As you’ve been preparing on and off SAT Habit, you might’ve noticed that some problems in the Writing section seem to follow a pattern- and it’s true! This phenomenon happens on the SAT, too- and we’ve combined a checklist of errors and strategies for you to get through them all- sentences, paragraphs, and the essay.
These questions are the fill-in-the-blanks, the find-the-error, and sometimes, they’re the ones you need to watch out for. Here are the common mistakes you’ll see on SAT Writing:
- Past, Present, or Future? The SAT adores these incorrectly tensed sentences. They’re subtle and sneaky, but you can catch them if you keep an eye out! You’ll see things like “Gabriela loved baseball- in fact, she is almost always on the field.” Since ‘loved’ here is past tense, the following verbs need to be, too! Change ‘is’ to ‘was’ for better grammar.
- Singular or Plural? These can get confusing- for example, the sentence “Every coach wants their team to win.” It sounds familiar, since terminology like this is slang, but their is a plural antecedent. Since there’s only one coach, we should use the phrase “his or her”, so the sentence looks like “Every coach wants his or her team to win.”
- False Comparisons. It’s a good idea to underline the items being compared in an SAT sentence, because more often then not, they end up being what we like to call false comparisons: things that don’t actually go together. Take a look at this: “Unlike Emma, who aced the history final, Eric’s test looks like it has more errors than answers.” The sentence sounds right, but it’s actually comparing “Emma” and “Eric’s test”- two completely different things!
- Paired Conjunctions. Some common sets you’ll want to remember include: neither/nor, either/or, not only/but also. Sentences like “The prom dress I liked was not only beautiful, but fit me well.” would be better phrased as “The prom dress I liked was not only beautiful, but also fit me well.”
These are the questions you face after you read passages- typically, you’ll be asked to replace a sentence, identify a theme, or simplify some phrasing. Here are a couple you’ll probably see often:
- Run-on sentences. Run-on sentences are sentences that are composed of two or more independent clauses (that means two or more phrases that could be their own sentence.) and are grammatically incorrect. (Long sentences, in general, tend to be incorrect on the SAT- due to run-on structure, redundancy, and passive voice.) Try breaking them up with a semicolon or conjunction for more clear and concise wording.
- Simplify, Simplify, Simplify. Not only do you want to simplify run-on sentences, but you want to do the same for paragraphs and essays as well. When you’re asked about the main idea- before you read the options- write down a quick, short summary of what you just read. Then you can look for the gist of it in the options.
- Use context clues! Often, your questions will reference lines they relate to. You’ll want to read them, and the sentence before and after. That will help give you a sense of context and what’s really happening in the writing.
- Have a thesis. Don’t assume your grader will know what you’re referred to in that third sentence, or that the labels on your paragraphs are good enough. A thesis gives your essay structure, and makes it appear organized and well-prepared. Usually these will be your first sentence, but they’ll occasionally be found at the end of introductory paragraphs as well.
- Know your examples. You should have three to five real-world examples that you know well ready for the SAT. Try out some catchy, lesser-known historical event you learned in AP World History, talk about the theme of your favorite niche writer’s books, or mention the latest technological event. In any case, don’t rely wholly on anecdotes and avoid the cliches.
- Connect everything to a larger theme. When you’re writing your essay, try to tie all of your examples together somehow. Perhaps in your conclusion paragraph, you’ll discuss how the overarching theme was the power of love, or innovation. Maybe you’ll give away the theme in your introduction. But make sure you have one- you don’t want your beautiful examples to seem arbitrary.
Good luck! And if you need any more help, drop a comment or visit the SAT Habit
for more prep.