Silverturtle's Guide to SAT and Admissions Success

<p>Silverturtle's Guide to SAT and Admissions Success</p>

<p>Hello! I hope you find this guide to be helpful for whatever purpose you exploit it.</p>

[<em>]The SAT[list]
[li]Introduction to and Assessment of the Reasoning Test <a href="Posts%202,%203,%204">i</a>[/li][li]General Strategies <a href="5">i</a> [/li][li]The Blue Book and Prep Courses <a href="6">i</a>* [/li][li]Critical Reading[list][/li][</em>]Sentence Completion Questions: Vocabulary <a href="7,%208">i</a>*
[<em>]Passage Questions: Reading Effectively <a href="9,%2010">i</a>* [/ul]
[li]Mathematics[ul][/li][</em>]Learning How to Solve the Questions: Accuracy <a href="11">i</a>*
[<em>]Solving Them Fast and Without Error: Precision <a href="11">i</a>* [/ul]
[li]Writing <a href="Grammar%20guide:%2012,%2013,%2014,%2015">i</a>[ul] [/li][</em>]Improving Sentences: Syntax and Clarity <a href="16">i</a>
[<em>]Identifying Errors: Grammar and Diction <a href="16">i</a>*
[li]Improving Paragraphs: Terse, Logical Communication <a href="16">i</a>* [/li][li]The Essay <a href="16">i</a>* [/ul][/li][</em>]Scoring <a href="17">i</a>* [ul]
[<em>]Calculating the Raw Score<br>
[</em>]From Raw Score to Scaled Score: The Curve[/ul]
[<em>]The SAT's Role in Admissions <a href="See" title="College Admissions">i</a>*
[li]The PSAT <a href="17">i</a>* [ul][/li][</em>]Differences from the SAT
[<em>]National Merit [/ul]
[li]SAT Subject Tests <a href="17">i</a>[ul][/li][</em>]Selecting the Tests<br>
[<em>]Preparing [/ul]
AP Tests* <a href="17">i</a>[/li][li]An Alternative: The ACT <a href="17">i</a>[/list][/li][li]College Admissions[ul][/li][li]There Are No Guarantees—But It's Not Totally Random <a href="18">i</a>* [/li][li]The Cliché That Doesn't Lie: Top Colleges and Holistic Review <a href="18">i</a><br>[/li][li]Test Scores* <a href="18">i</a>* [list][/li][</em>]Sending Scores: Superscoring and Score Choice<br>
[<em>]What Score Do I Need?—Higher Is Better
[li]Should I Retake?—When "Better" Just Isn't Worth It [/ul][/li][li]Your Transcript: The Heart of an Application <a href="18">i</a><br>[/li][li]Standing Out: The **Subjectives* <a href="19">i</a>[ul]<br>[/li][</em>]Extracurriculars: Getting Involved and Being a Leader
[<em>]Awards: Aptitude Beyond the Scores
[</em>]Hooks: They Work
[<em>]Essays and Recommendations Matter [/ul]
[li]Using Your Resources: College Confidential and Decisions Threads <a href="19">i</a>
[/li][li]The Common Application <a href="19">i</a>* [/li][li]Graduate and Professional School Admissions: Some Basic Information <a href="19">i</a>* [/list][/li][li]College Selection <a href="19">i</a>[ul][/li][</em>]Apply to **a Lot of Schools*
[<em>]Consider Specific Departmental Strengths
[</em>]Rankings and Prestige Matter
[<em>]Personal Fit and Quality of Life Matter Even More
[</em>]Visit the Schools<br>
[<em>]Financial Aid [/ul][ul]
[li]About the Author[/li][]Good Luck!*[/ul][/list]</p>

<p>The SAT</p>

<p>Introduction to and Assessment of the Reasoning Test</p>

<p>The Basics</p>

<p>Edging out the newer ACT, the SAT Reasoning Test is the most widely taken standardized college-admissions test. It functions primarily as a factor in admission to American colleges and universities, though it is offered internationally as well. One’s score on the test can also affect his or her eligibility for merit-based scholarships (institutional or otherwise). The test is jointly developed and administered by professionals employed by two non-profit groups: the College Board and the Educational Testing Service (ETS).</p>

<p>Here is an overview of what is on the SAT Reasoning Test (adapted in part from here:">;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>The **Critical Reading<a href="often%20abbreviated%20as%20CR">/b</a> section of the SAT totals 70 minutes in length and comprises 67 questions, of which 48 are passage-based (they test your ability to read effectively) and 19 are sentence-completion questions (these test your applied vocabulary and ability to recognize words’ relationships within a sentence). The CR section breaks these questions into three sections: one of 20 minutes and two of 25 minutes. </p>

<p>The Math section of the SAT is also 70 minutes long and spread out over three sections; likewise, two of these are 25-minutes sections, and one is 20 minutes long. There are 54 questions: 44 multiple-choice questions and 10 free-response (i.e., grid-in) questions.</p>

<p>The SAT Writing section, added in 2005, is a slightly shorter 60 minutes, which is broken into three sections (one 25-minute essay section to commence the test, a 25-minute section, and a refreshingly brief 10-minute section to round out the SAT). There are 25 Improving Sentences questions, 18 Identifying Errors questions, 6 Improving Paragraphs questions, and the essay.</p>

<p>Also including an unscored experimental section of any subject, the SAT totals three hours and 45 minutes in length (plus a couple breaks); part of the test's difficulty comes from the endurance required to maintain focus for this long.</p>

<p>Assessing the SAT</p>

<p>Is the SAT biased against certain groups (e.g., particular gender, races, socioeconomic levels)?</p>

<p>The College Board and ETS take considerable steps to attempt to ensure that the questions serve as accurate assessments of students' ability; see [here[/url</a>] for details on the thorough review process that each question undergoes before it appears on an actual test. There are, however, significant disparities in student performance among certain groups. </p>

<p>Consider, for example, the shockingly strong correlation between SAT score and income level. Broken out by $20,000 intervals, there is an average score increase of 12 points (out of 800) for each section as we move up an income level. This is most pronounced on the SAT Writing section, on which the average score for those with an annual household income under $20,000 is 430 and the average score for those with an annual household income over $200,000 is 560, the 29th and 72nd percentiles, respectively. See [url=<a href=""&gt;]here[/url&lt;/a&gt;] for graphical summaries of the College Board's findings on the SAT-income correlation.</p>

<p>Now, we cannot infer bias from this correlation alone. After all, there is no inherent reason that students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds should not be able to show their skills on the test. However, there are some insurmountable factors that disproportionately disadvantage low-income students with respect to what is tested on the SAT: they are likely less exposed to the upper-level vocabulary tested on the SAT, and they are more likely than high-income students to attend underperforming schools. Another commonly cited explanation for the gap in performance among income levels is that high-income students attend preparatory classes in disproportionately high numbers, thereby giving them an unfair advantage. Indeed, I have no doubt that this is a factor; but, for the most part, it does not need to be. The Official SAT Study Guide is students' most valuable preparatory resource, and it can be [url=<a href=""&gt;]purchased[/url&lt;/a&gt;] for the accessible price of about $13. (More on utilizing that book later.)</p>

<p>Though not nearly as dramatic as the aforementioned income-level score disparity, there are slight differences in performance by gender on the SAT. Males' average score (out of 2400) on the SAT is 1524; that of females is 1496. However, this disparity may merely be the product of the seemingly more self-selecting nature of the male test-taking pool (15% more females take the test). This, though, does not explain the gap that persists (and even exaggerates) at the top end of the scores. In fact, by the time we reach 2400, the gap is quite pronounced: the percentage of male test-takers who receive this perfect composite score is 87 percent greater than the percentage of female test-takers who achieve this feat. (Note that here, as well as in the rest of this guide, I distinguish between percentage points and percent. For example, I would say that 15% is 50% more than 10% but only five percentage points greater.)</p>

<p>This gender-performance gap had been even more pronounced before the introduction of the SAT Writing section; some even cite this as one of the reasons for the section's inclusion on the test. With regard to specific section disparities, here are the facts. On Critical Reading, males average 503, and females average 498; on Math, males average 534, whereas females average 499; on Writing, males average 486, and females average 499. Despite these performance disparities, there is little direct evidence that questions are unfairly biased against a particular gender.</p>

<p>Unfortunately, SAT performance is marked by significant racial performance gaps. Here is a summary of various racial/ethnic groups' average SAT scores (adapted from [url=<a href=""&gt;]here](&lt;a href=""&gt;;/a>
[ul][<em>]The average SAT scores of those self-identifying as African American or Black: Critical Reading, 429; Math, 426; Writing, 421. These sum to 1276 (approximately the 24th percentile).<br>
[</em>]The average SAT scores of those self-identifying as American Indian or Alaskan Native: Critical Reading, 486; Math, 493; Writing, 469. These sum to 1448 (approximately the 44th percentile).
[<em>]The average SAT scores of those self-identifying as Asian or Pacific Islander: Critical Reading, 516; Math, 587; Writing, 520. These sum to 1623 (approximately the 64th percentile).<br>
[</em>]The average SAT scores of those self-identifying as Mexican American: Critical Reading, 453; Math, 463; Writing, 446. These sum to 1362 (approximately the 33rd percentile).
[<em>]The average SAT scores of those self-identifying as Puerto Rican: Critical Reading, 452; Math, 450; Writing, 443. These sum to 1345 (approximately the 31st percentile).
[</em>]The average SAT scores of those self-identifying as another form of Hispanic/Latino: Critical Reading, 455; Math, 461; Writing, 448. These sum to 1364 (approximately the 33rd percentile).
[li]The average SAT scores of those self-identifying as White: Critical Reading, 528; Math, 536; Writing, 517. These sum to 1581 (approximately the 59th percentile).[/ul][/li]Luckily, however, these gaps may be lessening with time.</p>

<p>What does the SAT test? Does it test what I have learned in school, or how smart I am?</p>

<p>Some of both.</p>

<p>In contrast to the ACT's achievement focus, the SAT is foremost an aptitude test. Although there is certainly some overlap, the ACT functions primarily to indicate what has been learned, whereas the SAT serves as an indicator of the test-taker's capacity to learn. </p>

<p>Nonetheless, there are some aspects of the SAT that are indisputably dependent on a student's previous exposure to material, such as the Sentence Completion questions (which usually require that one be familiar with the words being tested) and a few of the Math questions. Even these exceptions, however, are not purely knowledge-based: one's ability to learn and apply vocabulary is influenced by his or her intelligence, and almost every Math question on the SAT can be solved logically or by smartly applying the given equations. In general, very little previous knowledge is actually required for success on the SAT. (Knowing grammar rules for the Writing section is decidedly helpful, though; I discuss and exploit this for your benefit later.) </p>

<p>Indeed, write Case Western Reverse University professors Meredith Frey and Douglas Detterman, the authors of a 2004 study on the relationship between SAT scores and IQ scores:</p>

Overall, the results of these studies support two major findings. First, the SAT is an adequate measure of general intelligence, and second, it is a useful tool in predicting cognitive functioning when other estimates of intelligence are unavailable, too time-consuming, or too costly.


<p>Their study indicated that the correlation between SAT scores and IQ scores may be as high as +.82. Keep in mind, however, that this study was conducted prior to the inclusion of the Writing section; nonetheless, the relationship between the two scores was likely not significantly affected, as the correlation among the sections is very strong. The full study can be read [here[/url</a>].</p>

<p>This might not be fully relevant to this discussion, but I must qualify the above by sharing a post by CCer UT84321 that I read recently:</p>

I have come to think of the SAT I as analogous to specialized drills that a concert pianist might use. The SAT I tests very specialized skills that can be mastered through a combination of talent and effort. They are merely indicators/correlates for the ultimate performance someone is capable of achieving.</p>

<p>So you master the drills by rote repetition and focused practice, with great attention to developing good technique. Some people are able to master the drills on their own, yet others hire teachers to push, correct, and direct them. Some master the drills after 10 practice sessions, others might take dozens. When people say "I don't test well" they are saying they haven't figured out their path to mastering the drills.</p>

<p>Someone could master the drills and never really be a creative and expressive performer. But the majority of the top quality performers are capable of the discipline that both allows and comes from mastering the drills. Hopefully the drills have been designed so that the techniques they demand are foundational to creative performance.</p>

<p>And schools base their admission evaluations on applicants' mastery of these drills because they believe--rightly or wrongly--that it is part of the data that helps them identify students with the potential to perform.</p>

<p>They are drills, and nothing more. They are neither your identity nor your future. And they are certainly not a measure of your self worth.


<p>Does the SAT accurately predict college grades?</p>

<p>Predictably, SAT scores positively correlate with college-freshmen’s grades. The correlation is not as strong as one might expect, however. According a recent College Board study, students’ high-school GPAs correlate slightly better with freshman grades than do any of the SAT’s individual sections. When the sections are summed for a composite out of 2400, the correlation between SAT scores and freshman grades approximately equals that between high-school GPAs and freshman grades. And, as the College Board likes to frequently point out, the best predictor of freshman grades is a combination of high-school GPAs and SAT scores (though the correlation is still only a modest +.62). </p>

<p>So the SAT is not a great predictor of college grades, but we haven't found anything significantly better.</p>

<p>How much do scores change when students retake the SAT?</p>

<p>Not nearly as much as one might think.</p>

<p>I often hear people who assume that their scores will jump about 250-300 points after taking a preparatory course. This is not a safe prediction to rely on. According to a National Association for College Admission Counseling report, the average increases in Math and Critical Reading scores after preparatory courses are 10-20 points and 5-10 points, respectively. Also:</p>

Kathleen Steinberg, a spokeswoman for the College Board, says that on average, students who take the SAT test twice only “increase their scores by about 30 points.”


Moreover, the College Board reports that the reliability coefficient for each section of the SAT is around .90 or higher. For reference (from [url= <a href=""&gt;]here](&lt;a href=""&gt;;/a>

Nunnally and Bernstein (1994) provided guidance in the interpretation of the reliability coefficient by stating that a value of .70 is sufficient for early stages of research, but that basic research should require test scores to have a reliability coefficient of .80 or higher.


