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Comprehension and Grammar

SAT Review of Identifying Sentence Errors

150 150 Deborah

Overview

One of the subtests of the SAT Writing portion is Identifying Sentence Errors. These multiple-choice questions ask students to recognize errors in grammar, usage, word choice, and idioms. During preparation for the SAT, it is best to identify the error and correct it. There are a few sentences that don’t have any errors at all.

Identifying Errors

Each of the sentences are presented with clear directions as to the type of error that might be found within it. Words and phrases within the sentence are underlined, and the last choice is always “no error.” There is only one error within the sentence, and the other four choices are distractors. Suppose the sentence were: The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog next Tuesday. No error. Read the entire sentence quickly to see that (a) brown, (c) lazy dog, and (d) Tuesday are not in error. However, (b) jumped cannot be in past tense if the action takes place next Tuesday. Therefore, (e) no error, is not correct, and the correct alternative is (b).

Types of Errors and How to Solve Them

The most common grammatical errors are easy to spot. Subjects and verbs must agree, pronouns must agree in number and case, an adverb must modify a verb, and an adjective must modify a noun. During practice, read sentences aloud, as the error won’t sound right in many cases. Get in the habit of correcting errors, even though that won’t be on the test. Sometimes knowing how to solve an error is an indication that there really is one. However, don’t waste time on sentences where there really isn’t an error. Select alternative (e), no error, and move on.

Dangling Participles and Misplaced Pronouns

Some very common grammatical errors are created when a participial phrase is situated in the wrong place. Suppose the sentence were: Wearing a long green dress, Brad Pitt walked down the carpet with Angelina Jolie. Brad was probably not wearing the dress in this case. The sentence could be recast as Brad Pitt walked down the carpet with Angelina Jolie, who was wearing a long green dress. Another alternative: Angelina Jolie, wearing a long green dress, walked down the carpet with Brad Pitt. The point is that the participial phrase is closest to what it modifies. In this case, Angelina is wearing the dress, so she is closest to it.

Strategies for Taking the Test

The Identifying Sentence Errors portion of the writing test will take less time than either Improving Sentences or Improving Paragraphs. A useful strategy for that portion of the test is to read carefully and keep moving to save time. Questions in this section range from easy to hard. If any question seems puzzling, mark it in the answer booklet and move on, to go back and answer it later if there is extra time.

Interested in SAT tutoring services? Learn more about how we are assisting thousands of students each academic year.

SchoolTutoring Academy is the premier educational services company for K-12 and college students. We offer tutoring programs for students in K-12, AP classes, and college. To learn more about how we help parents and students in Ketchikan, AK: visit: Tutoring in Ketchikan, AK

Vocabulary Review for the SAT

150 150 Deborah

Overview

Students develop a good vocabulary as one of the advantages of going to college. It is a result of reading scholarly texts, writing papers and essays, and listening to professors expound on a myriad of subjects. The SAT tests vocabulary directly through sentence-completion and reading-passage questions, and indirectly through appropriate word choice in the essay and writing sections.

Why Vocabulary?

By the time students are in high school, they are adept at using many different styles of communication. Many of the words, slang phrases, and idioms used when hanging out with friends are not appropriate at school or in the workplace. Students should use different terminology and tone when writing a formal paper or essay test than when writing a note to a friend. In particular, reading and formal writing in college often demands the sort of vocabulary used by well-educated persons. The SAT tests students on many of the most frequent words they will encounter in college and will find useful in writing assignments.

Utilize, Don’t Memorize

The SAT used to test obscure words and analogies, so students were urged to memorize definitions of words that they rarely encountered in their time in college. Test developers on successive forms of the SAT began using more frequently-occurring terminology. Therefore, one of the best strategies for learning new words is to read widely and see new words in their natural habitats, whether in well-written periodicals, textbooks, literary fiction, or nonfiction. Also, it is easier to remember word meaning by a unique definition that has been generated in context. My friend Rachel is reticent and seldom volunteers an opinion in meetings.

Look It Up

If a word is unfamiliar, or if a familiar word is used in an unfamiliar context, use a good dictionary and look it up. The SAT tests on many words used in unusual contexts. Most college students have several dictionaries at their disposal; a general dictionary such as the New Collegiate Dictionary or the American Heritage Dictionary; as well as specific dictionaries for their major discipline, or for specialized terminology they encounter frequently. For example, a medical dictionary may be useful if a student refers to articles in the Journal of Pediatrics or even in the Annals of Psychiatry in the process of researching a term paper or thesis.

