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StrangeCamus's SAT Grammar Guide

StrangeCamusStrangeCamus Registered User Posts: 157 Junior Member
edited November 2013 in SAT Preparation
OK, so as all of us (should) know, the writing portion of the SAT is dominantly grammar. I know some, especially those who have learned English as their second language, have trouble with this portion of the SAT. I've always found grammar to be extremely easy, so I decided to put together a guide on how to tackle the SAT Writing grammr portion.

This is just my method of intrepreting grammar questions. This way may not necessarily work with everyone.

I may use informal grammar in this guide to make it more reader-friendly. I typed this up quickly, so I'll go back and edit/revise if necessary.

The Method:
I've heard a lot of my friends talk about how they get confused about when a sentence is grammatically correct or not. Oftentimes, even a grammatically correct sentence may sound awkward, leading many to mark this "awkward phrase" as the error. In other cases, a phrase may "sound good", but it's not. Sometimes, the awkward phrase is indeed incorrectly written or the "good-sounding" phrase may indeed be right.

But how can you tell?

Parts of Speech:
The test is almost all about the parts of speech and your ability to recognize when they match and when they dont'. It's like a puzzle, in which only certain combinations work. We all know a noun can't modify an adjective. There's no way, but an adjective can certainly modify a noun. Understanding which "combinations" of the parts of speech work is the key to success on SAT grammar.

So, how do I do it?
The best way to handle the grammar portion IMO is to read like a machine. lol now i know that sounds kind of weird, but let me explain.

When you read a grammar question, forget all meaning of the sentence. As you read each word, read the word for what it is (noun, adjective, adverb, etc), not for what it means or connotes.


When my doctor suggested I buy new medicine pills, I gasped at the ridiculously high prices of the ones he showed me.

As you read this question, what went through your mind? A doctor? A patient? Medicine Pills? High Prices? Of course you did, because that's what the sentence is about. But for the SAT Writing grammar portion, you must read differently.

When I said you must read like a machine, what I meant is you must analyze each word for what it is, not for what it means. Do not interpret the meaning of the sentence.
Don't think about the fact that there is a doctor or anything else. Focus on WHAT the words are (almost to the point where you don't know what the sentence itself is saying).

Of course, reading this way will make your reading speed decline, as you have to match every word with its part of speech. But the time limits shouldn't be a problem once you get the hang of "grammar reading".

When we read, the actual meanings of the words tend to create images in our mind of the event or situation the sentence describes. Whether or not you realize it, this distracts you from the main purpose of the questin: to find the grammatical error. Most words have distracting connotations, tones, etc that will only hinder us. For tests such AP Lang. and AP Lit., paying attention to these are important. For SAT Writing, it's useless.

As you read each word, phrase, and clause, keep alert for idiom errors, subject-verb disagreements, misplaced modifiers, etc. Of course, you must study these beforehand. This guide is meant to help those who have already studied all the material and feel they know what there is to know, but they still miss questions.

How to confidently know you have the right answer:
After doing everything up to now, if you still have not spotted any grammatical errors, don't assume there's no error yet! Sometimes, what the SAT test will do is have a grammatically correct sentence, but an illogical event, often created by the use of the wrong word. Grammatically, the sentence structure and every phrase is correct, but inconsistency between the logic of the sentence exists. This may be caused by word choice (e.g. affect v. effect) or just simply a word that doesn't work (e.g., using "enervated" to describe someone being excited)

List of key things to study for SAT grammar (in no particular order):
Subject-verb agreement
Misplaced Modifier
Misused idioms
Tense error
Double negatives
Word choice (e.g., affect v. effect or compliment v. complement)
Dangling Participle

NOTE: I know this sounds a little weird at first, but just follow the steps and your score should improve. (1) Ignore sentence meaning. (2) Peruse carefully for grammatical errors (3) Double Check (4) Triple Check! (5) If no errors, look for logical inconsistency (6) If everything looks good, briefly skim the sentence again to check for grammar or logic issues AGAIN (7) Still nothing? Good, go mark "No error"
Post edited by StrangeCamus on