<p>But this does not mean that one cannot prepare effectively for the exam (these general statistics are influenced heavily by the many students whose preparatory methods are inefficient), which brings us to the next topic.</p>

<p>General Strategies</p>

<p>(For the most part, these suggestions apply similarly to Subject Tests.) </p>

<p>Approaching the SAT with an Effective Mentality</p>

<p>It’s just you and the test. Try to zone out everything around you, realizing that for the four hours that you take the SAT, the test booklet in front of you is the only thing that matters. </p>

<p>Ignore the consequences. If you’re preoccupied with what might happen if you miss a question, it drastically reduces your ability to focus and successfully answer the question. Put all future consequences out of your mind and try to treat each problem as a fun challenge.</p>

<p>The answers have already been determined. Maybe this is a mere idiosyncrasy, but realizing that the answers are sitting somewhere at the College Board has always helped me. It’s your job to find them. </p>

<p>Visualization Visualizing your taking the test beforehand is quite helpful in facilitating focus and equanimity. </p>

<p>Find the appropriate balance between calmness and arousal. Of course, you do not want to be panicked during the SAT. But this should not be taken too far: a moderate level of arousal is necessary to keep your concentration and pace. There is no general rule here; experiment with various levels of arousal and techniques to achieve and maintain that, and go with what works for you. (See [this[/url</a>] for more on the delicate arousal-performance relationship.)</p>

<p>Don't harbor negative feelings toward the test. Such an attitude makes you do badly.</p>


<p>With regard to sleep the night before the test and what one should eat the morning of the test, there is likewise no meaningful, generally applicable rule. Instead, each test-taker should go with what feels right for him or her. However, there are a few helpful guiding principles: you'll probably want to eat what you normally eat (except perhaps if you do not ordinarily eat breakfast); get some sleep, but do not oversleep (it may be better to receive a slightly less-than-ideal amount of sleep than to have overslept). Also, you’ll probably wake up at least 90 minutes prior to the administration of the test so that you can become more alert.</p>

<p>Here are the items that you will want to have with you when you take the test (adapted in part from [url=<a href=""&gt;]here](&lt;a href=""&gt;;/a>
[ul][<em>]Your admission ticket, which you should have printed.<br>
[</em>]No. 2 non-mechanical pencils with erasers. The College Board recommends bringing two, but that seems like too few to me. I would go with at least four; better safe than sorry.
[<em>]A photo ID. This one is often overlooked by students. If you don’t have a photo ID with you, you will not be allowed to take the test.
[</em>]An acceptable calculator. Almost every common calculator is acceptable on the SAT (except those with QWERTY keyboards). Unlike the ACT, the SAT does allow test-takers to use the TI-89. If you are comfortable with graphing calculators, bring one, as they are occasionally helpful in solving difficult questions in unconventional ways. If, though, graphing calculators are mostly foreign to you, do not use the night before the test to familiarize yourself with a new calculator. And don't bother saving vocabulary lists to your calculator's memory: calculators are, of course, allowed on only the Math section.
[li]Familiarize yourself with a silent watch with a timer prior to test day. You do not want to have to rely on the testing center's clock.[/ul] </p>[/li]
<p>Omitting Questions</p>

<p>Because I lose points for incorrectly answering questions as opposed to omitting them, when should I guess on questions that I'm not sure about?</p>

<p>The oft-cited advice is that, as long as you can eliminate one or more possible answer choices, guessing is your best bet. Indeed, given the deduction of .25 points for each incorrect answer (minus 1.25 with respect to opportunity cost), one should theoretically come ahead if he or she guesses after eliminating one choice (a 25% chance). There are some exceptions to this rule, though. </p>

<p>There are some times when you should guess more liberally than that principle suggests. Very rarely do students truly have no idea about which of the choices is correct. By analyzing patterns in the answers, for example, one could probably get about 25% of Math questions right even without knowing the questions. However, this is most applicable on the SAT only if you are not aiming for a high score or on AP tests* (on which the threshold for a perfect score is relatively low); it is fine if one misses quite a few questions in those situations. </p>

<p>On the other extreme, there are some special considerations that should also result in especially liberal guessing. If you are doggedly aiming for a perfect score on Math, answer every question (missing one almost never results in 800), even if you have to blindly guess. Similarly, if you are looking for a perfect score on Critical Reading, answer every question; there are no exceptions to this rule. Why? On almost every testing administration, -2 raw points was the cutoff for 800 on CR. Because it takes three incorrect guesses to result in an actual loss of a raw point (the College Board rounds .5 in your favor and only works in integers), there is no difference between two incorrect responses and two omissions. </p>

<p>There are, in contrast, some situations in which you should be very conservative with your guesses. These appear mostly on the Subject Tests, most notably Math Level 2 (which generally has a predictable curve of either 43/50 or 44/50, in raw scores, for 800). When taking the test, you should proceed under the assumption that 44 will be the cutoff. For example, if, when you finish your initial run through the test, you are uncertain about two questions that you answered and have thus far left four blank, you should strategically choose to not answer those four questions (even if you are somewhat confident in your answers). Even if you missed both of those questions about which you were uncertain, you will still get 800 (with 44/50). However, if you choose to answer one of the otherwise omitted questions and miss it, your raw score will drop to 43/50, thereby jeopardizing the 800.</p>

<p>Also note that you do not lose points for incorrectly answering the free-response questions in the Math section, so there is never a reason to omit these. This exception is understandable, as the deduction is meant to be a correction for random guessing. </p>

<p>Pacing is one of the most important aspects in achieving SAT success. It is impossible to effectively verbalize the characteristics of a successful pace (as it varies person-to-person), so you will need to experiment with practice tests.</p>

<li>I have recently learned that the College Board may be eliminating the guessing penalty for AP tests. If this turns out to be true, omitting on those tests would, of course, be unwise.</li>

<p>Pacing is one of the most important aspects in achieving SAT success. Unfortunately, it is impossible to effectively verbalize the characteristics of a successful pace (as it varies person-to-person), so you will need to experiment with practice tests.</p>

<p>The Blue Book and Prep Courses</p>

<p>The Best Route</p>

<p>The College Board publishes its own preparatory book for the SAT, *The Official SAT Study Guide<a href="often%20referred%20to%20as%20%5Bi%5DThe%20Blue%20Book%5B/i%5D">/i</a>. The [First[/url</a>] Edition of this book came out in 2004, in preparation for the first administration of the new SAT in 2005. Released in July 2009, the [url=<a href=""&gt;]Second[/url&lt;/a&gt;] Edition comprises ten tests; most of these were in the original book, though.</p>

<p>If you are preparing for the SAT, you need this book (either edition is acceptable with respect to the actual practice tests, but the Second Edition is highly preferable because it has corresponding official solutions online). It will surely prove to be your most valuable preparatory resource: it is the only guide whose tests were written by the same people who will be writing the actual SAT that you take (in fact, the first three tests in The Blue Book were previously administered). Because much of preparing for the SAT (especially with respect to the Critical Reading section) is getting a sense of how the College Board and ETS write their questions and what the proper thought processes are in order to arrive at their answers, no other company's practice tests will hold nearly as much value—they may even throw you off by presenting questions that are not the same in type, content, or difficulty as those on the actual SAT. </p>

<p>There are, however, some successful SAT-takers who have claimed that other companies' tests were valuable when they ran out of Blue Book tests; in particular, the other companies’ Math sections are known to be fairly reliable (Critical Reading is difficult to reproduce). I recommend turning to other tests only when you have exhausted the College Board's official resources and you feel that you still have room for improvement. Just make sure that you do not use those tests as meaningful indicators of what you will score on the actual SAT, as unofficial tests vary wildly in difficulty (most tend to be harder, though). The Princeton Review's practice [url=<a href=""&gt;]tests[/url&lt;/a&gt;] seem to be the most well-received of the unofficial tests and may be the most accurate in indicating how you will score on the actual SAT. Nevertheless, I must reiterate: The Blue Book is by far the most valuable source for practice tests. In fact, aside from Direct Hits<a href="which%20I%20will%20touch%20on%20soon">/i</a> and this guide (which I truly hope is helpful), *The Blue Book may be the only resource that you need to realize your potential on the SAT.</p>

<p>There is another potentially helpful source of official tests: [url=<a href=""&gt;]The&lt;/a> Official SAT Online Course](<a href=""&gt; I have not personally tried this out, but most people have positive things to say about it as an alternative when The Blue Book has been fully exploited. Additionally, I have been told that some high schools freely offer this course to interested students; consult your guidance counselors. Signing up for the College Board’s free SAT Question of the Day is not a bad idea either. You can find an archive of some of those Questions of the Day [url=<a href=""&gt;]here[/url&lt;/a&gt;]. </p>

<p>Also, the College Board releases a practice test each year. Here are the recently released tests: [url=<a href=""&gt;]2008[/url&lt;/a&gt;], [url=<a href=""&gt;]2009[/url&lt;/a&gt;], and [url=<a href=""&gt;]2010[/url&lt;/a&gt;]. The links include the answers.</p>

<p>For some test dates you can order a Question-Answer Service packet. This is mailed a couple months after you take the test and includes the test that you took plus the answer and difficulty level for each question.</p>

<p>How can I get the most out of The Blue Book*?*</p>

<p>The actual strategies in The Blue Book are not very helpful (which is why I have created this guide), so it is perfectly fine to jump straight into the practice tests. However, do not feel compelled to time yourself right away; instead, go through the sections carefully and spend as much time as you need to in order to feel confident that you have answered the questions as well as you can. You need to first get your question-answering skills down before you move on to working quickly. </p>

<p>Once you finish a section and check your answers, go back to the section and attempt to figure out on your own why you missed the questions that you did. After you have done this as well as you can (sometimes you might not be able to rationalize an answer, and that is OK), go [url=<a href=""&gt;]here[/url&lt;/a&gt;] and check the official solutions provided by the College Board for every question that you missed or were even somewhat unsure about. The biggest mistake that people make when going through practice tests is that they feel too rushed to get a test done and move on; they erroneously equate the number of questions that they have answered to how well they have prepared. You can get a lot out of even one test if you take the time to understand why you missed each question and how to approach it correctly. On Math questions, for example, do not just glance at the solutions and tell yourself Oh, I can solve those now. Instead, take the time to understand how you would solve similar questions and then retry the problems another day when the explicit memory of the solutions has faded—hopefully, the implicit memory of the skills that you acquired to solve the problems is retained. </p>

<p>Once you are comfortable to move on to timed sessions, do so; ideally, this is no more than three or four practice tests into The Blue Book. Even at this point, though, do not just forget about the questions that you could not get in time. Once time is up, make note of how you would have scored but continue working as long as you need to in order to ensure that each question is answered to the best of your abilities. Hopefully, the period required for this eventually reaches the time that you are allotted. In this way, the time limit will not be a major stressor when taking the SAT, as you have eased into it while still being aware of it. Some successful test-takers even like to reduce the time that they give themselves to below what is ordinarily given, so that they have a cushion when they are taking the real thing. (For others, that practice of reducing the time is unhelpful, however, as it can lead to habits of careless rushing; see what works for you.) This worked very well for me: I was finishing sections in less than half the given time near the end of my preparation; and I was thus able to take my time and be very meticulous during the actual SAT, thereby almost completely precluding the possibility of a "silly mistake." (And it worked, as I got every question correct.)</p>

<p>Though rather clich</p>

<p>Critical Reading</p>

<p>The Critical Reading section of the SAT makes up one-third of your total composite score (800 out of 2400). In 2005, it replaced the Verbal section of the old SAT. Here is the run-down that I gave in the introductory section:

The **Critical Reading<a href="often%20abbreviated%20as%20CR">/b</a> section of the SAT totals 70 minutes in length and comprises 67 questions, of which 48 are passage-based (they test your ability to read effectively) and 19 are sentence-completion questions (these test your applied vocabulary). The CR section breaks these questions into three sections: one of 20 minutes and two of 25 minutes.


<p>There are three main types of passage-based questions: short passage questions (off of which there are typically just a couple questions), long-passage questions, and dual-passage questions (which require more comparative reading and synthesizing of information on your part).</p>

<p>Sentence Completion Questions</p>

<p>These questions test applied vocabulary. I say "applied" because the questions do not merely ask the definitions of words; they require that you, using your knowledge of the words' definitions, select the most appropriate word in the context of the sentence. Basically, if you know the definitions of the words that are on the test and you have an understanding of syntax, you will get all the questions on this section correct. </p>

<p>First, let's tackle the syntax element. syntax generally refers to the relationship of the various phrases and clauses of a sentence. In order to understand what meaning is most appropriate in the blank, you must understand how the sentence is put together—this will allow you to know which words the word that you are looking for should semantically (i.e., with respect to meaning) differ from or agree with. Consider the following sentence:</p>

<p>Instead of cautiously walking through the apple-tree forest, George carelessly ran through it</p>

<p>The trigger word here is "Instead," which signals to us that the second part of the sentence will convey a message that differs from that communicated in the first part of the sentence. Therefore, we know that whatever words were chosen to modify "walking" or "ran," they have to mean roughly opposite things. Indeed, if either blue word were omitted, you could probably arrive at a near synonym to that in the above sentence. This is what you will have to do on the SAT, but usually with more-esoteric words. Here is one more example:</p>

<p>Bob, who welcomed all his fellow mice in for dinner almost every night, was praised as one of the most hospitable in his community.</p>

<p>We cannot rely so readily on grammatical symmetries for this sentence (e.g., adverb cautiously vs. adverb carelessly). Nonetheless, all the contextual information that we need is contained within the sentence. If we were asked to fill in the blank where "hospitable" now sits, in order to describe Bob, we would have to use the only information that the sentence gives us about him: he is welcoming. Thus, whatever we put in the blank needs to mean something to that effect.</p>

<p>On the test, there will also be some questions with two blanks. These should be approached in the same way, as they are fundamentally no different from single-blank questions. In fact, they may even be easier: if you can eliminate either of the choices for an answer, you know that it is incorrect.</p>

<p>PRACTICE #1</p>

<p>Try out these questions; I have provided links to all of the words' definitions in case you do not know any of them. I recommend that you answer all the questions in a section before reading the answers and my explanations, which appear after each section. </p>

<p>1. Deer overbrowsing has dramatically reduced plant ------ in many eastern United States forests; the few surviving plant species are those that regrow quickly or that deer find ------.</p>

<p>(A) [dominance[/url</a>] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]edible[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(B) [url=<a href=""&gt;]longevity[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]nutritious[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(C) [url=<a href=""&gt;]diversity[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]unpalatable[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(D) [url=<a href=""&gt;]mortality[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]inaccessible[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(E) [url=<a href=""&gt;]disease[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]toxic[/url&lt;/a&gt;]&lt;/p>

<p>2. The teacher unabashedly used ------, flattering his students in an attempt to coax them to ----- research projects for extra credit.</p>

<p>(A) [url=<a href=""&gt;]subterfuge[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]suppress[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(B) [url=<a href=""&gt;]coercion[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]accept[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(C) [url=<a href=""&gt;]innuendo[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]synthesize[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(D) [url=<a href=""&gt;]cajolery[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]undertake[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(E) [url=<a href=""&gt;]chicanery[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]glorify[/url&lt;/a&gt;]&lt;/p>

<p>3. No ------ the case exists: in reaching a decision, the court is bound to break new ground.</p>

<p>(A) [url=<a href=""&gt;]interest[/url&lt;/a&gt;] in
(B) [url=<a href=""&gt;]demand[/url&lt;/a&gt;] for
(C) [url=<a href=""&gt;]precedent[/url&lt;/a&gt;] for
(D) [url=<a href=""&gt;]authentication[/url&lt;/a&gt;] of
(E) [url=<a href=""&gt;]record[/url&lt;/a&gt;] of</p>

<p>4. Her actions did nothing but good, but since she performed them out of self-interest, they could not be called ------.</p>

<p>(A) [url=<a href=""&gt;]altruistic[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(B) [url=<a href=""&gt;]placatory[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(C) [url=<a href=""&gt;]benign[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(D) [url=<a href=""&gt;]fortuitous[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(E) [url=<a href=""&gt;]punctilious[/url&lt;/a&gt;]&lt;/p>

<p>5. Max Roach is regarded as a ------ of modern jazz drumming because he was one of the first artists to ------ the melodic, rather than merely rhythmic, possibilities of his instrument.</p>

<p>(A) [url=<a href=""&gt;]pioneer[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]mimic[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(B) [url=<a href=""&gt;]progenitor[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]exploit[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(C) [url=<a href=""&gt;]devotee[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]jettison[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(D) [url=<a href=""&gt;]chronicler[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]explore[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(E) [url=<a href=""&gt;]forebear[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]repudiate[/url&lt;/a&gt;]&lt;/p>


<p>I have indicated what the College Board deems to be the difficulty level of each question (1-5, where 5 is most difficult).</p>