Word Lists, et al.

Many test preparation services have lists of frequently-occurring words on the SAT and other standardized tests. These lists also have other forms of the word, such as exemplify, exemplary, and exemplification. Lists are useful, as a starting point, if only because they alert the reader to the some of the vocabulary that may be on the SAT.

Interested in SAT tutoring services? Learn more about how we are assisting thousands of students each academic year.

SchoolTutoring Academy is the premier educational services company for K-12 and college students. We offer tutoring programs for students in K-12, AP classes, and college. To learn more about how we help parents and students in Racine, WI: visit: Tutoring in Racine, WI

Deciphering Meaning from Reading Passages on the SAT and ACT

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Overview

Questions about longer reading passages on the SAT, ACT, and other standardized tests tap students’ abilities to find and use meaning from what they read.  These skills are important to college success, as students are expected to read and understand textbooks in unfamiliar subjects.  Students are expected to extract the main ideas from what they read, distinguish between fact and opinion, recognize the author’s point of view, and summarize the passage, along with other skills.

Reading for Main Ideas

Most often, the main ideas in a reading passage will be in the first few sentences of a reading passage.  Multiple-choice questions will give alternative statements of what the main idea might be.  Read all the alternatives carefully before deciding on the best answer.  One alternative might be too brief to contain enough information, while another might ask for a conclusion or opinion, a third might give more information than is necessary,  and the correct alternative will give enough information to decide on the main idea.

Distinguishing between Fact and Opinion

Even fairly short passages will contain a number of supporting facts and some opinions, as any event is open to interpretation.  Opinions will ask the reader to draw conclusions from the supporting facts rather than merely stating those facts.  Opinions ask the reader to draw inferences as may not be supported within the text,

Recognizing the Point of View

Many of these questions ask readers to recognize the tone of the passage.  Does the author believe the research is valuable or does the author believe the research is a waste of time?  Is the author pessimistic or optimistic about the outcome of the research presented?  If it is a historical article, is the author on the side of the winners or the losers?

Summarizing the Passage

Normal reading passages on standardized tests are relatively brief, so the summaries are no more than a sentence or two long.  They  restate key points , and cover the entire passage rather than just one section of the passage.  The best alternatives focus on the big picture rather than one section.

TestPrep Academy is the premier SAT/ ACT services company for high school studies. We offer instructional programs and curriculum for students preparing for the PSAT, ACT and SAT.

 

Recognizing Nonstandard English: Diction Errors

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Overview

Diction errors are types of errors when the incorrect word is used in a nonstandard way.  Some word usage is colloquial: out of place in a formal essay.  Other errors in word usage occur when similar words are used in the incorrect context.

What about Lots or A Lot?

The use of lots or a lot is colloquial, as well as non-specific.  Standard usage would refer to many, or very much.  A sentence such as “I like to write a lot” could either mean that I like to write very much, or I like to write a great quantity.    Similarly, “A bunch of people were at the concert” should be restated as, “A group of people were at the concert” or “Many people were at the concert.”  When referring to people, bunch is nonstandard.  Bunches can refer to flowers, grapes, or bananas and be correct.

What about Guy?

The word guy is also colloquial.  Preferred usage would be “the man”, just as preferred usage for gal would be woman.  Plenty as in the sentence, “It is plenty hot this summer” is colloquial.  “It is very hot this summer,” is standard.  In the same way, “It is awful hot this summer” is colloquial, and could be recast as “It is very hot this summer.”

What about Aggravate?

The word aggravate means to make worse, and aggravated is not a synonym for annoyed (or any of the other synonyms for annoyed that are not standard usage). ” Her headache was aggravated by lack of sleep,” would be standard usage.  “She was aggravated by the construction in the office building,” would not be.

What about Anxious and Eager?

“The students were anxious for change” is nonstandard, and should be replaced with “The students were eager for change.”  The students did not fear change.  Similarly, can refers to ability, while may refers to permission or likelihood.

TestPrep Academy is the premier SAT/ ACT services company for high school studies. We offer instructional programs and curriculum for students preparing for the PSAT, ACT and SAT.

