If you take a quick survey and ask students seeking a guide to college about the aspect of the SAT test that scares them the most, I’m pretty sure most of the responses you’d get would most likely point to the “Writing section” of the test. And of course, why wouldn’t that be the case? The Writing section of the test tests a lot of grammar concepts and language structure, many of which you may never have heard in your life or else haven’t studied in years. Little wonder why many A-students still fail the SAT despite their excellence in English classes.
But you know what’s quite intriguing about the test? For all its supposed difficulty and perceived trickiness, the test still tests the same concepts year after year, which means that there aren’t that many topics you need to lose sleep over. So, avoiding just a few of the most common mistakes students make is enough to help you score very high in your next SAT attempt.
So now, let’s go through some of these common mistakes one at a time, shall we?
Trying to “listen” for the error
One of the biggest mistakes students make on SAT Writing is assuming they’ll be able to detect errors by ear. While listening to comprehension passages or statements, students channel their focus into catching those words or phrases in a passage that sounds or seems wrong to them. But what many students fail to understand is that SAT English is quite different from our day-to-day spoken English. As such, statements that might have sounded weird in our daily lives might actually be the correct ones in SAT, while the phrases we consider as fine might just be the wrong ones. In order not to fall into these grammatical traps, students are advised to ensure that they practice and understand the key grammar rules tested on and how to approach SAT questions systematically.
Not checking all answer choices before making a decision
Strange as it may sound, there are actually many students on the table. After reading through a question and its first few answer choices, they assume they’ve already found the answer to that question and then neglect the other options with the belief that those remaining answer choices are automatically wrong. Unfortunately, this oversight really hurts their scores. If you haven’t noticed, SAT Writing questions often present more than one answer option that seems correct, and without carefully checking through all the options, one might be tempted to choose the first option that appears correct, even though that’s not the right answer.
Wrong use of Gerunds
It is nothing new in SAT to find students gerund (ing) wrongly, using the –ing verbs wrongly on too many occasions. But if you’re looking to score high on the SAT test, then you really must brush up your gerund usage. That said, you should find these simple gerund-related misconceptions a lot helpful.
- Gerunds aren’t actually verbs; they are nouns
- Gerunds almost always have an error in them. Watch out, especially for “being”
- If you don’t really understand their usage, try and avoid them using them as much as you can
Another common pitfall students find themselves is in the application of pronoun. Yes, you read that well! Pronoun agreement issues have actually hurt many students’ scores more than anything else in recent years. Yes, the simpler ones might actually be easy to spot, like using a “him” for a female reference; but when it gets slightly complex, trust me, it becomes really confusing. You don’t believe that? Ok, let’s try this. For example, which is correct between “every worker must bring their own tools” and “every worker must bring his or her own tools” Well, it is the latter. Don’t even try to overthink this; it is the latter because “worker” is singular, and “their” is plural.
Identifying faulty modifiers
One of the most common topics being tested on the SAT is the concept of dangling modifiers. And the reason why there is so much attention on this topic is because of how difficult it is for students to spot faulty modifiers. Dangling modifiers can be very tricky and confusing to spot because they aren’t obviously incorrect. You read the text over and over again, but it appears perfectly correct, and you begin to wonder whether it is actually incorrect or not. For example, let’s take a look at this, “while tending to the room, a rodent appeared, startling Josy.” Although this sentence seems fine and grammatically correct at first glance, it doesn’t make so much sense. Interpreting the sentence appropriately, and one would discover that it is actually implying that the rodent is tending the room.
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