<p>1. C (3)</p>

<p>Initially, look at the first word in each pair to see whether it fits. Because there are "few surviving plant species," we know that whatever was reduced has to do directly with the plants' existence (as opposed to their death). Only choices (A), (B), and (C) fit this requirement, so we can disregard choices (D) and (E). We know that the plants that survived were not eaten by the deer, so whatever we choose for the second blank must indicate why they were not eaten. "edible" and "nutritious" do not work, because they would make the food more likely to be eaten. Thus, (C) must be the answer; even if you did not know the definition of unpalatable, you could have figured out the answer by process of elimination.</p>

<p>2. D (3)</p>

<p>Whatever goes in the first blank must be something similar to "coaxing with flattery." "cajolery" works the best for that meaning, so check the other word in that pair, "undertake." That fits as well. (D) must, therefore, be the answer.</p>

<p>3. C (3)</p>

<p>The only meaningful information that we are given is that no similar case has yet occurred. Because the word in the blank is being negated, we know that whatever the answer is must have to do with there being a previous analogous occurrence. "precedent for" fits perfectly.</p>

<p>4. A (4)</p>

<p>Pay careful attention to how the sentence is constructed. The first clause (i.e., "Her actions did nothing but good") is linked to the second part of the sentence (which includes a dependent clause and an independent clause) by the coordinating conjunction "but." Therefore, "they could not be called ------" must semantically contrast with "Her actions did nothing but good." The latter clause has a positive meaning; the clause that we are to complete must thus have a negative meaning. However, because the word that we are to choose is negated within that clause, it will be a positive word, thereby rendering the clause negative in effect. More specifically, it will be a word that agrees with the idea that she is good and that she does things selflessly. "altruistic" fits.</p>

<p>That explanation may be somewhat intimidating, but I was merely attempting to parse the thought processes that would go into analyzing that question. For many of you, these would go through your mind quite quickly.</p>

<p>5. B (5)</p>

<p>This question gets a difficulty rating of 5 not for its syntactic complexity but for its relatively challenging vocabulary. The sentence makes it clear that Max Roach laid the foundation for modern jazz by being the first to do something. "pioneer," "progenitor," and "forebear" all communicate something to that effect. Neither "mimic" nor "repudiate" logically fits in the second blank (one is not likely to mimic or repudiate possibilities), so (B) must be the answer.</p>

<p>One additional tip: I recommend carefully but swiftly reading through each sentence with the words that you selected as the answers after you have gone through all Sentence Completion questions for that section. Reading them through later helps because you may no longer be as influenced by a minor detail that you had been focusing on and will then see the big picture of the sentence.</p>

<p>PRACTICE #2</p>

<p>Here are some more practice questions. I am attempting to avoid pulling from any of the Blue Book material so that you can use that on your own. Answers are again below; but I will omit explanations this time, as Sentence Completion questions are generally straightforward with respect to understanding them once one knows the words' definitions (which I again link to).</p>

<p>1. Since codfish are ------ part of the marine ecosystem, their ----- would adversely affect the animals who depend on them as a source of food.</p>

<p>(A) a [url=<a href=""&gt;]negligible[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]migration[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(B) a [url=<a href=""&gt;]vital[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]existence[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(C) a [url=<a href=""&gt;]compatible[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]proximity[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(D) an [url=<a href=""&gt;]integral[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]extinction[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(E) an [url=<a href=""&gt;]inexplicable[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]eradication[/url&lt;/a&gt;]&lt;/p>

<p>2. The gifted child-poet Minou Drouet, hailed in the 1950s as an artistic ------, now lives in relative ------, enjoying a privacy unavailable to her as a child.</p>

<p>(A) [url=<a href=""&gt;]paragon[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]opulence[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(B) [url=<a href=""&gt;]dilettante[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]oblivion[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(C) [url=<a href=""&gt;]prodigy[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]anonymity[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(D) [url=<a href=""&gt;]guru[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]passivity[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(E) [url=<a href=""&gt;]charlatan[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]seclusion[/url&lt;/a&gt;]&lt;/p>

<p>3. The legislator is known on the Capitol Hill for his oratorical spontaneity, his ability to deliver ------ speech.</p>

<p>(A) an [url=<a href=""&gt;]enigmatic[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(B) an [url=<a href=""&gt;]abrasive[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(C) an [url=<a href=""&gt;]impromptu[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(D) a [url=<a href=""&gt;]meticulous[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(E) a [url=<a href=""&gt;]lackluster[/url&lt;/a&gt;]&lt;/p>

<p>4. She was ------, remaining assured and self-controlled even in the most volatile of situations.</p>

<p>(A) [url=<a href=""&gt;]ungainly[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(B) [url=<a href=""&gt;]autocratic[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(C) [url=<a href=""&gt;]unflappable[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(D) [url=<a href=""&gt;]egotistical[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(E) [url=<a href=""&gt;]demonstrative[/url&lt;/a&gt;]&lt;/p>

<p>5. The delegates' behavior at the convention was utterly disgraceful and fully deserving of the ------ it provoked.</p>

<p>(A) [url=<a href=""&gt;]rancor[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(B) [url=<a href=""&gt;]lethargy[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(C) [url=<a href=""&gt;]commiseration[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(D) [url=<a href=""&gt;]forbearance[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(E) [url=<a href=""&gt;]compunction[/url&lt;/a&gt;]&lt;/p>

<p>6. Gwen's ambitious desert hike was impeded by the heat that sapped her strength and resolve, leaving her ------ and ------.</p>

<p>(A) [url=<a href=""&gt;]disoriented[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]unerring[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(B) [url=<a href=""&gt;]dexterous[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]circumspect[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(C) [url=<a href=""&gt;]dehydrated[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]dissolute[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(D) [url=<a href=""&gt;]feverish[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]resilient[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(E) [url=<a href=""&gt;]debilitated[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]disheartened[/url&lt;/a&gt;]&lt;/p>

<p>7. Because of their spare, white appearance, ancient Greek statues in modern museums are often considered ------; yet newly unearthed antiquities showing traces of bright pigment are not so ------.</p>

<p>(A) [url=<a href=""&gt;]plain[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]ornate[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(B) [url=<a href=""&gt;]elaborate[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]spartan[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(C) [url=<a href=""&gt;]ostentatious[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]vivid[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(D) [url=<a href=""&gt;]austere[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]unadorned[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(E) [url=<a href=""&gt;]commonplace[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]unattainable[/url&lt;/a&gt;]&lt;/p>

<p>8. Former news anchor Dan Rather had ------ for colorful ------: for example, he once described a political race as "Spandex tight."</p>

<p>(A) a [url=<a href=""&gt;]distaste[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]aphorisms[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(B) a [url=<a href=""&gt;]knack[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]epistles[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(C) a [url=<a href=""&gt;]penchant[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]locutions[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(D) a [url=<a href=""&gt;]yen[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]paradigms[/url&lt;/a&gt;]
(E) an [url=<a href=""&gt;]antipathy[/url&lt;/a&gt;] .. [url=<a href=""&gt;]euphemisms[/url&lt;/a&gt;]&lt;/p>


<p>1. D (3)</p>

<p>2. C (3)</p>

<p>3. C (3)</p>

<p>4. C (3)</p>

<p>5. A (4)</p>

<p>6. E (4)</p>

<p>7. D (5)</p>

<p>8. C (5)</p>


<p>For most students, the factor most limiting of their capacity to do well on the Sentence Completion questions is vocabulary. As you could probably discern from the previous questions, some of the vocabulary tested on the SAT is not commonplace among most teenagers' conversations. One way to build a robust vocabulary is to read a lot and look up any new words that you encounter. This is a great lifelong habit and will likely yield the most organic lexicon.</p>

<p>However, the most effective way to build a vocabulary that will help you on the SAT is to memorize words from books made especially for the test. Because the English language comprises so many words (hundreds of thousands), there is, of course, no way to ensure that you will know every word that will appear on your administration of the SAT. Nonetheless, rest assured: words on the SAT are not randomly selected from the Oxford English Dictionary; the selections are actually somewhat predictable. Preparatory companies exploit this by compiling word lists that are actually manageable in their brevity but helpful in their coverage.</p>

<p>The most efficient source is *Direct Hits Volumes [url=<a href=""&gt;]1[/url&lt;/a&gt;] and [url=<a href=""&gt;]2](&lt;a href=""&gt;[/i&lt;/a&gt;]. The books do not include many words, but they are very well-chosen and accompanied by interesting blurbs to help students better remember them. Everyone who takes the SAT should know the words in these books.</p>

<p>Once you have completed Direct Hits, additional vocabulary preparation may not be worth the opportunity cost. But if you are still hungry for more words, there are several extensive lists out there, including this 1,000-word [url=<a href=""&gt;]list[/url&lt;/a&gt;] and this 5,000-word [url=<a href=""&gt;]list[/url&lt;/a&gt;]. (Keep in mind that there will be considerable overlap among these lists.)</p>

<p>One of the best ways to approach these lists is to make one run through the books while writing down all words that are foreign to you and their definitions onto flash cards. From that point, you can go through just the words that you do not know, which helps to save time.</p>

<p>If you have a solid foundational vocabulary before you tackle Direct Hits, you will be well-prepared for the Sentence Completion questions after going through the books; expect to consistently get between 18 and 19 out of 19 on the section. (There are occasionally some difficult words that appear in the passages and their corresponding questions, so this vocabulary preparation will help you there too.)</p>

<p>Passage-Based Questions</p>

<p>These questions test your ability to, indeed, read critically. Unlike the ACT Reading section, whose questions' answers are largely pulled almost word-for-word from the text, the SAT Critical Reading section's passage-based questions strike, in my opinion, a perfect balance between overly subjective and ambiguous questions and those of the type that the ACT has. The reasoning mentality and the strategy with which you approach the questions are perhaps more important with passage-based questions than with any others on the SAT. Only with examples can you get a meaningful sense of how you need to think in order to consistently answer these questions correctly, yet one rule is paramount: every correct answer will be supported by the text. Keep this in mind at all times when answering passage-based questions on the SAT.</p>

<p>Here is a delineation of my process for approaching passages on the SAT:
[ul][<em>]I go immediately to the questions and find any line numberings.<br>
[</em>]Very quickly, I mark these lines in the corresponding passage. These first two steps should not take more than 10-15 seconds.
[<em>]I then begin to read the passage—focus and speed are crucial here. Obviously, you need to move very quickly, but do not go so fast that you cannot comprehend what you are reading.<br>
[</em>]When you begin to approach a marked section, go to the corresponding question and read it. Then read the marked section and see whether you can answer the question at that time. If not, move on.
[li]Continue this until the end of the passage. At that time, go to any unanswered questions; these are usually general tone or purpose questions, or ones that require comparing or contrasting aspects of two passages. Because you have read through the entirety of the passage, you should know exactly where to look.[/li][/ul]
Once I refined my execution of this method, I was consistently finishing each section in less than half the allotted time without sacrificing accuracy. Nonetheless, there are successful test-takers who use slightly different methods. Give my method a try; if it doesn’t work out, don’t feel compelled to stick with it. </p>

<p>Finding the optimal pace at which you read the passages is crucial. Doing practice tests will help you to find this pace, and it will likewise increase the pace at which you can read for understanding. Another great way to increase your pace without sacrificing your accuracy is to make yourself acutely interested in the passage. Your brain will process information that it deems unimportant relatively slowly. You must therefore make yourself think that what you are reading is extremely interesting and, in turn, important. Such an attitude will heighten your arousal and, with practice, it need not simultaneously make you more nervous. Hang on to every word; you will understand and remember more in a shorter period of time. Some people find visualizing what is described by the passage to be helpful. </p>

<p>Some guides suggest making notes about the text on your exam booklet, such as summaries of what is going on or thoughts on the author's purpose. Integrating this process into your thinking is fine; actually writing these things down, though, is probably too time-consuming.</p>

<p>A lot of what I mentioned in the "How can I get the most out of The Blue Book?" section applies very much to improving on the passage-based questions.</p>

<p>PRACTICE #3</p>

<p>Try these dual short-passage questions. Answers and explanations are below. (*** indicates that a line reference would normally appear.)</p>

<p>Passage 1
Being funny has no place in the workplace and can easily wreak havoc on an otherwise blossoming career. Of course, laughter is necessary in life. But if you crack jokes and make snide remarks at work, you will eventually not be taken seriously by others. You will be seen as someone who wastes time that could better be spent discussing a project or an issue. Additionally, many corporate-minded individuals do not have the time to analyze comments with hidden meanings—they will take what you say as absolute and as an accurate representation of your professionalism in the workplace.</p>

<p>Passage 2
Are we now compelled, as a culture, to be comical, no matter the setting or the endeavor? And if so, what on earth gave rise to this troubling idea? One possible culprit may be corporate America itself, where being funny is now seen as a valuable asset. Fortune 500 companies dole out big fees to comedy consultants who offer humor seminars and improv workshops—all in the name of improved productivity. But how exactly are funnier employees better for business? According to Tim Washer, a former improv performer who is now a communications executive at IBM, funniness helps foster team-building and, of course, learning how to "think outside the box."</p>

<p>1. Lines * of Passage 1 ("But if...workplace") serve primarily to</p>

<p>(A) provide a creative solution to an ongoing problem
(B) mock a particular way of behaving
(C) outline the consequences of particular actions
(D) suggest a more tolerant approach
(E) criticize a common practice</p>

<p>2. In Passage 2, the author's attitude toward the value of "comedy consultants" (line *) is best described as </p>

<p>(A) fascination
(B) approval
(C) ambivalence
(D) skepticism
(E) hostility</p>

<p>3. Tim Washer (lines *, Passage 2) would most likely respond to the author of Passage 1 by</p>

<p>(A) arguing that humorous employees can help to create a more productive work environment
(B) suggesting that corporate executives spend more time analyzing humorous comments
(C) agreeing that humor can harm the careers of ambitious corporate employees
(D) challenging the assertion that laughter is necessary in life
(E) disagreeing that humor occurs regularly in the workplace</p>

<p>4. Both authors would agree with which of the following statements?</p>

<p>(A) Workplace culture has gradually changed over time.
(B) Consultants can help employees learn how to succeed professionally.
(C) Humorous employees are usually popular.
(D) Humor is not appropriate in all situations.
(E) Humor is not valued by corporate executives.</p>


<p>1. C </p>

<p>Let's look at each of the options.</p>

<p>(A) Although he is opposed to humor in the workplace, the author of Passage 1 does not indicate that it is an ongoing problem, nor does he provide a creative solution to it.</p>

<p>(B) Whenever you see a strong word in one of the choices, you must take special care to ensure that the word's connotation is supported by the language and tone of the passage. In this case, mock is that strong word. This choice is not supported by the text, as the author is merely objectively explaining what happens to people who employ humor in the workplace. Now, the author does hint at the possibility that coworkers may mock employees who attempt to be humorous ("you will eventually not be taken seriously by others"). The author himself or herself, however, is not mocking the behavior.</p>

<p>(C) The author is indeed outlining the consequences of being humorous in the workplace.</p>

<p>(D) The only suggestion that the author is making is that employees should not be humorous in the workplace, which he supported by outlining the consequences of such behavior.</p>

<p>(E) This is an attractive answer, but it is not exactly correct. The author does not indicate that workplace humor is common. Moreover, despite the fact that the consequences that the author is outlining in the referenced lines would support a criticism of workplace humor, the author is not explicitly criticizing it here; he is saying that bad things will happen to people who "crack jokes" in the workplace. Recognizing these somewhat subtle distinctions is integral to consistently correctly answering the harder questions.</p>

<p>2. D</p>

<p>The opening of the passage is most telling of the author's attitude:</p>

Are we now compelled, as a culture, to be comical, no matter the setting or the endeavor? And if so, what on earth gave rise to this troubling idea? One possible culprit...


