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Essay and Writing

SAT Review of Improving Paragraphs

150 150 Deborah

Overview

The Improving Paragraphs subtest of the SAT Writing Test allows students to demonstrate editing and revision skills on a larger scale than the Improving Sentences section. They are required to read portions of a rough draft of an essay and make judgments about word usage and organization. Questions are multiple-choice in this section.

Methods to Approach Questions

First, read the entire passage and the questions before settling on answers. Every sentence within the passage is usually numbered in order to make it easier to find specific phrases and errors. Since the essay is meant to be a draft, there may be several weak areas. Pay close attention to the question, as an answer can be true overall but not the best answer.

Avoiding Wordiness

Wordiness is one of the most common errors that can be improved upon rewrite. Many writers struggle with redundant phrases that add little or nothing. It is enough to say that the paper is yellow, not yellow in color. Similarly, there are four sheets of yellow paper, but it is unnecessary to state that they are four in number. Four is already a number. Snow is weather, so one word can be cut from “snowy weather.” Expressions such as “the fact that,” “if you know what I mean,” or “in the truest sense of the word” fill space.

Rewriting Paragraphs

Students will have plenty of time to focus upon usage errors and wordiness in their own writing, as well as during practice sessions for the SAT. The first draft is an opportunity to get ideas on paper; a starting point rather than the finished product. During subsequent drafts, tighten writing by eliminating redundancies and empty phrases, as well as by fixing any grammar and usage errors. Practice at improving writing and recasting sentences will help on the Improving Paragraphs subtest of the SAT and college writing.

More Strategies for Test Preparation

The SAT subtest for Improving Paragraphs is arranged with questions that follow each passage, so questions that follow an essay excerpt are for that section only. It is easy to miss individual questions, so make sure to check that the test booklet and bubbles on the answer sheet refer to the same ones. Unlike the Identifying Sentence Errors and Improving Sentences writing tests, questions are not arranged in order from easy to hard.

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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 Little Rock, AR: visit: Tutoring in Little Rock, AR

SAT Review of Improving Sentences

150 150 Deborah

Overview

The Improving Sentences subtest of the SAT Writing test looks very similar to the Identifying Sentence Errors subtest. Students are expected to focus upon one phrase within a target sentence and follow directions to choose the same phrase or among four different alternatives. The goal is to produce a sentence that is clear, concise, and correct.

Methods to Approach Questions

Since the goal is to select possible sentence rewrites without writing them, follow directions and read each sentence quickly and carefully. Students may be tempted to read the alternative phrases without looking at the entire sentence, but that may lead to confusion. Choice A is always the same choice as the underlined phrase within the sentence. It may or may not be the correct answer. However, the correct answer is always contained in the alternatives. While the answer sheet in this section must be kept clean, with the answer bubbles carefully blackened, the test booklet can be marked as much as any individual student can desire. Therefore, mark any question that is not answered on the first pass, in order to find it more easily later.

Using Parallelism

One of the most common writing errors that is often tested on the SAT is parallelism. Structures in any series must be similar, so that words are the same parts of speech, phrases are the same construction, and clauses are the same type. Notice the pattern, and change any part that deviates from the rest. Within the sentence that begins with the word “structures”, each clause is similar, so that words, phrases, and clauses (all nouns) are followed by the parallel phrase “are the same.”

Rewriting Sentences

During test preparation and writing assignments, students are often asked to rewrite sentences that have errors in noun/verb agreement, parallelism, and appropriate use of adjectives, adverbs, and idioms. There won’t be time to rewrite during the SAT itself, so the “rewriting” is done through multiple-choice alternatives. During college, students will be expected to write and rewrite multiple essays and papers. The more errors they can recognize and edit in another’s writing, the more they will be able to edit their own.

More Strategies for Test Preparation

Whenever sample questions are presented, read the original sentence aloud, if possible. Then replace the underlined portion with each alternative. Reading aloud slows the entire process and trains the brain to recognize errors. Sometimes it is easier to hear the correct alternative than to see it. Continue to read literary fiction and well-written nonfiction, and write frequently.