Appropriate Sentence Construction for the SAT and ACT

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Overview:

Some grammar questions on standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT ask students to apply the rules they have learned about sentence construction.  Sentence prompts may include dangling clauses, free-standing phrases, and run-on sentences.  The task is to choose the rewritten sentence that makes the most sense without changing the author’s intended meaning.

What Is A Phrase?

A phrase is a group of words that does not contain a subject and verb.  The words in the phrase act together in a unit,  such as prepositional phases, adjective phrases, or adverb phrases.  For example, the prepositional phrase “to the lighthouse” has a preposition, an object, and the article modifying the object.  Within the nonsense sentence, “Deep green ideas sleep furiously”, there is an adverbial phrase, “deep green ideas.” The sentence could be made more convoluted by adding an adverbial phrase such as “in the dark” to read “Deep green ideas sleep furiously in the dark.”

What Is a Clause?

A clause is a group of words with its own subject and verb.  Some clauses can stand alone as short sentences or independent clauses.  Dependent clauses cannot stand alone and act as adjectives, adverbs, and nouns within sentences.  An independent clause can be changed easily into a dependent clause by adding relative pronouns such as that, which, who, whom, or whose, or relative adverbs such as after, before, since, where, when, or why.

What Are Some Ways to Combine Phrases without Changing the Meaning?

Phrases can be used to expand sentences and make them more vivid without changing the meaning of a sentence. They do not contain subjects and verbs, so they cannot stand alone as sentences.  For example, the adverb phrase “in the evening” can be combined with the short sentence “The moon rises” to form the sentence “The moon rises in the evening.”

What Are Some Ways to Combine Clauses without Changing the Meaning?

It is important to carefully read test alternatives that contain ways that clauses can be combined to make sure the meaning does not change.  For example, suppose the passage stated  “Virginia Woolf was an important member of the Bloomsbury Group.  The Bloomsbury Group challenged many ideas that were current in England.”  Those sentences could be combined by making the second sentence a subordinate clause, changing the passage to read, “Virginia Woolf was an important member of the Bloomsbury Group, which challenged many ideas that were current in England.”

TestPrep Academy is the premier SAT/ ACT services company for high school studies. We offer instructional programs and curriculum for students preparing for the PSAT, ACT and SAT.

Review of Nonstandard English: Idiom Errors

400 267 School Tutoring

Overview:  What Do the SAT and ACT Test in English Grammar?

The SAT and ACT test for formal, academic, standard English, which is not necessarily the same way that students speak or write.  Many errors are especially insidious because the correct form and the incorrect form are very close.  However, some idiom errors involve words that actually mean the opposite from each other.

What Is the Proper Form of the Verb?

The verb form doesn’t is used with third-person singular subjects, such as in the sentence “He doesn’t want to take the test this month.”  The verb form don’t is used with all other subjects, but never when the subject is in the third person singular.  Similarly, the verbs done and seen are used with helping verbs, such as had, has, or have, never alone.  When gone is used as a verb, it is also used with a helping verb.  However, the verb went is the past tense of to go, and is not used with a helping verb.

What about Lie and Lay?

Correct usage of the verbs lie and lay depend on what is doing the action.  The verb lie, with parts lying, lay, and lain, means “to recline.”  It is not followed by a direct object, but often by an adverb or adverb phrase, telling just where someone or something is reclining.  The verb lay, with parts laying, laid, and laid, means “to put (something) down.”  It is followed by a direct object, such as “Lay the plates on the table.”  The verbs set and sit follow similar patterns, as sit is never followed by a direct object, but set is.

What about Homonyms?

Homonyms can be especially troublesome, as they are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently.  For example, their is a possessive pronoun, such as “their books,” there is an adverb referring to place, and they’re is a contraction of they are.  The word too means the same as also, two is a number, and to is a preposition.

What Word Pairs Mean the Opposite of Each Other?

The words take and bring are not synonyms.  Bring means to carry from a distant place to a nearer one, while take means from a near place to a distant place.  Similarly, learn and teach are not synonyms.  To learn is to get knowledge, while to teach is to give knowledge.

Do you need to know more about how test questions on the SAT or ACT are scored? Learn more about how we are assisting thousands of students each academic year.

Test Prep Academy is the premier test prep and private tutoring company for college-bound students. Our highly qualified test prep tutors deliver one-on-one personalized instruction that fit our student’s busy schedule.