<p>Note the questions and the diction (e.g., "troubling," "culprit"). The author is clearly not fascinated or approving of workplace humor (there go choices (A) and (B)). He or she is, rather, uncertain of its role but is clearly leaning toward an opposed position. skepticism best describes this attitude. </p>

<p>Another strong word appears here: hostility. Though clearly not fully accepting of the justifications of humor's role in corporate America, the author exhibits a tone that is not nearly aggressive enough to provide support for this choice.</p>

<p>3. A</p>

<p>This question is pretty straightforward. Tim Washer is supportive of workplace humor because it "fosters team building" and facilitates "thinking outside the box." Only choice (A) is inconsistent with this mentality.</p>

<p>4. D</p>

<p>Evaluate each statement from each author's perspective.</p>

<p>(A) The author of Passage 2 implies with the early use of "now" that workplace culture has changed. But Passage 1's author makes no reference (explicit or implicit) to any change over time. </p>

<p>(B) Passage 1's author does not mention consultants.</p>

<p>(C) Passage 1's author does not mention popularity.</p>

<p>(D) Passage 1's author is opposed to humor in the workplace, so he or she would agree. Passage 2's author calls the idea that humor may be appropriate "no matter the setting" "troubling." He or she would also agree.</p>

<p>(E) The author of Passage 1 would agree, but the author of Passage 2 writes, "...corporate America, where being funny is now seen as a valuable asset."</p>

<p>PRACTICE #4</p>

<p>Questions 1-2 are based on the following passage.</p>

<p>From the earliest times, the complications inherent in deciphering the movements of planets in the night sky must have seemed a curse to baffled astronomers. In the long run, though, they proved a blessing to the development of cosmology, the study of the physical universe. Had the celestial motions been simple, it might have been possible to explain them solely in terms of the simple, poetic tales that had characterized the early cosmologies. Instead, these motions proved to be so intricate and subtle that astronomers could not predict them accurately without eventually coming to terms with the physical reality of how and where the Sun, Moon, and the planets actually move in real, three-dimensional space. </p>

<p>1. The primary purpose of the passage is to</p>

<p>(A) emphasize the importance of myth in ancient civilizations
(B) explain how an astronomical problem affected the development of a physical science
(C) predict the motions of planets outside of our solar system
(D) challenge the major achievements of some ancient astronomers
(E) compare celestial movements in different time periods</p>

<p>2. The passage indicates that ancient astronomers were "baffled" (line *) because</p>

<p>(A) their observations disproved the poetic tales of early cosmologies
(B) they lacked the mathematical sophistication needed to calculate astronomical distances
(C) they did not properly distinguish between astronomy and cosmology
(D) their theories of planetary movements were more complicated than the movements themselves
(E) they could not reliably predict observable celestial phenomena</p>

<p>Questions 3-4 are based on the following passage.</p>

<p>Most advertising researchers who work for and advise businesses assume that consistent, long-term advertising campaigns are an effective way to project a solid, enduring image and to maintain an ongoing relationship between consumers and the company's products; however, there is little published research on the effectiveness of such a strategy. This is partly because most advertising studies, in an attempt to control for "background knowledge," focus on new ads or fictitious brands. Also, while the proverbial wisdom may be to use a consistent, long-term campaign, businesses rarely do so. More commonplace is the switching of campaigns to gain consumers' interest.</p>

<p>3. The author indicates that the assumption described in lines * ("that...products") is </p>

<p>(A) unsubstantiated
(B) self-defeating
(C) self-serving
(D) trendy
(E) reckless</p>

<p>4. The passage implies that advertisers frequently attempt to "gain consumers' interest" (line *) by using</p>

<p>(A) flattery
(B) novelty
(C) persistence
(D) shock
(E) humor</p>


<p>1. B</p>

<p>(A) There is no mention of myth.
(B) Indeed, the passage's point is that, in trying to determine the planets' complicated motions, we learned many foundational aspects of cosmology.
(C) The passage is not predicting anything.
(D) The passage is not challenging anyone's achievements.
(E) There is no suggestion that celestial movements have changed over time.</p>

<p>2. E</p>

<p>The astronomers were baffled because the movements were so complicated that they could not understand, and in turn predict, them.</p>

<p>3. A</p>

<p>Immediately following the referenced assumption, we find:</p>

...however, there is little published research on the effectiveness of such a strategy.


<p>The author clearly believes that the assumption is not well-supported.</p>

<p>4. B</p>

<p>Companies "gain consumers' interest" by changing up their marketing campaigns. novelty describes such a practice.</p>


<p>The Mathematics section of the SAT makes up one-third of your total composite score (800 out of 2400). Here is the run-down that I gave in the introductory section:</p>

The Math section of the SAT is also 70 minutes long and spread out over three sections; likewise, two of these are 25-minutes sections, and one is 20 minutes long. There are 54 questions: 44 multiple-choice questions and 10 free-response questions.


<p>Because the Math section is relatively straightforward and causes little trouble for most CCers, I will keep this section brief.</p>

<p>Learning How to Solve the Questions</p>

<p>The math that is tested on the SAT Math section is not very advanced. You won't have to do any calculus on the SAT; you won't even need to know trigonometry (though it may help sometimes). Indeed, unlike the ACT Math section, which covers some pre-calculus topics, the SAT Math section goes little beyond what the average student completing geometry has learned. This characteristic of the section contributes to its validity as a predictor of a student's potential to succeed in future math classes, as opposed to its being an indicator of what has been learned. </p>

<p>Now, do not take this as meaning that the Math section is particularly easy—basic, yes; but easy, not necessarily. You will still have to use a rather significant degree of reasoning to work through the questions. The best way to get good at solving SAT Math questions is to solve SAT Math questions; it is that straightforward. As I previously discussed in the section about The Blue Book, you need to take the time to understand why you missed a question and how to solve it correctly. The SAT won't ever ask two questions that are perfectly analogous (i.e., just having different numbers plugged in); but the same types of problem-solving methods will predictably recur, and you will be able to recognize the most effective strategy for approaching that problem. </p>

<p>Among these typical strategies are plugging in numbers (an often-cited technique for good reason: it works well very frequently), drawing diagrams (usually for sorting out data), illustrating the question, or using the graphing feature of your calculator (often helpful as a shortcut way to solving some of the function questions). With respect to that last technique: if you are not comfortable using a graphing calculator, know that graphing will never be necessary to solving a question.</p>

<p>With practice, many students who do not actually consider themselves to be particularly strong at math are nonetheless able to score 700 or higher on the Math section. </p>

<p>See [url=<a href=""&gt;]here[/url&lt;/a&gt;] for a basic and concise overview of nearly all of the knowledge that you will want to have to succeed on the Math section. Remember, though, that your problem-solving skills will be more important than your knowledge.</p>

<p>However, if you feel that you need more concentrated mathematics practice than you get from taking practice tests, you may want to check out [url= <a href=""&gt;]this[/url&lt;/a&gt;], which many people have found to be helpful.</p>

<p>Solving Them Quickly but Correctly</p>

<p>Even more than either of the other two sections, the SAT Math section requires great precision. The potential for error and the lack of margin for error are daunting: misreading the question, mishandling your units, plugging in something wrong into your calculator, making a mistake on an easy mental calculation—all could result in throwing away what would have been, for example, a score of 800.</p>

<p>The most obvious ways of protecting against this (the elimination of all errors cannot be ensured, but the chances can be minimized to nearly negligible levels) are through maintaining unrelenting concentration and establishing an appropriate pace. Many people, when taking practice tests, are perhaps a bit too casual: they dismiss silly mistakes as something that will not happen when they are taking the test "for real." Like pace, concentration can be improved with effective practice.</p>

<p>An additional strategy is to mark the questions that you deem to be of highest risk for error and then go back to redo them. When I am going through the test, I put a mark on my answer sheet next to approximately the quarter of questions that I think have the biggest room for error. Then, when I have finished the section, I, instead of merely checking my work (which does not actually facilitate the discovery of errors with great reliability), completely reread and redo each of those questions. I then divide any remaining time among the unchecked questions, which usually yields a superficial but worthwhile review of each.</p>


<p>The Writing section of the SAT makes up one-third of your total composite score (800 out of 2400). Here is the run-down that I gave in the introductory section:</p>

The SAT Writing section, added in 2005, is a slightly shorter 60 minutes, which is broken into three sections (one 25-minute essay section to commence the test, a 25-minute section, and a refreshingly brief 10-minute section to round out the SAT). There are 25 Improving Sentences questions, 18 Identifying Errors questions, 6 Improving Paragraphs questions, and the essay.


<p>Although the SAT does not explicitly test any grammatical terms, having a firm understanding of English grammar serves as an invaluable foundation for confidently answering each of the Improving Sentences and Identifying Errors questions. Having an especially good ear for what sounds right may get you a good score a lot of the time; but it is unreliable, especially these days, when colloquialisms and grammar errors pervade our speech. So here we go.</p>

<p>(In writing this guide, I have attempted to integrate concepts that the SAT will test into the presentation of grammar. Some of the grammar terminology can be intimidating; but if you spend the time to truly understand the concepts that I present, I am confident that (assuming an essay score of 10 or higher) you should be able to consistently score 750 or higher on the Writing section, almost regardless of where you started.)</p>


<p>It seems most appropriate to begin with the parts of speech, many of which will likely be familiar to you. Many relevant discussions stem from them, and they are presented here as well. </p>

<p>---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----
The Noun: any entity, often defined as a person, place, thing, or idea. Nouns come in various forms, some of which have overlap:</p>

<p>Common noun: a nonspecific entity; is not capitalized, except when beginning a sentence. Examples: dog, computer, printer, ground, person, painter, stupidity.</p>

<p>Proper noun: a specific entity; must be capitalized. Examples: Bob, Microsoft, United States, Texas.</p>


<p>Singular noun: a single entity; may be proper or common. Examples: house, President, shirt, beauty.</p>

<p>Plural noun: multiple entities; may be proper or common. Examples: houses, Presidents, shirts.</p>


<p>Collective noun: a single noun that refers a group of entities. Examples: jury, team, family. Depending on the context and intended meaning, collective nouns may be either singular or plural; I will discuss this more later. </p>


<p>Count noun: noun that can be pluralized. Examples: world, army, book, pencil.</p>

<p>Noncount noun: noun that cannot be pluralized; also called mass noun. Examples: clutter, rice, furniture. Some words can be count or noncount nouns, depending on the sense that the word is being used in. One example of such a word is will: in one sense (that relating to determination), the word is a noncount noun; in another sense (that relating to a legal document), the word can be pluralized.</p>


<p>Concrete noun: a noun referring to an entity that can be perceived with one of the five senses. Examples: pen, air, bed, Fred, wall.</p>

<p>Abstract noun: a noun referring to an entity that cannot be perceived with one of the five senses. Examples: beauty, intelligence, determination, depression. Abstract nouns are usually noncount nouns.</p>

<p>---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----
The Pronoun: any word taking the place of a noun. To guide the discussion of pronouns, I will explain person, case, and anaphora. As you work through this section, you will likely notice the great number of errors that directly relate to pronouns.</p>

<p>Person </p>

<p>- First-person pronouns refer in whole or part to the speaker or writer; I, me, myself, mine, my, we, us, ourselves, ours, and our are the first-person personal pronouns.</p>

<p>- Second-person pronouns refer in whole or part to the reader or listener; you, yourself, yours, and your are the second-person personal pronouns.</p>

<p>- Third-person pronouns refer to neither the speaker or writer nor the reader or listener; he, him, himself, his, she, her, herself, hers, her, it, itself, its, one, one's, they, them, themselves, theirs, and their are the third-person personal pronouns. </p>

<p>I will discuss pronoun case (and its implications on the SAT) in a moment, but there are many SAT-relevant aspects to pronouns that should be studied now, all of which can be categorized under the umbrella of errors in person and number.</p>

<p>Shifting person and number: On the SAT a sentence must not change person, unlike the style that I employed earlier in this guide, in which I frequently shifted from one to you to students to avoid sounding overly formal. Consider the following sentence:</p>

<p>If one wants to avoid losing their leg, you must not bite yourself excessively.
one is in the third person (it refers generically to a single person who is not the speaker or listener), whereas you is in the second person. This is incorrect; one of these must be changed to eliminate the discontinuity. (This sentence contains another pronoun error, which I will discuss soon.) Consider another example:</p>

<p>If students want to do well on their tests, one would be wise to answer the questions correctly.</p>

<p>Both students and one are in the third person; but the former is plural, and the latter is singular. This is incorrect. Consider another variation on this error:</p>

<p>If students want to do well on their test, they would be wise to answer the questions correctly.</p>

<p>It is highly unlikely that multiple students would be taking a single test, so test must be pluralized to eliminate the number shift. Upon learning this idea, however, students tend to overgeneralize by assuming that all plural possessive pronouns must be followed by plural nouns. This is, indeed, generally the case, but do not forget what we learned just recently: noncount nouns cannot be pluralized. The following pair of sentences (using the word will, which can be either count or noncount) is, therefore, correct:</p>

<p>Driven by their great will, all of the frogs continued until they reached their destination.</p>

<p>Nonetheless pragmatic, though, the frogs made sure that their wills were in order before they embarked on their quest.</p>

<p>Noting the additional error that occurred in the first example sentence reveals an important concept that is frequently tested on the SAT: that they, them, and their are always plural. This contrasts with the typical habits of most people, and even contradicts the recommendations of many grammarians; so it is worth stressing. The most common singular substitutes for they and them are he or she and him or her, respectively. These alternatives are, unfortunately, quite clunky, though. Another solution is to pluralize the subject of the sentence. Consider these variations in the following corrections of the first example sentence:</p>

<p>If one wants to avoid losing his or her leg, he or she must not bite himself or herself excessively.</p>

<p>If people want to avoid losing their legs, they must not bite themselves excessively.</p>

<p>Note that, in the second sentence, care was taken to pluralize leg in order to comply with the previously stated rule about avoiding number shifts.</p>

<p>Case </p>

<p>- A pronoun in the subjective case (also called the nominative case) is the subject of a verb. These pronouns "do" something or "are" something. The subjective pronouns are I, you, he, she, it, we, they, and who. (who is usually a relative pronoun, which I will discuss later.) </p>

<p>- A pronoun in the objective case (also called the accusative case) is the object of a verb or preposition. These pronouns are me, you, him, her, it, us, them, and whom. When the pronoun is the object of a verb, it is either a direct object or an indirect object. I cannot see distinguishing between these two forms as being useful on the SAT, however, so I will not elaborate on that.</p>

<p>- A pronoun in the possessive case (also called the genitive case) modifies a noun. The possessive pronouns are mine, yours, his, hers, its, our, theirs, and whose.</p>

<p>Nouns also take all three forms, but in English there is no distinction in how we write or speak nouns that are in the nominative or objective cases. For example, one can say that Bob ate the city, or that the city ate Bob. In the first clause (I will discuss clauses in detail later) Bob is in the subjective case; in the second clause Bob is in the objective case, as it is the direct object of ate.</p>

