherently prejudiced against shorter players, though many of these players make the best point guards.

Incorrect: Basketball tryouts seemed inherently prejudiced towards shorter players, though many of these players make the best point guards.
 

Prized by

Correct: Prized by coin collectors, the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin is becoming an increasing rarity.

Incorrect: Prized to coin collectors, the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin is becoming an increasing rarity.
 

Prohibit from

Correct: Those without security clearance are prohibited from entering the facility.

Incorrect: Those without security clearance are prohibited to enter the facility.
 

Protect against

Correct: Handwashing cannot protect against every form of virus.

Okay: Handwashing cannot protect us from every form of virus.

Incorrect: Handwashing cannot protect us of every form of virus.
 

Regard as

Correct: Schubert is regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Romantic period.

Incorrect: Schubert is regarded to be one of the greatest composers of the Romantic period.
 

Responsibility to / Responsible for

Correct: The class president’s responsibility to her classmates prevented her from making concessions with the school’s rivals.

Also Correct: An increase in cell phone use while driving is responsible for the recent spate of accidents.

Incorrect: The fifth grade teacher’s responsibility of her students prevented her from leaving the classroom unattended.
 

Sensitive to

Correct: Sensitive to the demands of the union, the city council offered to give workers a 15% increase in wages.

Incorrect: Sensitive over the demands of the union, the city council offered to give workers a 15% increase in wages.
 

Suspicious of

Correct: During McCarthyism, the government was suspicious of even members of Congress, thinking that Communist sympathizers were all around them.

Incorrect: During McCarthyism, the government was suspicious about even members of Congress, thinking that Communist sympathizers were all around them.
 

Tolerant of

Correct: Henry VIII was tolerant of few who tried to question his authority.

Incorrect: Henry VIII was tolerant to the few who tried to question his authority.
 

Try to

Correct: The mayor will try to fix the city after the major storm.

Incorrect: The mayor will try and fix the city after the major storm.
 

View as

Correct: She viewed him as a threat to her popularity, so she found ways to sabotage him.

Incorrect: She viewed him a threat to her popularity, so she found ways to sabotage him.
 

Idiom phrases

This group actually break up words. (For the grammar buffs, many of these phrases are classified as correlative conjunctions, but you don’t need to know that for the test).
 

Not only…but also

Correct: Not only did she win class valedictorian, but she was also the homecoming queen.

Incorrect: Not only did she win class valedictorian, she also was the homecoming queen.
 

Either…or

Correct: Either protesters will decamp from the city center or they will face possible imprisonment.

Incorrect: Either protesters will decamp from the city center and they will face possible imprisonment.
 

Both X and Y

Correct: Both a solid academic record and an interest in many different areas make a candidate attractive to college admissions boards.

Incorrect: Both a solid academic record as well as an interest in many different areas make a candidate attractive to college admissions boards.
 

Neither…nor

Correct: Neither the school nor her parents know where Sally is.

Incorrect: Neither the school or her parents know where Sally is.
 

At once X and Y

(To explain the existence of two contradictory states. Also X and Y should be parallel. In the sentence “charming” corresponds to X, and “demeaning” corresponds to Y)

Correct: Charles was at once charming, offering to take the coats of old ladies, and demeaning, insulting the rest of the wait staff.

Incorrect: Charles was at once charming, offering to take the coats of old ladies, but demeaning, insulting the rest of the wait staff.
 

Looking for more help with idioms? Check out our related posts:

 

Which idiom do you always mess up? Let us know in the comments below. 🙂

 

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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 8 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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