Proofreading for Parallel Structure on the SAT and ACT

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Overview:  What Is Parallel Structure?

Parallel structure in writing is a refinement technique in which verbs, subjects, and clauses are made similar.  It is tested on the ACT and SAT in grammar questions, as it is a feature that adds impact to writing.  Often, phrases that mean the same may not be parallel.

Checklist:  Are Verbs in the Same Tense?

Parallel verbs in each clause should be in the same tense.  For example, parallel verbs are “He came, he saw, and he conquered” not “he came, he saw, and he will conquer. ” Similarly, if helping verbs are used in one clause, the same helping verbs should be used in the other clauses.  “She may gather enough support, she may raise enough funds, and she may win the election,” rather than “she may gather enough support, she raised enough funds, and she will win the election.”

Checklist:   Is the Subject the Same in All Clauses?

In order for clauses to be parallel, the subjects should remain the same.  “The corporation will sponsor the fun run, the CEO will speak at the breakfast, and they will wear T-shirts advertising the event” is unclear and not parallel.  In order to make the structure parallel, one way to recast the clauses is, “The corporation will sponsor the fun run, its CEO will speak at the opening breakfast, and its employees will wear T-shirts advertising the event.”

Checklist:  Are the Same Types of Clauses Used?

More subtly, parallel clauses need to have the same structure.  A sentence like “The building manager will choose the maintenance projects that they think will make their properties more attractive” has two clauses that are less parallel than the recast sentence “The building manager will choose the maintenance projects that will make their properties more attractive.”  Sometimes it is a matter of eliminating unnecessary words in order to clarify the structure.

Checklist:  Is the Punctuation Parallel Between Parallel Clauses?

If clauses are parallel, they should be separated with the same type of punctuation.  For the most part, they will be independent from one another.  For example, in the sentence “He came, he saw, and he conquered” all the clauses are separated by commas.

Grammar Review : Choosing the Correct Pronoun on the ACT and SAT

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Overview:  What Are Pronouns?
Pronouns are word forms that substitute for nouns.  They differ from nouns in that the correct pronoun form depends on the function it takes within the sentence.  Nouns in English only change form when they are possessive.  Otherwise, the same word forms are used whether they are the subject or the object. Compare the sentences, “Jane hit the ball,” “The ball hit Jane,” and “The ball is Jane’s.”

What Are Singular and Plural Pronouns?
Singular pronouns such as I, you, he, she, or it substitute for singular nouns and must agree with singular verbs, while plural pronouns such as we, you, and they substitute for plural nouns and must agree with plural verbs.  For example, compare the sentence, “He goes to school”, with “They go to school.”  The pronoun you is the same form for singular and plural in English, and the meaning depends on context.

What Are Subject Pronouns?
Subject pronouns such as I, you, he, she, it, we and they serve as the subject forms, also called the nominative case.  For example, in a simple sentence like “John and I went to the store,” the pronoun I is part of the subject.  In formal written English, verb forms of to be use subject pronouns, such as ” It is I” or “The winners were Tim and she.”

What Are Object Pronouns?
Object pronouns include me, you, him, her, it, us, and them, also called the objective case.  They are used when the pronoun is used as the object of any verb or preposition.  For example, in the sentence, “John raced them yesterday”, the pronoun them is an object.  In addition, after a preposition such as between, the objective pronoun is used, such as “between you and me” rather than “between you and I.”

What Are Possessive Pronouns?
Possessive pronouns include my,  mine,  your, yours, his, her, hers, its, our,  ours, and their,  theirs.  They are used to show ownership.  The possessive pronoun its is not the same as the contraction it’s (meaning it is), and their is not the same as the adverb there or the contraction they’re.  For example, “Their car is parked in the next block” but “The red car is parked over there.”  Sometimes possessive pronouns can be used by themselves, such as “That blue car is hers, not his.”

Do you need to know more about how test questions on the SAT or ACT are scored? Learn more about how we are assisting thousands of students each academic year.

Test Prep Academy is the premier test prep and private tutoring company for college-bound students. Our highly qualified test prep tutors deliver one-on-one personalized instruction that fit our student’s busy schedule.

Nonstandard English: Troubleshooting Idiom Errors on the SAT and ACT

160 128 School Tutoring

Overview:

The English usage that is tested on standardized tests, such as the SAT and ACT, is formal academic English.  It may or may not reflect how students usually speak or even write.  The term idiom error refers to formal usage rather than common usage.

