Recently, CollegeBoard drastically altered the format of their SAT Writing and Language Test. Although its striking resemblance to the ACT English Test allows students to prep for both tests simultaneously, the SAT Writing Section is still an intimidating challenge for students. We at Tutopiya have compiled the top ten essential grammar rules to follow when reviewing for the SAT Writing and Language Test. If you review, memorize, and practice the following rules, you’re one step closer to achieving your target score.
1. The Subject and Verb Must Agree in Number
One of the most commonly tested grammar rules in the SAT Writing Section is subject-verb agreement. Simply put, if the subject is singular, there should be a singular verb, and if the subject is plural, there should be a plural verb. Below is a basic example you have probably learnt in school:
Singular: Jack runs down the street. (Jack is a singular subject, and runs is a singular verb)
Plural: Jack and Jill run down the street. (Jack and Jill is a plural subject, and run is a plural verb)
However, the SAT test makers at CollegeBoard do not give out these type of questions as it is too basic. Therefore, you would often find more challenging sentences.
2. Collective Nouns are Singular
To complicate basic subject-verb agreement, the SAT Writing and Language Test often uses things like collective nouns to trick students. For SAT revision, remember that group words used to refer to multiple individuals are singular subjects. For example,
Incorrect: The jury are convinced that John is guilty.
Although the subject jury refers to more than one person, as a collective noun, we take jury as a singular subject.
Correct: The jury is convinced that John is guilty.
Some examples of other collective nouns to look out for are: team, group, committee, crowd, class, and panel. Note that multiple groups (panels, juries, groups, etc.) are used with plural verbs.
3. Prepositional Phrases DO NOT Make a Subject Singular or Plural
One of the most important grammar rules to remember when doing prep for the SAT Writing and Language Test is prepositions are not used when identifying whether or not a subject is plural or singular. Instead, the head noun, or the noun being modified, tells us which verb form to use. Examples of how the SAT uses prepositions are,
Incorrect: The group of members are extremely passionate.
Correct: The group of members is extremely passionate.
Incorrect: The book with five chapters are well written.
Correct: The book with five chapters is well written.
As you can see, if you cross out the prepositional phrase altogether, you can easily identify the subject. In the stress and rush of taking the SATs, prepositional phrases can distract students from simple grammatical errors. By crossing out the prepositional phrase, we quickly simplify the sentence and make the errors more apparent.
4. Pronouns Must be Clear in Reference and Number
On the SAT Writing and Language Test, you should always be able to circle a pronoun and draw an arrow to the exact person, place, or thing being referenced. In your SAT revision, practice connecting pronouns to their nouns. For example,
Even though John was tired, he still went running.
Here, we can see that the he being referenced is John. To test your ability to identify proper pronoun usage, the SAT Writing and Language test often employs ambiguous pronoun (pronouns in the presence of more than one possible noun):
Incorrect: John, Jim, and Carl were running when he got tired and stopped.
Because there is more than one possible he, we cannot logically deduce who got tired and stopped. Instead, a correct answer would be one that specifies a specific individual.
Correct: John,Jim, and Carl were running when Jim got tired and stopped.
Along with using ambiguous pronouns to test your knowledge, the SAT employs sentences in which the pronoun does not agree with the number of nouns being referenced.
Incorrect: The mile times of the students in Jim’s class were higher than that of Carl’s class.
As we learned above, prepositional phrases do not make a subject singular or plural. Here, we cross out the prepositional phrase to clearly see that the pronoun that is used in reference to the noun mile times. Since mile times are a plural subject, the pronoun must also be plural. To correct the error, the sentence should read:
Correct: The mile timesof the students in Jim’s class were higher than those of Carl’s class.
When you review for the SAT Language and Writing Test, remember that I, me, you, she, her, it, and him are singular and we, us, you, they, and them are plural. To make it easier on yourself, whenever you see a pronoun in a question, circle it in the text and draw an arrow to the noun it’s referring to.
7. Commas Separate Main and Subordinate Clauses
A sentence consists of a subject and a predicate. Put more simply, a noun and a verb phrase. The SAT Writing and Language test wants to challenge your knowledge of what constitutes a sentence with something called a comma splice. This occurs when two grammatically complete sentences are combined with just a comma. For example,
Incorrect: Pandas are my favorite animal, they are so cute.
Each of these statements contains a noun (Panda/They) and a verb statement (are my…/are so), and are therefore complete on their own. To correct the error, each main clause must be separated by a period, semicolon, or coordinating conjunction.
Correct: Pandas are my favorite animal. They are so cute.
Correct: Pandas are my favorite animal; they are so cute.
Correct: Pandas are my favorite animal, because they are so cute.
With this knowledge, we can better understand our next essential grammatical rule.
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