<p>Case errors in comparisons: In everyday speech we often use the incorrect case in comparisons. Specifically, we tend to use the objective case instead of the subjective case. This error stems from our tendency to omit the verb in the second part of the comparison. Now, this habit itself is not ungrammatical; but it does lead to the aforementioned case error, which is ungrammatical. Consider the following sentence, which would not likely even raise an eyebrow if used in normal speech:</p>

<p>You are a better runner than me.</p>

<p>You is being used in the subjective case here (although we cannot tell this by just looking at the word, as you is one of those pronouns that do not visibly inflect between the subjective and objective cases); it is the subject of the verb are. me, which is in the objective case, is being compared to the subjective you. This discontinuity must be fixed by changing me to I. This may sound somewhat awkward, but this feeling should go away if you actually say the otherwise implicit verb, as in:</p>

<p>You are a better runner than I am.</p>

<p>This error appears frequently on the SAT.</p>

<p>Gerund errors with the possessive case: This error is one of the most pervasive and least commented-on in the English language. One finds mention of it only rarely even in grammatical handbooks. Because I have not yet established all of the necessary grammatical foundation to explain this, I will address this at the conclusion of the "Parts of Speech" section. For now, though, I will leave you with an example of this error:</p>

<p>I looked up and saw a person stealing my burrito!</p>

<p>Case errors with prepositions: Although this rule is relatively straightforward, I will save describing it until I cover prepositions. Speaking of that adverb...</p>

<p>Case errors with relative pronouns: I won’t go into detail about how the concept of restrictive and non-restrictive clauses applies to relative pronouns; all you really need to know is what they are. Who and whoever are subjective relative pronouns. whom and whomever are objective relative pronouns. The relative pronouns that, which, and whichever can be in either the subjective or objective case. The rules for determining which case is being used apply similarly to relative pronouns: if the pronoun is the subject of a verb, it is in the subjective case; otherwise, it is in the objective case. Because who visibly inflects between the cases, I will present two sentences using that word and its variation to example when each case is appropriate:</p>

<p>I caught the turkey whom I knew.</p>

<p>I want to catch the turkey who knows me.</p>

<p>In the first sentence I is the subject of the verb knew, and whom<a href="which%20is%20referring%20to%20%5Bi%5Dturkey%5B/i%5D">/i</a> is the object of that verb. (Ordinarily, the object of a verb will appear after it. It is important to note, though, that relative pronouns are usually exceptions to this.) In the second sentence *who<a href="which%20is%20also%20referring%20to%20%5Bi%5Dturkey%5B/i%5D">/i</a> is the subject of the verb *knows, and me is the object of that verb.</p>

<p>(It’s also worth noting that the relative pronoun which does not work with people and that who only works with people and personified turkeys.)</p>

<p>Errors with making the possessive case: In order to make a singular noun possessive, we generally add an apostrophe and then an s. In order to make a plural noun possessive, we generally add merely an apostrophe if the word already ended in an s. These basic guidelines are exampled below:</p>

<p>dog --> dog's
pencil --> pencil's
George --> George's</p>

<p>dogs --> dogs'
pencil --> pencils'
the Georges --> the Georges'</p>

<p>If, however, the plural noun does not end in an s<a href="as%20is%20the%20case%20with,%20for%20example,%20%5Bi%5Dwomen%5B/i%5D">/i</a>, you must add an apostrophe and an *s. </p>

<p>Another issue arises when we are forming the possessive with a compound noun (i.e., a noun phrase). When each of the nouns within the noun phrase is possessing at least one of whatever the noun that is being modified is, we use the possessive case for each of the compound noun's nouns, as in:</p>

<p>Ironically, Bob's and Fred's cars broke down at the same time.</p>

<p>If the noun that is being modified is possessed jointly by the nouns in the compound noun, use the possessive on only the noun closest to the noun that is being modified, as in:</p>

<p>My mother and father's mansion should satisfactorily suit my housing requirements. </p>

<p>Case errors with compound subjects and objects: Contrary to what many people's speech may suggest, each noun in a compound subject or compound object must be inflected to the same case as the other nouns' case in that phrase. Consider these ungrammatical sentences:</p>

<p>Him and Bob went to the store together.</p>

<p>Sally, Joe, and her are about to start a new pasta club.</p>

<p>I do desire that you apprise my pet and I of the reasons for your election to depart.</p>

<p>These sentences should be corrected thus:</p>

<p>He and Bob went to the store together.</p>

<p>Sally, Joe, and she are about to start a new pasta club.</p>

<p>I do desire that you apprise my pet and me of the reasons for your election to depart.</p>

<p>In the third sentence pet and me is the compound object of the verb apprise.</p>

<p>Case errors with appositives: Appositives define or elaborate on the nouns that they are adjacent to, as in (the appositives are underlined):</p>

<p>My friend Bob is a good swimmer because he is a fish.</p>

<p>A loyal turkey, Sam was eaten without objection.</p>

<p>My mother, Sue, is a female.</p>

<p>My company, the best accounting firm in the nation, likes to make money. </p>

<p>(In case you're curious about why commas were used in the third sentence but not the first, it has to do with restrictive versus non-restrictive modification. In general, when a modifier restricts what it is modifying, we use commas; if not, we don't. This is usually true for appositives. For example, if we write My friend, Bob,, the modification is non-restrictive, meaning that Bob is your only friend. Similarly, if we write My mother Sue, the modification is restrictive; this implies that you have more than one mother.)</p>

<p>Anyhow, appositives must match the case of the noun that they are modifying. For example:</p>

<p>We revolutionaries are free.</p>

<p>They have left us revolutionaries no option. </p>

<p>The best students in the class, she and I, will receive poor grades on the paper.</p>

<p>I will give the two best students in the class, her and him, poor grades on the paper to facilitate this example sentence. </p>


<p>In its most general sense, anaphora refers to any verbal reference. All pronouns are, thus, anaphoric; they refer to nouns. A pronoun's referent is often called its antecedent; but I will herein use the former term (i.e., referent) because antecedent implies to me that the referent must appear before the pronoun, which is untrue. There are three main types of anaphora, which I explain in the context of pronouns:</p>

<p>- Exophora occurs when a pronoun's referent is found in a different context than that in which the pronoun is found. With respect to the SAT's Identifying Errors questions, an exophoric pronoun would refer to something that is not in the given sentence. </p>

<p>- Endophora occurs when a pronoun's referent is, in the context of the SAT's Identifying Errors questions, in the given sentence.</p>

<p>- Cataphora, a type of endophora, occurs when a pronoun's referent comes after that pronoun, as in:</p>

<p>Although she did not know what time it was, Sally started jumping on her clock.</p>

<p>Sally is the referent, and she is the cataphoric pronoun.</p>

<p>Exophoric pronoun errors: In the context of the SAT, exophoric pronouns are always incorrect. That's right: the referent for a pronoun, for the SAT's Identifying Error questions, must always appear in the sentence. Clear cataphoric references are acceptable, however.</p>

<p>Ambiguous reference errors: More than merely appearing in the sentence, a pronoun's referent must be clear. Consider the following sentences:</p>

<p>The parents told their children that they would be leaving soon.</p>

<p>The parents told their child that they would be leaving soon.</p>

<p>The first sentence is unacceptable because they could grammatically and logically refer to either parents or children. However, the second sentence is acceptable. The plural they cannot refer to the singular child; it must, therefore, refer to the only plural noun in the sentence: parents. (This does get a bit hazier, though, if the writer of the second sentence was trying to refer to both parents and child. Rest assured, though: most ambiguous reference errors on the SAT will be apparent if you are looking for them.) </p>

<p>For further example of when a pronoun should be considered ambiguous and when it should be considered acceptable, consider my previous sentence:</p>

The plural they cannot refer to the singular child; it must, therefore, refer to the only plural noun in the sentence: parents.


<p>There, it referred clearly to they. Grammatically, however, the singular it could have referred to the likewise singular child, a fact compounded by the two words' close proximity. But because the referent of it is the subject of the previous clause, the reference is clear. If one had meant to refer to child<a href="which%20was%20being%20used%20in%20the%20objective%20case">/i</a>, he or she would have had to explicate that noun as opposed to using the pronoun.</p>

<p>[* That that reminds me that I should briefly mention demonstrative pronouns and adjectives. They are this, these, that, and those. Each of those can be used as a pronoun (as in I want to eat that) or an adjective (as in I want that hippo as a friend). In either case, the reference must also be clear; even the adjectival demonstrative is referring to something.]</p>

<p>Don't be fooled by dummy pronouns: Alright, I lied a little bit earlier. Dummy pronouns (more formally called expletive pronouns or pleonastic pronouns) are the singular exception to the rule that all pronouns must have endophoric references on the SAT. Why? Well, dummy pronouns do not actually refer to anything. Consider the following sentences:</p>

<p>It is important to note that one plus one does not equal five.</p>

<p>Despite appearances to the contrary, it was clear to the particularly perspicacious observer that Bob's name was Bob.</p>

<p>What time is it?</p>

<p>None of these pronouns have a referent*—either endophorically or exophorically. And that's fine. Just remember this: if a pronoun is trying to refer to something (i.e., it is not one of those rare dummy pronouns), you need to be able to find that referent in the sentence; otherwise, the pronoun is being used erroneously.</p>

<p>(* Did you notice the mistake? In order to maintain continuity in number, I need to pluralize referent.)</p>

<p>---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----
The Adjective: a word that modifies a noun or pronoun. Examples: green, nice, mean, amazing.</p>

<p>Luckily, there is much less to mention about adjectives than about pronouns. There are some additional things to mention about participles, but I will save those for the section in which I cover verbals (which are participles, gerunds, and infinitives).</p>

<p>Errors with adjectives in comparisons: There are three terms relevant to this error: positive, comparative, and superlative. The positive form of an adjective is its base form (e.g., cold). In order to form the comparative form, we usually use the suffix -er or the adverb more<a href="e.g.,%20%5Bi%5Dcolder%5B/i%5D">/i</a>. In forming the superlative form, we generally add the suffix *-est or the adverb *most<a href="e.g.,%20%5Bi%5Dcoldest%5B/i%5D">/i</a>.</p>

<p>The comparative form is used when we are comparing two things, as in:</p>

<p>Between me and my brother, he is weaker.</p>

<p>Which of your two cars do you like better?</p>

<p>The superlative form is used when we are comparing three or more things, as in:</p>

<p>Among me and my brothers, I am weakest.</p>

<p>Which of your eleven cars do you like best?</p>

<p>A specific diction error: fewer versus *less: This error is unlikely to show up on any given SAT, but it comes up so frequently in everyday speech that it is worth mentioning. In general, we associate the adjective *fewer with count nouns and number, and the adjective less with noncount nouns and amount. Consider these examples:</p>

<p>fewer computers
less computing
fewer births
fewer cups of coffee
less coffee
less beauty
fewer beauties
less hair
fewer hairs
less than ten minutes
less than three miles
less than five dollars</p>

<p>The last four examples may seem to depart from the general guideline slightly, and in a way they do. But, while some of those things may seem countable and in reference to numbers (e.g., you can count out your money and see that you have less than five dollars), the true semantic implication is related to amount. For example, when we say that there is less than ten minutes left, we are referring not to the actual minutes, but to time. Likewise, when we say that we are less than three miles away, we are referring to distance. And with the dollars example, we are not referring to the actual dollar bills (in which case we would be referring to a number); we are, instead, actually referring to the amount of money. </p>

<p>This concept has important implications for subject-verb agreement as well, which I will discuss later.</p>

<p>---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----
The Adverb: a word that modifies an adjective, a verb, or another adverb. Examples: quickly, fast, happily.</p>

<p>An instance in which an adverb is modifying an adjective:</p>

<p>I want to buy a very hungry alligator.</p>

<p>The adverb very is there modifying the adjective hungry, which is modifying the noun alligator. An instance in which an adverb is modifying a verb, and in which another adverb is modifying that adverb:</p>

<p>I ran through the wall quite fast.</p>

<p>In that sentence the adverb fast is modifying the verb ran. That adverb is, in turn, being modified by the adverb quite.</p>

<p>Errors in placement of adverbs: In general adverbs can be placed quite liberally. We can correctly say, for example, all of the following:</p>

<p>Quickly, he ran to get his lost lemur.</p>

<p>He ran quickly to get his lost lemur.</p>

<p>He quickly ran to get his lost lemur.</p>

<p>Sometimes, however, the placement of an adverb can change the meaning of a sentence. Consider this example, in which I italicize part of the sentence with the intent that you will emphasize that part in your mind when you are reading it; this will make the error even harder to spot:</p>

<p>When I went to Mars last week, I only ate one meal the entire time!</p>

<p>If you heard this when you weren't in SAT-Writing mode, your grammatical ear would likely have no problem with this sentence. The problem with the sentence is that it departs from the general rule that adverbs must be as close as possible to what they are modifying. When I emphasize the nearest candidate for modification, the result is not so pleasing to the ear:</p>

<p>When I went to Mars last week, I only ate one meal the entire time!</p>

<p>This leaves me wondering: what did you do to the rest of the meals? To reduce this ambiguity, we need to move the adverb next to one meal:</p>

<p>When I went to Mars last week, I ate only one meal the entire time!</p>

<p>Incorrectly deciding between adverbs and adjectives: The key to correctly identifying whether an adverb or adjective is appropriate is to ask yourself What is the word doing in this sentence? If the word is modifying a noun or pronoun, use the adjective form. If the word is modifying a verb, adjective, or another adverb, use the adverb form. There are some tricky situations, however:</p>

<p>I feel really [bad/badly] about your situation, Bob.</p>

<p>Ask yourself whether we are modifying feel or some noun. We are actually modifying I here, so we choose the adjective bad. If we chose badly, the meaning would be that the manner in which we feel is bad. Consider this sentence:</p>

<p>He is hungry.</p>

<p>These two sentences actually have very similar underlying grammatical structures. feel and is are serving, respectively, as linking verbs to the adjectives bad and hungry. Because bad and hungry modify the subject of the intervening verb, they are called subject complements; specifically, they are *predicate adjectives<a href="%5Bi%5Dpredicate%5B/i%5D%20refers%20broadly%20to%20the%20verb%20and%20its%20complements%20and%20modifiers">/i</a>. </p>

<p>This does not have to do with adverbs, but elaborating on this topic seems worthwhile. Another type of subject complement is the predicate nominative. Recall that the nominative case (also known as the subjective case) means that the noun or pronoun is the subject of a verb. Because predicate nominatives define or rename the subject of the linking verb, they must be in the subjective case. With nouns, the result is perfectly agreeable to the ear (remember that nouns do not visibly inflect between the subjective and objective cases):</p>

<p>Bob is the man.</p>

<p>man serves as the complement to the subject, Bob, of the linking verb is. Consider this example, which correctly uses a pronoun in the objective case:</p>

<p>Who is the best runner? The best runner is he.</p>

<p>The subject complement and predicate nominative he is defining the linking verb's subject, runner, so it is inappropriate to use the likely better-sounding, objective-cased him. Here are a couple more examples:
I gave it to him. That is, the recipient was he.</p>

<p>The best people are they. </p>

<p>Redundancy, often committed via adverbs: When a word or set of words can alone mean what is intended, it is unnecessary and, furthermore, ungrammatical to indicate the idea again with modifiers. Consider this question:</p>

<p>That was good, but can you repeat that song again?</p>

<p>If this will be only the second time that a song is being played, again must be omitted. Consider these temporal redundancies; I indicate the word or words that should be omitted in parentheses after each sentence:</p>