Similar Meanings and Spellings

The difference between using the correct word form and the incorrect form is sometimes determined by matching the spelling and the meaning.  The word affect is either the verb “to influence”, or more rarely, in psychology, a synonym for emotion.  It does not mean the same thing as the word effect, which is either a noun meaning result or a verb “to cause”.   Similarly, adapt means “to change”, while adopt means “to take as one’s own.” The two word phrase all ready means that all are ready.  The word already is an adverb referring to time.

Awkward Phrases

There are a number of phrases that do not add anything to meaning, and can be either dropped or reworded.  The phrase “as to” can be replaced with “about”, and the phrase “being that” can be replaced with  either because or since.  Similarly, the phrase “the fact that” can be dropped entirely. Phrases such as kind of or sort of can be replaced with rather or somewhat.

Nonstandard Words and Phrases

The phrase all right has two separate words.  “Alright” is not standard.  Similarly, the adverbs anywhere, somewhere, everywhere, and nowhere do not end with an s.  The word irregardless is a double negative, so appropriate usage is the word regardless. The contraction ain’t is also nonstandard, and should be replaced with a more appropriate contraction.

Other Formal Phrases

The phrase different from is more appropriate than different than, and  the phrase due to means the same as caused by.  The word among means three or more, and between is used to compare two things. In addition, phrases such as outside of, inside of, off of or atop of  should be replaced with the prepositions outside, inside, off, and atop.  Most of these words and phrases will not be caught by a typical spell-checking word processing program.

Do you need to know more about how test questions on the SAT or ACT are scored? Learn more about how we are assisting thousands of students each academic year.

Test Prep Academy is the premier test prep and private tutoring company for college-bound students. Our highly qualified test prep tutors deliver one-on-one personalized instruction that fit our student’s busy schedule.

Nonstandard English: Negative Sentences

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Overview:  Why Double Negatives?

Some of the most common examples of nonstandard English occur when negative words and statements are misused.  Negatives as alternatives are contained in the English/grammar tests on both the SAT and the ACT to trap the unwary.  The errors can be compounded because double negatives were once considered standard in English, and are standard in many languages such as Spanish and French.

Recognizing Negative Words

A number of words are already negative, such as no, not, none, nothing, never, nobody, or nowhere.  Forms such as can’t, won’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t, cannot and other n’t contractions used with helping verbs are also negative.  The word but as a negative should not be used with another negative.  “He had but one life to give” or “He had only one life to give” not “he hadn’t but one life to give.”  Some words such as barely, scarcely, and hardly aren’t as obviously negative, but they shouldn’t be used with other negative words in the same clause.  Therefore, “can’t hardly stand it”  is improper usage.

One Negative Per Clause

One of the best ways to avoid using double negatives is to make sure to write sentences with only one negative word per clause.  For example, a sentence like, “He couldn’t make nothing at that job” could be corrected to have only one negative word per clause by changing the couldn’t to could, as in “He could make nothing at that job,” or the nothing to anything, as in “He couldn’t make anything at that job.”

Avoiding Double Negatives

The best way to avoid problems with double negatives is to recognize the negative words that are already there in the clause and make sure there is only one of them.  For example, in the sentence, “There are many theories about what happened on Amelia Earhart’s last flight, but no one has all the answers,” no one is already negative.  It would be incorrect to say, “No one hasn’t all the answers” because of the no and the n’t.  Similarly, “Amelia Earhart couldn’t hardly wait to get back in the air after she finished a flight” could be properly rewritten as “Amelia Earhart couldn’t wait to get back in the air after she finished a flight” or “Amelia Earhart could hardly wait to get back in the air after the finished a flight.”

Watch for Incorrect Alternatives

Some questions on standardized tests may give alternatives specifically to test for correct negative usage.  A test item that contains a negative in the stem of a clause should not be complted with another negative.  For example, if a test item contains the sentence “When she went to Europe, she never went ______ that was boring, ” it should be completed with the positive anywhere rather than the negatives nowhere and no place.

Do you need to know more about how test questions on the SAT or ACT are scored? Learn more about how we are assisting thousands of students each academic year.

Test Prep Academy is the premier test prep and private tutoring company for college-bound students. Our highly qualified test prep tutors deliver one-on-one personalized instruction that fit our student’s busy schedule.

 

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