Know These Ten Writing Categories on SAT Test Day


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Nov 9, 2012
As you study for the SAT, one of the main areas you will want to focus on is the Writing portion of the test. Review this article as part of your SAT test prep as it covers the 10 Writing categories you want to know cold by test day. The multiple-choice Writing section consists of 49 questions. There are 25 “Correct the Sentence” Questions that require you to edit and repair sentences. There are 18 “Identifying Sentence Error” Questions that (shockingly enough) require you to identify errors (but not correct them.) There are 6 “Correct the Paragraph” Questions that require you read and edit a paragraph. On the majority of tests, at least 42 if not all 43 of the Correct the Sentence and Identifying Sentence Error questions can be labeled as one of the 10 categories we will discuss here. So, if you learn these categories well, you can dominate the multiple-choice writing on the SAT. (1) Subject Errors: Subject errors are QUITE common on the SAT. We will cover specific subject errors in another post, but generally speaking they will consist of things such as me versus I; its versus their; singular versus plural; when to use “one”‘; ambiguous pronouns, etc… (2) Verb Errors: Verb errors are also quite common on the SAT and test you on number (singular versus plural), tense (present versus past versus past-perfect), etc … (3) Transition Errors: Transition errors test your ability to properly link two clauses. You will encounter three main types of transition errors: (a) run-on sentences: Run-on sentences are sentences in which two independent clauses are linked together with improper punctuation. Basically, two complete sentences are connected by a comma rather than a period. ex: Mark is the worst tutor in the United States, all of his students do horribly on the SAT. While this is factually correct, it is grammatically incorrect because it has two complete sentences connected with a comma. They should be connected by a semi-colon or “and” should be added before “all”. (b) fragments: Sentence fragments tend to consist of a group of words that do not form a complete sentence. In the majority of cases they are either lacking a verb or are missing the final portion of the sentence. ex: Mark, the worst tutor in the United States, and all of his students do horribly on the SAT. Again… factually correct, but grammatically incorrect because it is missing a verb. It should be Mark is the worst tutor… (c) illogical links: Transition errors of this kind involve two clauses that are not linked logically. The word used to link the two clauses does not make logical sense. ex: Mark is the worst tutor in the United States, and all of his students do incredibly well on the SAT. That’s just weird. If Mark is the worst tutor in the US, why would his students do well on the SAT? You would need to change the and to but. (4) Modifier Errors: There are two main types of modifier errors: (a) Adjectives vs Adverbs: You are expected to know when to use an adjective and when to use an adverb. Adjective: Used to modify a noun
He is a quick runner. Adverb: Used to modify a verb or adjective. He runs quickly. He is incredibly lucky. (b) Dangling Modifiers: A dangling modifier is a phrase or clause that is not clearly or logically related to the word or words it modifies ex: Walking along the pier, an alligator crept out of the water as we watched. As written here, the alligator was walking along the pier. But, in truth it was the people who were walking along the pier. So it should instead be something along the lines of: Walking along the pier, we watched as an alligator crept out of the water. (5) Parallelism Errors: Parallelism errors are pretty common on the SAT. Generally speaking, when listing a bunch of things, they should be in the same form. ex: In my spare time I enjoy running, eating, and to cry. Ignoring the fact that I like to cry in my spare time, it’s important to note that the verbs should all be in the same form: running, eating, and crying. In addition, there are certain phrases that require parallel form such as not only . . . but also . . . ex: Mark was not only annoying but also disgusting. The words that follow the not only must be in the same form as the words that follow the but also. In this case they are adjectives. (6) Idiom Errors: Idiom errors, along with comparison errors, are among the hardest you will encounter on test day. Errors of idiomatic expression test usage of prepositions. ex: Mark has a tendency of teaching his students incorrect information about the SAT. The phrase tendency of teaching should instead be tendency to teach. (7) Comparison Errors: There are two main types of comparison errors: (a) Number: You are expected to know what words to use when comparing two things and what words to use when comparing three or more things. Two - Three or More
between - among
more - most
less - least
great-er- great-est (b) Illogical comparisons: These are tricky because they test you on your literal interpretation of text. ex: Greek people eat more feta and tomatoes than Turkish people. What is meant here: Greeks eat a lot of feta and tomatoes, Turks do not. What is actually being said: Greeks are cannibals and eat Turkish people. Granted they eat more feta and tomatoes than Turkish flesh, but they eat Turkish flesh. How to fix it: Greek people eat more feta and tomatoes than do Turkish people. The illogical comparison errors are tricky and we will cover these in more detail in a later post. (8) Diction Errors: These do not show up very often, but they are tricky when they do because you simply may not notice them if your guard is down. Diction errors occur when they use the wrong word. For example, they’d say effect instead of affect. Or they might say perspective benefits instead of prospective benefits. (9) Redundancy Errors: These errors occur when they have added in extra words that are not needed. A very common example you might encounter on test day involves the phrase “the reason is because”: ex: The reason I was late is because I was in traffic. Once you say the phrase “the reason” you do not need to say “because”. You can either just say: The reason I was late is that I was in trafficOrI was late because I was in traffic. (10) “Weird” sounding No Errors: This final category describes the sentences that are written correctly but sound “weird” to you ear. These weird sounding no-error questions tend to occur on the hardest questions in the section, which makes perfect sense logically. Questions 9 – 11 and 25 – 29 in the 35-question multiple-choice section and questions 11 – 14 of the 14-question multiple-choice section are the hardest questions. If one of those questions is going to have NO ERROR then it better sound “weird” or else everyone would be able to tell that there is no error. If everyone can tell it is no error, then what is it doing among the hardest questions in the section? So, when a question sounds “weird” to you but not necessarily “wrong,” you should consider where you are in the section and ask yourself if the phrasing that sounds off to you is “wrong” or perhaps just non-standard diction that you are not used to hearing Learn these categories well and as you do your practice SAT exams or practice questions on SATLadder, try to place each writing multiple-choice question into one of these 10 categories. As you do more and more practice questions, you will reach a point where you can categorize a question before you have even finished reading the question and your score will shoot up into the 700s. You will own the writing portion of the SAT. Article Source: Share Bookmark on Delicious Recommend on Facebook Buzz it up Share on Linkedin Share via MySpace Share on Orkut share via Reddit Share on identica Share with Stumblers Share on technorati Tumblr it Tweet about it Print for later Bookmark in Browser