<p>I'll meet you there at twelve noon. (twelve)</p>

<p>The meeting starts at 6 PM at night. (at night or PM)</p>

<p>The annual meeting is held every year. (annual)</p>

<p>There are also some phrases that are always redundant, because the words themselves encompass the meaning of the modifying word or set of words. One example: He wrote his own autobiography. There are also some words that, except in colloquial contexts, should only rarely be adverbially modified. One, for example, should not say that something is "very unique" or "somewhat perfect"; the latter word in each of these pairs is an absolute adjective. We can, however, say that something is "almost unique" or "probably perfect." </p>

<p>While we are on the topic of redundancy, I might as well bring up a phrase that always frustrates me, mostly because of its pervasiveness: the reason why is because. reason already indicates the "why," so both because and why are redundant. The correct phrase is the reason is that. </p>

<p>Comparative and superlative adverb errors: Care must be taken in forming the comparative and superlative forms of adverbs. Generally, if the adverbial form of word ends in -ly, we must form the comparative and superlative forms with more and most, respectively. For example, instead of asking someone to "work slower," we should ask him or her to "work more slowly." Make sure to avoid redundancy, though: if the adverb already indicates the comparative or superlative, do not use more or most. For example, more better is incorrect. </p>

<p>A specific diction error: due to versus *because of: There are some less conservative grammar sources that support the interchangeability of *due to and because of. Nonetheless, most references maintain the distinction, and it is possible that this could appear on the SAT. Luckily, the rule is straightforward: due to functions adjectively, and because of functions adverbially. That is, due to modifies nouns; because of modifies verbs. Consider this lot of examples; in each case the phrase that I choose is the only correct one, according to this distinction:</p>

<p>My failure was due to my lack of success.</p>

<p>I failed because of my lack of success.</p>

<p>That is due to his pet snake.</p>

<p>I said that because of my pet snake's forcing me to do so.</p>

<p>Because of the weather, I am hungry.</p>

<p>My hunger is due to the weather.</p>

<p>This means that the only time that one can grammatically begin a sentence with Due to is when a participial phrase is being employed, as in:</p>

<p>Due to the weather, the storm went home.</p>

<p>If we are following the technical distinction, we know that the storm is due to the weather, but we do not know why the storm went home. If, however, the writer is not following the rule, the storm could have gone home because of the weather. This latter meaning "should" have been communicated thus:</p>

<p>Because of the weather, the storm went home.</p>

<p>I guess we'll never know.</p>

<p>---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----
The Preposition: a word that links words and phrases. Examples: on, in under, around, between, upon, past, until, at.</p>

<p>A commonly cited rule with respect to prepositions is that they cannot appear at the end of a sentence. This is, however, not actually true in most cases. Now, there are some times when it is wrong to do so, as in:</p>

<p>Where is he at?</p>

<p>But this is due to the fact that at is unnecessary, as where already indicates location; it is not directly due to the preposition's being at the end of the sentence. In fact, there are some times when moving the preposition from the end of the sentence is incorrect:</p>

<p>I ran up the restaurant tab. Up what did you run?</p>

<p>Why is that second sentence wrong? Because run up is a phrasal verb; it consists of the verb run and the particle<a href="a%20cool%20name%20for%20the%20preposition%20of%20a%20phrasal%20verb">/i</a>, which is *up in this case. The components of a phrasal verb cannot be separated. Some other phrasal verbs: make up, run into, and show up. </p>

<p>(Make sure that there is no prepositional redundancy if someone did try to move a preposition from the end of a sentence, as in the person to whom I talked to.)</p>

<p>The SAT will occasionally test idiomatic phrasal verbs. Some of these can be problematic to even well-prepared test-takers who are native English speakers. From various sources I have compiled a list of verbs and their corresponding prepositions/particles (only some of these are actually phrasal verbs, and only some of those are idiomatic); I have tried to include any relevant notes:</p>

<p>abide by
absent from
accuse of
accustomed to
agree on / agree upon / agree with / agree to
[indent]For example: We agreed on the best course of action. We agree with each other and our ideas. We agreed to give. We agreed to the plan.
afflicted with
afraid of
angry about
annoyed with / annoyed by
apologize for
apply for
approve of
argue with / argue about
For example: I argue with you about food.
arise from
arrive at
associated with
aware of</p>

<p>believe in
belong to
blame for</p>

<p>came into use
capable of
care about / care for
For example: I care about your well-being. I care for you in order to ensure your well-being.
cater to
characteristic of
charge of
cite as
committed to
compare to / compare with / compare against
Generally, the use of "with" stresses the differences between the objects of comparison, whereas the use of "to" emphasizes the similarities. Also, "with" must be used when "compare" is being used intransitively, a concept that I will cover later.
comply with
composed of
*Despite being frequently used, "comprised by" and "comprised of" are not correct. "comprise" means "include." *
concerned about
condemn as
conform with / conform to
connected to
conscious of
consider to be
consist of
consistent with
contrast with
contributed to / contributed toward
count on</p>

<p>debate over / debate about
dedicated to
define as
depart for / depart from
For example: I departed for Canada. I depart from the typical thinking.
depend on / depend upon
depict as
desirous of
differ from
discriminate against / discriminate between / discriminate among
For example: I discriminate against people from your school. I discriminate among/between my meal choices.
dispute over / dispute about
distinguish from
divergent from</p>

<p>emphasis on
endeavor to
escape from
excuse for</p>

<p>fascination with
fire from
fond of</p>

<p>guilty of</p>

<p>hide from
hint at
hope for</p>

<p>impose on / impose upon
indebted to
indifferent to
insist on / insist upon
instrumental in
intend to
interested in
involved in / involved with</p>

<p>jealous of</p>

<p>lead to
limited to</p>

<p>object to
oblivious to
obsessed with
obtain from
opposed to
opposition of / opposition toward
originate in</p>

<p>partake of
participate in
plan to
proclaimed as
pray for
preoccupation with
prepared for
prevent from
prohibit from
proud of
provide for / provide with
For example: I provide for you. I provide you with food.</p>

<p>qualify for / qualify as</p>

<p>react to
reason for
recover from
regard as
related to
rely on / rely upon
resentful of / resentful toward
resort to
respond to
responsible for
result in</p>

<p>satisfied with / satisfied by
search for / in search of
see as
separate from
similar to
stare at
stop from
subscribe to
suffer from
superior to
suspect of
sympathize with</p>

<p>tamper with
thank for
think of
tired of
transition from / transition to</p>

<p>upset with</p>

<p>vote for / vote against</p>

<p>wait for
went about
work with / work for
worry about[/indent]</p>

<p>Case errors with prepositional phrases: Whenever a noun is the object of a prepositional phrase, it must be in the objective case. Consider these ungrammatical sentences, in which the underlined portion indicates the prepositional phrase that the error is in:</p>

<p>I went to the well with she and Bob. </p>

<p>Between you and I, I never really liked my enemies.</p>

<p>The objective case for each pronoun should be used:</p>

<p>I went to the well with her and Bob.</p>

<p>Between you and me, I never really liked my enemies.</p>

<p>---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----
The Verb: a word that expresses being or action. Examples: eat, give, increase, slip. There is a lot to talk about with verbs.</p>

<p>Subject-Verb Agreement</p>

<p>Subject-verb agreement appears consistently on the SAT.</p>

<p>Amounts are singular; numbers are plural. Recall our earlier discussion about deciding whether to use fewer or less. If fewer would be used to modify a noun, that noun takes a plural verb. If less would be used to modify a noun, that noun takes a singular verb. Using the verb to be, here are subject-predicate versions of the list of examples that I gave in discussing the issue of fewer versus less:</p>

<p><a href="fewer">indent</a> computers are</p>

<p>(less) computing is</p>

<p>(fewer) births are</p>

<p>(fewer) cups of coffee are</p>

<p>(less) coffee is</p>

<p>(less) beauty is</p>

<p>(fewer) beauties are</p>

<p>(less) hair is</p>

<p>(fewer) hairs are</p>

<p>(less than) ten minutes is</p>

<p>(less than) three miles is</p>

<p>(less than) five dollars is[/indent]</p>

<p>Note that, as we discussed earlier, those final three examples represent amounts (time, distance, and money, respectively), not numbers.</p>

<p>The simple subject of a sentence is never in a prepositional phrase. And only the simple subject *directly<a href="this%20distinction%20will%20become%20important%20later">/i</a> affects how a verb should be conjugated. Consider these examples, in which the intervening prepositional phrases are in brackets:</p>

<p>The number [of people] is amazing.</p>

<p>That jar [of pencils] walks very nicely.</p>

<p>Those hawks [of honor] are honorable.</p>

<p>The house [with the three doors] is under water.</p>

<p>Bob [as well as three of his friends] is going to the mall to buy a hotel.</p>

<p>But... Although the previous topic heading is technically always correct, there are times when we will need to consider the plurality or singularity of the object of the intervening prepositional phrase. In order to decide whether to ignore or pay attention to the prepositional phrase, ask yourself What is this sentence trying to say? Consider these examples.</p>

<p>A lot of cars is available for purchase.</p>

<p>The subject of this sentence is the singular lot—one full of cars. If, however, the sentence said this, it would clearly have a different meaning:</p>

<p>A lot of cars are available for purchase.</p>

<p>While the simple subject of the sentence is still technically a lot, we must refer to the object of the prepositional phrase, the plural cars, because the sentence is trying to say that many cars are available. Consider this sentence, which I wrote earlier:</p>

<p>The number of people is amazing.</p>

<p>The sentence is not trying to say that the people themselves are amazing, just that how many there are is amazing. Such an intention contrasts with that of this sentence:</p>

<p>A number of people are amazing.</p>

<p>Here the people themselves are being directly referred to, and the agreement reflects this. Similarly, with a percent or fraction, we must refer to the object of the preposition and have our verb agree with that:</p>

<p>Three-fourths of all pelicans belong to the minority.</p>

<p>Three-fourths of my pie is gone on leave.</p>

<p>Ninety percent of the town is gone.</p>

<p>Ninety percent of the town's inhabitants are gone.</p>

<p>Collective nouns are flexible. Collective nouns can be singular or plural, depending on the intended meaning. For example (note how the pronouns correspond to the singularity or plurality of the subject):</p>

<p>The group is working toward its goal.</p>

<p>The group are fighting among themselves. </p>

<p>The jury has decided its verdict.</p>

<p>The jury are fighting among themselves.</p>

<p>When we think of the idea represented by the collective noun as a set of distinct entities, we treat the noun as plural, with respect to both pronoun agreement and verb agreement.</p>

<p>Be careful with compound subjects. If and is used to connect the nouns in a compound subject, the subject is almost always plural, as in:</p>

<p>Bob and I are leaving now.</p>

<p>The singular exception (get it?) occurs when the subject is a compound noun that is representing one idea, as in:</p>

<p>Macaroni and cheese is good.</p>

<p>If or is used to connect the nouns in a compound subject, we must consider only the noun closest to the verb, as in:</p>

<p>Bob or he is a rabbit.</p>

<p>The members or their leader is a rabbit.</p>

<p>The leader or their members are rabbits.</p>

<p>The rabbit or you are a rabbit.</p>

<p>Bob, she, or I am a rabbit.</p>

<p>As these last two sentences indicate, the verb must be conjugated not only to the singularity or plurality of the closest noun, but to its person. The second-person you took what is in this context a singular are, and the first-person I took am.</p>

<p>Don't be tripped up by inverted verb structures. Occasionally, a verb's subject will follow it. There are three common types of circumstances under which this inversion occurs. An inverted verb structure is often indicated by the expletive pronouns there and here. Make sure that the verb agrees with the true subject, which comes later in the sentence:</p>

<p>There is a dog in the lawn.</p>

<p>There are three dogs building a lawn.</p>

<p>There seems to be a house.</p>

<p>There seem to be houses.</p>

<p>Here is a monkey.</p>

<p>Here are the monkeys that knew the other monkey.</p>

<p>(Don't forget that there's is a contraction for there is, so one cannot grammatically say, for example, "There's two owls plotting to arrest me.")</p>

<p>Special rules do arise, however, with respect to those expletive pronouns when the subject is compound. Follow these guidelines for the verbs that follow those expletive pronouns, which differ slightly from those explained under the previous heading:</p>

<p>- If or is used to connect the nouns in a compound subject, the verb should match the closest noun:</p>

<p>There are wells or a wall.</p>

<p>There is a well or wells.</p>

<p>- If and is used to connect the nouns in a compound subject and the noun closest to the verb is plural, the verb must be plural:</p>

<p>There are hats, a muffin, and an artist in the locker.</p>

<p>- If and is used to connect the nouns in a compound subject and the noun closest to the verb is singular, the verb may be either singular or plural:</p>

<p>There is a muffin, hats, and an artist in the locker. or</p>

<p>There are a muffin, hats, and an artist in the locker.</p>

<p>Note that this final rule is unique to inverted verb structures in which expletive pronouns appear.</p>

<p>Another common situation in which an inversion occurs is when we have an introductory prepositional phrase. Make sure that you check the plurality or singularity of the subject:</p>

<p>Under the desk are pencils.</p>

<p>Behind the soda machine is a dollar.</p>

<p>Behind the soda machine are sand-dollars.</p>

<p>Inverted structures also commonly appear in questions:</p>

<p>Why are Bob and Sally working together? not</p>

<p>Why is Bob and Sally working together?</p>

<p>Learn the rules for correlative conjunctions. These are the primary correlative conjunctions as well as the only ones that are relevant to subject-verb agreement:</p>

<p>both [noun] and [noun]</p>

<p>either [noun] or [noun]</p>

<p>neither [noun] nor [noun]</p>

<p>For the correlative conjunction involving both, the verb is always plural:</p>

<p>Both the water bottles and Bob are going to Canada for the winter.</p>

<p>For the correlative conjunctions involving either and neither, the verb agrees with the closer noun (in both number and person). Consider these examples of the proper use of either...or:</p>

<p>Either the shoe or arm is fine.</p>

<p>Either the shoes or arm is fine.</p>

<p>Either the shoe or arms are fine.</p>

<p>Either she or I am fine.</p>

<p>Either I or she is fine.</p>

<p>There are either people or a dog in the cabin.</p>

<p>There is either a dog or people in the cabin.</p>

<p>neither...nor follows the same rules.</p>

<p>Learn the rules for using indefinite pronouns.</p>

<p>- When used as indefinite pronouns, each, either, neither, much, anyone, someone, somebody, anybody, anything, and something are always singular. Intervening prepositional phrases are completely irrelevant—there are no exceptions. Consider these examples (note how any predicate nominatives must agree in number with the corresponding indefinite pronouns):</p>

<p>Each of the brothers is a male.</p>

<p>Either of you guys is a salamander. </p>

<p>Neither of the options is viable.</p>

<p>Much of the number of the patrons is attributable to marketing.</p>

<p>Anything is fine. </p>

<p>Each of us is ready.</p>

<p>(Note that each can be used adverbially as well; in such cases, it is irrelevant to subject-verb agreement, as in They each are eating hot dogs. Note the logically necessary plurality of the object dogs. Had each been used as a pronoun, we would have had to change the clause to Each of them is eating a hot dog.)</p>

<p>- Some indefinite pronouns are always plural; the intervening prepositional phrases are again irrelevant. These are few, others, many, both, and several. For example:</p>

<p>Few of us are ready. </p>

<p>Others are arriving shortly to prop you up.</p>

<p>Many of the errors are acceptable. </p>

<p>- Some indefinite pronouns' singularity or plurality depends on that of the intervening prepositional phrase. As I indicated earlier, the subject is never in such a phrase, but this is one of those circumstances under which we nonetheless need to refer to the object of the preposition. These pronouns are some, any, all, most, and none. For example:</p>

<p>Some of you are coming tonight.</p>

<p>Some of the pie is nice.</p>

<p>Any of them are able to excavate.</p>

<p>None of it is enough.</p>

<p>None of those colors are happy.</p>

<p>[A special discussion of none is warranted. Describing none as equivalent to not one, some grammar-conscious writers insist upon none's being singular without exception. I, instead, recommend sticking with the above guideline. Consider this entry from The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage:</p>

none. Despite a widespread assumption that it stands for not one, the word has been construed as a plural (not any) in most contexts for centuries. H. W. Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage<a href="1926">/i</a> endorsed the plural use. Make *none plural except when emphasizing the idea of not one or no one — and then consider using those phrases instead.