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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 Guadalupe, AZ: visit: Tutoring in Guadalupe, AZ

SAT Review of Characteristics of Effective Writing

150 150 Deborah

Overview

The SAT tests writing skills for prospective college students with sentence-based and paragraph-based multiple-choice questions, as well as an essay on demand. Some of the characteristics of effective writing include consistency, logical expression of ideas, clarity and precision, and appropriate use of conventions. Since students must be able to recognize errors in their own writing, they are tested for their abilities to check writing quickly and identify any grammatical mistakes. Also, they must be able to produce writing that is clear, concise, and complete on essay tests and first drafts of longer papers.

Writing Consistency

The SAT tests for grammar and usage with questions that allow students to choose and correct examples that contain specific errors. Some of the most common errors involve writing consistency. For example, all of the tenses within a sentence or passage should follow a sequence. Pronouns should not shift; so that if you are writing a sentence, one shouldn’t change the pronoun in the second clause. The correct usage in that case is either “if one is writing a sentence, one shouldn’t change the pronoun in the second clause” or “if you are writing a sentence, you shouldn’t change the pronoun in the second clause.” Similarly, nouns and number should agree, and so should subjects and verbs.

Logical Expression of Ideas

Another source of common writing errors is logical expression of ideas. For example, comparisons should be logical. Compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges; not apples to oranges. Watch carefully to see what clauses are modifying.

Clarity and Precision

Once again, pronouns can cause all the trouble. Is the pronoun referring to a specific antecedent? We have met them, and they are us.  Who are we, them, they and us? Wordiness is the enemy of both clarity and precision. Active verbs are usually preferred to weak passive verbs, and using them can eliminate some wordiness.

Appropriate Use of Conventions

Some SAT questions target the appropriate use of conventions, such as adverb-adjective confusion, sentence fragments, run-on sentences, and idioms. Those conventions in writing are confused easily. Adjectives modify nouns, and adverbs modify verbs. The test booklet can be marked and underlined to aid appropriate usage.

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 Jackson, AL: visit: Tutoring in Jackson, AL

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

SAT Review of Practice for the Essay Section

150 150 Deborah

Overview

The essay section of the SAT Writing exam gives students the opportunity to write a coherent first draft of an essay in response to a prompt. It is usually the first section of the exam. The topic of the essay is presented in question form, and is accompanied by one or two quotations. The essay portion is 25 minutes long, and students must write legibly in pencil on the answer sheet that is provided, so that it can be scanned.

 

Planning the Essay

Although the time limit of 25 minutes is strict, prepared students can take 2-3 minutes to read the prompt and write a brief outline of the essays they will write. It need not be any more than a thesis statement and a few main ideas to ensure focus and allow direction. If an essay does not address the assigned topic, it will receive a zero score.

Writing the Essay

Writing the essay portion of the SAT is similar to writing the first draft of any effective essay. The essay prompts are general enough that students can use supporting information from what they have learned, read inside or outside school, or experienced. Writers can develop essays that are narrative, expository, persuasive, or argumentative. They can even oppose the point of view taken by the prompts and examples, as long as they present their arguments clearly and consistently.

Scoring the Essay

Essay portions are scored by experienced test examiners who have no contact with students or teachers in the local area. The scoring rubric has been extensively developed, so that scorers have clear criteria to make very quick judgments. They watch for point of view, organization, appropriate vocabulary and clear progression of ideas, sentence structure, and errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics. Prospective examiners must agree with the more experienced readers’ assessment at least 70% of the time before they can test students on their own.

Strategies for Test Preparation

Teachers and tutors give students a great deal of practice reading and responding to prompts similar to those on the SAT. Students prepare thesis statements, brief outlines, and then write paragraphs developing ideas from those outlines. In other practice, students are asked to recast sentences with a variety of grammar, usage, and logical errors.

 

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 Burbank, CA: visit: Tutoring in Burbank, CA

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

720 480 School Tutoring

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

610 400 School Tutoring

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

600 428 School Tutoring

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.

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