Replies to: StrangeCamus's SAT Grammar Guide

  • mabsjenbu123mabsjenbu123 Registered User Posts: 2,770 Senior Member
    Read over sparknotes 7 deadly errors

    Do all BB Writing sections

    I did that and got 80 on the m/c in June
  • asdasd Registered User Posts: 381 Member
    just curious... what was your writing SAT score??
  • StrangeCamusStrangeCamus Registered User Posts: 157 Junior Member
    I regularly got 80 on m/c and rarely missed any on practice tests. If i did miss any, it was just one. On the real test, I got 80 on m/c and 11 on the essay, so 800.
  • SnorlaxSnorlax Registered User Posts: 216 Junior Member
    are there any books in particular that you would suggest for learning all the grammar rules and that sort of stuff?
  • StrangeCamusStrangeCamus Registered User Posts: 157 Junior Member
    You should take a look at Grammar Smart. It explains all the rules and gives humorous examples to make them easier to learn.
  • KRNproKRNpro Registered User Posts: 164 Junior Member
    Hey StrangeCamus... if you give me your 800W I'll give you my 800CR
  • mabsjenbu123mabsjenbu123 Registered User Posts: 2,770 Senior Member
    I would love to trade in my 800W for ur 800 CR :)
  • SoothsayerrSoothsayerr Registered User Posts: 85 Junior Member
    Nice guide. Another quick tip is that you should always be careful when a form of the verb "to be" is used--it's usually wrong.
  • StrangeCamusStrangeCamus Registered User Posts: 157 Junior Member

    lol i'd love to trade my 800W for your 800CR too.

    -__- 800m,800w,660 cr....lol
  • StrangeCamusStrangeCamus Registered User Posts: 157 Junior Member

    What do you mean most "to be" forms are wrong? In fact, they're usually correct in my experience. The times when they are wrong are (1) parallelism error, or (2) idiom error.

    Can't really think of other instances, but those should cover them.

    Example of (1): Running is not my favorite form of exercise, but to bike sure is.

    "to bike" must be "biking", to maintain parallelism.

    Example of (2): -eh, can't think of one on the spot- i'll edit this post when i think of one later (busy with stupid college essays :()

    Anyways, if you could explain/expand, thanks.
  • anhtimmyanhtimmy Registered User Posts: 3,257 Senior Member
    EX #2 for StrangeCamus

    Are you capable with doing that?

    The error is "with" since the correct idiom is capable of
  • cjgonecjgone - Posts: 1,520 Senior Member
    Uh, i've seen a being errors which seem to be the hardest to catch.

    Something about an uneccessary use of verbs (redundancy) and an example of something about driving through a snow storm and the verb used was being and it was incorrect because you were driving through the snow storm and not "Being" actually in the snow. :o I've also heard of incorrect prep phrases (Like 2 phrases used after another) and "Because" being colloquial and wrong.

    Oh what's a dangling participle? O_o
  • cjgonecjgone - Posts: 1,520 Senior Member
    I found a "being" example from sparknotes.

    Jenna was awarded the medal not for her academic success or her skill on the soccer field, but for her being a participant in gym class.
  • StrangeCamusStrangeCamus Registered User Posts: 157 Junior Member
    lol thanks anhtimmy.

    cjgone, I think what you're referring to is more of a tense error? Not sure, but could you expain?

    Did it say something like "..being driving through the snow..."?

    There are lots of tense errors, which might be what you're talking about.
    Sentences like....

    Incorrect tense use: Having been hiking 10 miles to the mountain yesterday, I wanted to rest today for the hike back down tomorrow.
    Correct tense use: Having hiked 10 miles to the mountain yesterday, I wanted to rest today for the hike back down tomorrow.
  • cjgonecjgone - Posts: 1,520 Senior Member
    Jenna was awarded the medal not for her academic success or her skill on the soccer field, but for her being a participant in gym class.

    ^what makes this wrong? I can hear this by ear and it's an uneccessary verb, but is there an explanation why?
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