<p>Likewise, I often see (in several of my school textbooks, for example) any used in the singular sense even when the object of its intervening prepositional phrase is plural. This does not seem to be the prevailing practice, however. In any case, in order avoid getting embroiled in controversy, the College Board is unlikely to test agreement with either of those two words.]</p>


<p>There are three primary grammatical moods:</p>

<p>- Generally, the indicative mood is used to pose a question or make a statement. It is the most common mood. Examples of the indicative mood:</p>

<p>He is tall. </p>

<p>Why is he tall? </p>

<p>We predict an increase in the amount of time that has passed.</p>

<p>- The imperative mood is used to make commands. The subject of a verb in the imperative mood is usually you, which can be and often is omitted. Examples of the imperative mood:</p>

<p>Clean the sink.</p>

<p>Leave me alone.</p>

<p>Decrease the speed.</p>

<p>Let's leave now.</p>

<p>- The subjunctive mood's uses are difficult to briefly generalize, so I quote [url=<a href=""&gt;]this[/url&lt;/a&gt;] source:</p>

The subjunctive mood is used in dependent clauses that do the following: 1) express a wish; 2) begin with if and express a condition that does not exist (is contrary to fact); 3) begin with as if and as though when such clauses describe a speculation or condition contrary to fact; and 4) begin with that and express a demand, requirement, request, or suggestion.


<p>Consider these example sentences, which I have also borrowed from that source:</p>

<p>She wishes her boyfriend were here. </p>

<p>If Juan were more aggressive, he'd be a better hockey player. </p>

<p>We would have passed if we had studied harder. </p>

<p>He acted as if he were guilty. </p>

<p>I requested that he be present at the hearing.</p>

<p>Questions on which knowledge of when the subjunctive is used is helpful appear quite frequently on the SAT.</p>


<p>Before I explain each tense's general uses, here are the conjugations of to eat in the first person for each tense:</p>

<p>Simple present: I eat
Present progressive: I am eating
Present perfect: I have eaten
Present perfect progressive: I have been eating</p>

<p>Simple past: I ate
Past progressive: I was eating
Past perfect: I had eaten
Past perfect progressive: I had been eating</p>

<p>Simple future: I will eat
Future progressive: I will be eating
Future perfect: I will have eaten
Future perfect progressive: I will have been eating</p>

<p>Present Tenses</p>

<p>Simple present: The simple present tense is used to refer to customary actions (e.g., She travels for work) or being (e.g., My pet is a dog), and it can be used in special future situations (e.g., The test is tomorrow or The election is on Tuesday). (The simple future tense can also be employed for that last use, as in The test will be tomorrow).</p>

<p>Present progressive: The present progressive tense can emphasize the ongoing nature of an action (e.g., I am walking instead of the more general I walk). Like the simple present tense, it can refer to future situations (e.g., He is moving next year). </p>

<p>Present perfect: The present perfect tense is used when a past action affects the present. since is often a trigger for the present perfect tense. The present perfect tense can indicate that an action occurs in the present as well as in the past (e.g., Since birth, I have lived here). Also, it can refer to a completed action if the writer or speaker wishes to emphasize the past action's effect on the present (e.g., I have just completed my book).</p>

<p>Present perfect progressive: The present perfect progressive tense is similar to the present perfect tense, except the former cannot refer to a completed action and emphasizes the continuous nature of the action.</p>

<p>Past Tense</p>

<p>Simple past: The simple past tense refers to an action completed in the past. </p>

<p>Past progressive: The past progressive emphasizes the ongoing nature of an action completed in the past. It can also be used when we are talking about two concurrent actions in the past (e.g., As my dog was watching me, I was eating my food) or an interrupted action (e.g., I was eating when my dog grabbed my bowl).</p>

<p>Past perfect: The past perfect tense is used to refer a past action that occurred before another referenced past action. by often signals the past perfect tense (e.g., By the time we arrived, Bob had left). When a prepositional phrase already indicates that an action came before another action, the simple past may be used instead of the past perfect (e.g., Before we left, I went to the bathroom) or Before we left, I had gone to the bathroom).</p>

<p>Past perfect progressive: The past perfect progressive tense functions similarly to the past perfect tense but emphasizes the continuous nature of an action.</p>

<p>Future Tenses</p>

<p>Simple future: The simple future tense refers to actions to be completed in the future.</p>

<p>Future progressive: The future progressive tense is used to refer to actions that will be in progress at a future time (I will be eating lunch at noon).</p>

<p>Future perfect: The future perfect tense is used to indicate that an action will be completed by a particular time in the future (e.g., I will have finished my homework by the time you arrive).</p>

<p>Future perfect progressive: The future perfect progressive tense functions similarly to the future progressive tense but emphasizes that the action has been occurring prior to the specified time (e.g., I will have been working on it).</p>

<p>A specific verb error: to lay and *to lie*: Using these two verbs correctly can be difficult, so it is worth going through their basic forms.</p>

<p>- to lay is a transitive verb; that is, it takes an object (e.g., I want to lay this down). Its three basic forms:</p>

<p>Base form: *lay<a href="For%20example:%20%5Bi%5DI%20always%20lay%20the%20paper%20down%20first.%5B/i%5D">/i</a>
Simple past: *laid<a href="For%20example:%20%5Bi%5DYesterday,%20I%20laid%20the%20rug%20on%20the%20ground%5B/i%5D">/i</a>
Past participle: *laid<a href="For%20example:%20%5Bi%5DI%20have/had%20always%20laid%20the%20paper%20down%20first.%5B/i%5D">/i</a></p>

<p>- to lie is an intransitive verb; that is, it does not take an object (e.g., I want to lie down). Its three basic forms:</p>

<p>Base form: *lie<a href="For%20example:%20%5Bi%5DI%20always%20lie%20down.%5B/i%5D">/i</a>
Simple past: *lay<a href="For%20example:%20%5Bi%5DYesterday,%20I%20lay%20down%20on%20the%20rug%5B/i%5D">/i</a>
Past participle: *lain<a href="For%20example:%20%5Bi%5DI%20have/had%20always%20lain%20down%20on%20the%20paper.%5B/i%5D">/i</a></p>

<p>(The next section discusses the past participle.)</p>

<p>Recognizing past participle errors: The past participle is used along with a conjugated form of to have in forming the perfect tenses. For example:</p>

<p>He has eaten the sandwich.</p>

<p>eaten is the past participle there. For some verbs, though, the past participle is the same as the simple past tense form:</p>

<p>They have arrested the criminal.</p>

<p>I have seized the opportunity.</p>

<p>Forming the past participle of nearly every verb should be simple for fluent English speakers. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile to read through this list, which offers the base form, simple past form, and past participle, respectively:</p>

<p>Arise; Arose; Arisen</p>

<p>Become; Became; Become</p>

<p>Begin; Began; Begun</p>

<p>Blow; Blew; Blown</p>

<p>Break; Broke; Broken</p>

<p>Choose; Chose; Chosen</p>

<p>Come; Came; Come</p>

<p>Dive; Dived/Dove; Dived</p>

<p>Do; Did; Done</p>

<p>Draw; Drew; Drawn</p>

<p>Drink; Drank; Drunk</p>

<p>Drive; Drove; Driven</p>

<p>Drown; Drowned; Drowned</p>

<p>Dwell; Dwelt/dwelled; Dwelt/dwelled</p>

<p>Eat; Ate; Eaten</p>

<p>Fall; Fell; Fallen</p>

<p>Fight; Fought; Fought</p>

<p>Flee; Fled; Fled</p>

<p>Fling; Flung; Flung</p>

<p>Fly; Flew; Flown</p>

<p>Forget; Forgot; Forgotten</p>

<p>Freeze; Froze; Frozen</p>

<p>Get; Got; Gotten</p>

<p>Give; Gave; Given</p>

<p>Go; Went; Gone</p>

<p>Grow; Grew; Grown</p>

<p>Hang (a thing); Hung; Hung</p>

<p>Hang (a person); Hanged; Hanged</p>

<p>Know; Knew; Known</p>

<p>Lay; Laid; Laid</p>

<p>Lead; Led; Led</p>

<p>Lie (to recline); Lay; Lain</p>

<p>Lie (tell fibs); Lied; Lied</p>

<p>Put; Put; Put</p>

<p>Ride; Rode; Ridden</p>

<p>Ring; Rang; Rung</p>

<p>Rise; Rose; Risen</p>

<p>Run; Ran; Run</p>

<p>See; Saw; Seen</p>

<p>Set; Set; Set</p>

<p>Shine; Shone; Shone</p>

<p>Shake; Shook; Shaken</p>

<p>Shrink; Shrank; Shrunk</p>

<p>Shut; Shut; Shut</p>

<p>Sing; Sang; Sung</p>

<p>Sink; Sank; Sunk</p>

<p>Sit; Sat; Sat</p>

<p>Speak; Spoke; Spoken</p>

<p>Spring; Sprang; Sprung</p>

<p>Sting; Stung; Stung</p>

<p>Strive; Strove/strived; Striven/strived</p>

<p>Swear; Swore; Swore</p>

<p>Swim; Swam; Swum</p>

<p>Swing; Swung; Swung</p>

<p>Take; Took; Taken</p>

<p>Tear; Tore; Torn</p>

<p>Throw; Threw; Thrown</p>

<p>Wake; Woke; Woken</p>

<p>Wear; Wore; Worn</p>

<p>Write; Wrote; Written</p>

<p>Several times in the past, the SAT has tested test-takers' ability to recognize the use of an incorrect past participle.</p>

<p>Avoiding the passive voice: When the grammatical subject of a verb is logically performing the action of the verb, the verb is in the active voice, as in:</p>

<p>Bob went home.</p>

<p>I have talked to Bob.</p>

<p>If not, the verb is in the passive voice, as in:</p>

<p>Bob was talked to by me.</p>

<p>Many gifts have been given out this Christmas.</p>

<p>In the first sentence Bob is the subject of the verb, but Bob is not the one talking—we find the true logical subject in the prepositional phrase: me. Likewise, in the second sentence gifts is the subject of the verb, but the logical subject of the verb is nowhere in the sentence. </p>

<p>Now, the passive voice is not ungrammatical, nor is it always stylistically inappropriate. There are times when the passive voice is preferred, such as when we want to emphasize what would have been the object in the active voice or when we do not know the true subject. For example, in that sentence I said, "There are times when the passive is preferred." Preferred by whom? We don't find the answer in the sentence, because I employed the passive and did not identify the true subject in a prepositional phrase. But it worked fine.</p>

<p>In general, however, we want to know who or what is performing the actions of verbs, so the general practice should be to use the active voice whenever possible. This is reflected on the SAT's Improving Sentences questions, on which the passive voice seldom appears in the correct answer.</p>

<p>(You'll likely notice that past participles are used in forming the passive voice.)</p>

<p>Shifting tenses: A sentence need not be in one tense. For example:</p>

<p>I want to go to the movies, but I did not used to.</p>

<p>We shifted from the simple present tense to the imperfect tense, and that is perfectly grammatical. There are no complex grammatical guidelines for deciding whether a tense shift is appropriate. All you need is an understanding of what each tense means (which I attempted to facilitate with my earlier descriptions) and to logically apply that understanding. Indeed, logic needs to drive your determination of whether a tense is appropriate. For example, we cannot logically say:</p>

<p>I will eat a hot dog yesterday. </p>

<p>Likewise, we cannot logically say:</p>

<p>Before they left the house, they will pack all their belongings.</p>

<p>Such a shift is simply illogical. As long as you are watchful of the tenses present in a sentence, spotting illogical shifts should not be problematic.</p>

<p>It is worth reiterating the common trigger words for the perfect tenses. by often signals the past perfect or future perfect, as in:</p>

<p>By the time I was ten years old, I had been talking for almost a year.</p>

<p>By the time you get here, I will have left.</p>

<p>*since<a href="when%20used%20as%20a%20preposition%20as%20opposed%20to%20a%20subordinating%20conjunction,%20which%20I%20will%20discuss%20soon">/i</a> often signals the past perfect or present perfect, as in:</p>

<p>Since birth, I had been a winner; then you came along.</p>

<p>Since I got here, I have been eating nothing but food.</p>


<p>There are three main types of verbals, which are technically verbs but function as different parts of speech:</p>

<p>- Participles function adjectively. Present participles, which usually have the suffix -ing, indicate present conditions, as in an eating rabbit<a href="the%20rabbit%20is%20currently%20eating">/i</a>. Past participles describe past states or actions. For example, an *eaten rabbit was eaten by something in the past. </p>

<p>We can use participles in three main ways. First, we can modify a noun adjacently:</p>

<p>I want a working fan.</p>

<p>We can also offset the participle to modify a noun; this often involves the use of a participial phrase:</p>

<p>Running, he left the building.</p>

<p>Angry, the frogs were not likely to sign the treaty. or</p>

<p>Having been angered, the frogs were not likely to sign the treaty. or</p>

<p>Angered, the frogs were not likely to sign the treaty.</p>

<p>The last three sentences mean very similar things. In fact, the last two sentences are identical in meaning: you can add Having been to a past participle to make a participial phrase. You can also add Being to angry with no effect on the meaning.</p>

<p>We can also use participles in normal verb phrases:</p>

<p>He is running.</p>

<p>He has run.</p>

<p>Mis-modification with phrases: Looking for mis-modifiers is crucial on the SAT's Identifying Errors and Improving Sentences questions. When using participial phrases and prepositional phrases that have a participle in them, one must take special care to ensure that the subject of the clause that the phrase is attached to is what is intended to be modified. The phrase usually comes before the clause, but it can intervene or come after. Consider these sentences, all of which are incorrect:</p>

<p>Looking back, he should not have done that.</p>

<p>Having finished that, it is time for us to move on to the weather.</p>

<p>In completing their project early, we have saved much time thanks to the construction company. </p>

<p>As a veteran patron, this customer service really disappoints me.</p>

<p>Considering the recent increase, the higher number is not surprising.</p>

<p>Given the recent increase, the higher number is not surprising.</p>

<p>When using this medication, irritation or dryness may occur.</p>

<p>These sentences could be corrected thus:</p>

<p>Looking back, I see that he should not have done that.</p>

<p>Having finished that, we move on now to the weather.</p>

<p>In completing their project early, the construction company has saved us much time.</p>

<p>I, as a veteran patron, am really disappointed by this customer service.</p>

<p>Considering the recent increase, I am not surprised by the higher number.</p>

<p>Given the recent increase, I am not surprised by the higher number.</p>

<p>When using this medication, you may experience irritation or dryness.</p>

<p>Exampling some other modifying errors is worthwhile.</p>

<p>Misplaced limiting modifiers usually occur when the verb of a sentence is adverbially modified and the intention is to instead modify the verb's object.
Bob almost sold candy to every person in the neighborhood!</p>

<p>It is more likely that the intended meaning was this:</p>

<p>Bob sold candy to almost every person in the neighborhood!</p>

<p>Squinting modifiers occur when an adverb could be modifying either a word before it or one after it. </p>

<p>Eating food quickly causes hunger.</p>

<p>Does quickly eating food cause hunger, or does eating food quickly cause hunger? We need to clarify:</p>

<p>Quickly eating food causes hunger. or</p>

<p>Eating food causes hunger quickly.</p>

<p>Ambiguous prepositional modifiers can usually be avoided only be reworking a sentence's structure. Consider this ambiguous sentence:</p>

<p>I stopped the oil flow with my child.</p>

<p>Did you use the child to stop the flow, or did you and the child stop the flow together? Consider this example as well (though it’s not technically a prepositional mis-modifier):</p>

<p>I want to show my best friend Squidward to everyone in town wearing a salmon suit.</p>

<p>- Infinitives comprise the base form of a word and to. For example, the infinitive of eat is to eat. That is the present infinitive; there are also perfect infinitives, such as *to have eaten<a href="e.g.,%20%5Bi%5DI%20want%20to%20have%20eaten%20a%20hot%20dog%20by%20the%20time%20I%20get%20home%5B/i%5D">/i</a>. </p>

<p>There is not much to know about infinitives for the SAT. A commonly cited "error" is the split infinitive, in which an adverb intervenes between to and the base form of the verb, as in to happily eat. This is, however, not a real error.</p>

<p>- Gerunds function as nouns and always end in the suffix -ing. </p>

<p>Failing to distinguish between participles and gerunds: Earlier, I offered this ungrammatical sentence:</p>

<p>I looked up and saw a person stealing my burrito!</p>

<p>stealing is a gerund there. Gerunds need to be treated as nouns, and a noun can be modified by another noun or pronoun only if that noun or pronoun is in the possessive case. So the sentence must be revised thus:</p>

<p>I looked up and saw a person's stealing my burrito!</p>

<p>After all, it is the stealing that most interests the speaker, not the person. If, however, the logical emphasis is on the non-gerund noun, the modifier is best thought of as a participle, as in:</p>

<p>I looked up and saw the President walking to his car!</p>

<p>Clearly, the speaker is referring to the fact that he saw the President; what the President was doing was incidental. Thus, we do not use the possessive case. Consider this sentence:</p>

<p>I looked up and saw the President/President's walking toward me! </p>

<p>In this case either form is justifiable: the speaker could be amazed by the action (i.e., the President's walking toward him or her) or the person himself. Consider these examples, in which the possessive case is rendered necessary because of the intent of the sentence:</p>

<p>His not being here is frustrating.</p>

<p>I don't like my dog's peeing on the rug.</p>

<p>My son's running into me caused my injury.</p>

<p>The failure of the system was due to its not being well regulated.</p>

<p>For these sentences the words ending in -ing are participles:</p>

<p>I don't want to buy a computer nearing the end of its life.</p>

<p>Around the corner was my long-lost dog sitting on the sidewalk.</p>

<p>However, we do make practical exceptions to the general rule that gerunds must be possessively modified. With indefinite and reflexive pronouns, for example, using the possessive form is either particularly awkward or impossible:</p>

<p>Everybody's doing his or her own work helped get the project done.</p>

<p>I don't like myself's not having high self-esteem.</p>

<p>The first sentence sounds so awkward that you may avoid the possessive case for that one, but using it is not ungrammatical. In the second sentence, though, we cannot use the possessive form because no such word exists.</p>

<p>On the Improving Sentences questions of the SAT, it will often ungrammatically precede a gerund (usually being). If you can determine that being is not being used as a participle, you can rule that answer out. Consider these sentences:</p>

<p>I am so happy about it being cheap!</p>

<p>Such a sentence is incorrect, because the speaker is happy about the cheapness. It must be rewritten as:</p>

<p>I am so happy about its being cheap!</p>

<p>Incorrectly using a gerund or infinitive as a complement: When an infinitive or gerund is the object of a verb, we call it that verb's complement. Some verbs must take infinitive complements; others must take gerund complements; and some can take either. Some nouns also take infinitive or gerund complements. Follow these guidelines for deciding whether to use an infinitive or gerund.</p>

<p>Abstract nouns usually take infinitive complements. Some common abstract nouns are tendency, motivation, and desire. So, one would say that someone has a tendency to, for example, exaggerate things.</p>

<p>The object of a preposition is often a gerund. One says that they need help with getting elected. </p>

<p>(The following lists are adapted from here</a>.)</p>

<p>The following verbs take infinitive complements:</p>

be able

<p>The following verbs can take an object and an infinitive, as in I will advise him to stop, where him is the object:</p>


<p>The following verbs take gerund complements:</p>

can't help
get through
spend (time)
waste (time)</p>

<p>The following verbs can take a preposition and a gerund, as in We talked about stopping:</p>

<p>admit to
approve of
argue about
believe in
care about
complain about
concentrate on
confess to
depend on
disapprove of
discourage from
dream about
feel like
forget about
insist on
object to
plan on
prevent (someone) from
refrain from
succeed in
talk about
think about
worry about</p>

<p>---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----
The Conjunction: Conjunctions like hooking up words, phrases, and clauses.</p>

<p>- The coordinating conjunctions are and, or, nor, but, yet, and so. They have many uses, including connecting two independent clauses. Clauses comprise a subject and a *predicate<a href="the%20verb%20and%20all%20its%20complements%20and%20modifiers">/i</a>. Independent clauses are those that can stand alone. Consider this sentence, in which a coordinating conjunction is used to connect two independent clauses:</p>

<p>I went to the store, and I saw the manager.</p>

<p>If we had not repeated the subject I, there would have only been one independent clause (but with a compound verb):</p>

<p>I went to the store and saw the manager</p>

<p>Commas are always used before coordinating conjunctions that are connecting two independent clauses unless the two clauses are very short and have the same subject, as in:</p>

<p>He ate and then he slept.</p>

<p>Using a comma there would also be correct, though. When a comma is used to connect two independent clauses that are not joined by a coordinating conjunction, it is called a comma splice. In American English (and on the SAT and ACT), comma splices are incorrect. Consider these examples of the comma splice:</p>

<p>I am hungry, I need to eat.</p>

<p>I don't like you, thus you must leave.</p>

<p>You seem nice, however, you just destroyed the Sun.</p>

<p>I ate my sandwich, then I watched the movie.</p>

<p>These sentences could be corrected in a variety of ways: using a coordinating conjunction, using a semicolon, or creating two sentences. Just make sure that, if you do use a coordinating conjunction, the conjunction is logical. For example, one should not say:</p>

<p>I am hungry, and I do not eat.</p>

<p>I am hungry, but I am about to go buy food.</p>

<p>These could be corrected thus:</p>

<p>I am hungry, but I do not eat.</p>

<p>I am hungry, so I am about to go buy food.</p>

<p>I often hear people claim that sentences should not be started with coordinating conjunctions, but doing so is perfectly grammatical. Something that should be avoided, though, is using coordinate conjunctions redundantly, as in:</p>

<p>I bought a llama, but I could not afford it, however.</p>

<p>This could be correct as (among other possibilities):</p>

<p>I bought a llama, but I could afford it.</p>

<p>I bought a llama. However, I could not afford it.</p>

<p>- Subordinating conjunctions (e.g., although, unless, because, if) introduce adverbial clauses, which are a special type of dependent clause (i.e., a clause that cannot stand alone). Adverbial clauses modify entire independent clauses. Introductory dependent clauses are often adverbial, as in (underlined words are subordinating conjunctions):</p>

<p>Although I cannot afford it, I will buy a llama.</p>

<p>Because I need a drink, I will make this sandwich.</p>

<p>However, they need not be introductory; in fact, adverbial clauses can be freely moved around a clause. Consider these examples:</p>

<p>I will go even though I don't want to.</p>

<p>The plan will continue as planned unless it does not.</p>

<p>As with coordinating conjunctions, illogic and redundancy must be avoided. These sentences are incorrect:</p>

<p>Although the man is nice, he gave to charity.</p>

<p>Even though he is ready, he will nevertheless not go on stage.</p>

<p>nevertheless is a conjunctive adverb (as are words like however and thus) and, therefore, has the same semantic effect as even though. </p>

<p>- Correlative conjunctions are used in pairs. Some common ones are:</p>




<p>not only...but also</p>


<p>The only exceptions to these: also is sometimes omitted in the fourth conjunction pair, and or may be omitted in the fifth conjunction if the alternative would be a negation (for example, I don't know whether to go or not may be abbreviated as I don't know whether to go). Here are some examples of these conjunctions:</p>

<p>Both Bob and Bob's dog are leaving soon.</p>

<p>I want either a moon or a star.</p>

<p>He is neither mean nor nice.</p>

<p>He not only went to the store, but also tore it down.</p>

<p>Whether you stay here or go build a museum is up to you.</p>

<p>The phrases so...that, as…as, and just as…so too also fit this form and are worth mentioning:</p>

<p>He is so hungry that he could eat a piece of fruit!</p>

<p>I am as hungry as an eater!</p>

<p>Just as you are a moose, so too am I an animal.</p>

<p>Correlative conjunctions provide a good opportunity to broach parallelism, which (roughly speaking) requires that words that are used in similar structural ways must be parallel. Let's first explore this with correlative conjunctions in particular: the words on either side of the second part of the correlative conjunction must be parallel in form. To better understand what correct parallelism implies, consider these examples of incorrect parallelism with *both...and<a href="the%20red%20areas%20must%20be%20parallel%20to%20each%20other">/i</a>:</p>

<p>I like both dancing and to sing.</p>

<p>That sentence is incorrect because to have, an infinitive, is not parallel with running and eating, which are both gerunds. </p>

<p>Bob both likes to eat and to walk.</p>

<p>The infinitive to walk is not parallel with the conjugated verb likes. This could be corrected by writing likes both to eat and to walk or likes to both eat and walk.</p>

<p>Bob looked both in the window and the mirror.</p>

<p>One phrase has a preposition; the other does not. This can be corrected by writing both in the window and in the mirror or in both the window and the mirror.</p>

<p>These rules apply similarly to the other correlative conjunctions. Also, the rule about gerunds and infinitives applies even when there is no correlative conjunction, as in:</p>

<p>Bob likes eating, walking, and to have a great time.</p>

<p>This sentence is incorrect because to have is the only infinitive; the others are gerunds. Prepositional parallelism must also be observed:</p>

<p>We went to the theater on the fourth day, the fifth day, and on the sixth day of the show.</p>

<p>The sentence can be grammatically rewritten in either of the following two ways:</p>

<p>We went to the theater on the fourth day, on the fifth day, and on the sixth day of the show.</p>

<p>We went to the theater on the fourth day, the fifth day, and the sixth day of the show.</p>

<p>Articles (e.g., the and a) must also be parallel:</p>

<p>I read the first, second, and the third books.</p>

<p>Likewise, this sentence can be rewritten as:</p>

<p>I read the first, second, and third books. or</p>

<p>I read the first, the second, and the third books.</p>

<p>For more examples of how to apply the principle of parallelism, consider these pairs of sentences from [url=<a href=""&gt;]here[/url&lt;/a&gt;] (sentences in italics are not parallel):</p>

<p>Phuong Tran has wit, charm, and a pleasing personality.</p>

<p>Phuong Tran has wit, charm, and she has an extremely pleasant personality.</p>

<p>In English class, Tashonda learned to read poems critically and to appreciate good prose.</p>

<p>In English class, Tashonda learned to read poems critically and she appreciated good prose.</p>

<p>He wanted three things out of college: to learn a skill, to make good friends, and to learn about life.</p>

<p>He wanted three things out of college: to learn a skill, to make good friends, and learning about life.</p>

<p>Coach Espinoza was a brilliant strategist, a caring mentor, and a wise friend.</p>

<p>Coach Espinoza was a brilliant strategist, a caring mentor, and friend.</p>

<p>We found the film repulsive, offensive, and embarrassing.</p>

<p>We found the film repulsive, offensive, and we thought it was embarrassing.</p>

<p>Mr. Nguyen kept his store clean, neat, and conveniently arranged.</p>

<p>Mr. Nguyen kept his store clean, neat, and he made it conveniently arranged.</p>

<p>Professor Ali rewarded his students for working hard on the final project and going beyond the call of duty.</p>

<p>Professor Ali rewarded his students for their hard work on the final project and going beyond the call of duty.</p>

<p>Comparisons, moreover, must be logically parallel. That is, the things that are being compared must be grammatically parallel (as was exampled above) and of the same logical type. For example:</p>

<p>My team's uniforms are better than your team.</p>

<p>Uniforms cannot logically be compared to a team in this context, so the sentence is incorrect. Consider this sentence:</p>

<p>Similar to my computer, your computer's monitor has poor resolution.</p>

<p>Only monitors, not computers, can have poor resolution, so this is illogical. Consider this sentence:</p>

<p>The President's agenda, like his predecessor, focused on appeasing the superficial interests of his constituency.</p>

<p>An agenda is being compared to a President, which is illogical. Using a pronoun, we could correct the sentence thus:</p>

<p>The President's agenda, like that of his predecessor, focused on appeasing the superficial interests of his constituency.</p>

<p>The following sentences illustrate another comparison error that appears frequently on the SAT:</p>

<p>Mexico is better than any country in North America.</p>

<p>He is better than anyone.</p>

<p>When the object of comparison is included in what it is being compared to, the comparison is illogical. We can usually fix this by using other or else:</p>

<p>Mexico is better than any other country in North America.</p>

<p>He is better than anyone else.</p>

<p>All that’s left to mention, I believe, is diction. The SAT will occasionally test your ability to recognize an incorrect word, usually one that is spelled or pronounced very similarly to the intended word. Because there is no general guiding principle behind appropriate diction, this section is somewhat difficult to prepare for. However, if you would like to try to do so, I recommend reading through [url=<a href=""&gt;]this[/url&lt;/a&gt;]. If you choose not to, though, you won’t be penalized more than one question at the most. (If you do use that Web site, you can disregard all entries on proper nouns and any issues that seem especially esoteric.)</p>

<p>(It looks as though, in the end, everything ended up fitting under “Parts of Speech.”)</p>

<p>I should reiterate that grammatical terms will never be explicitly tested on the SAT. Nonetheless, relying merely on your auditory intuition is woefully unreliable and is generally unsuccessful at tackling the more difficult questions. For that reason, I wrote this guide. </p>

<p>I hope that you found this grammar guide helpful. If you understand all the concepts that I presented and you take a couple practice tests to help you apply the material and get a hang of the section, it is reasonable to expect to miss very few, if any, questions on the SAT Writing section.
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----</p>

<p>Improving Sentences Questions</p>

<p>These questions test your ability to choose the best variation on a given sentence. In deciding which choice is "best," you should first consider grammar. If an option is ungrammatical, it will never be the correct answer. When you are going through the choices initially, you are on the hunt for any mistakes; this usually narrows your choices significantly and can occasionally lead you to a single correct answer.</p>

<p>If choices remain after filtering out the ungrammatical ones, you must next consider the clarity of the sentence. Are all of the pronouns as unambiguous as they can be? Does the sentence flow logically? Are the conjunctions consistent with the intended meaning of the choice? These questions should be running through your mind.</p>

<p>If more than one choice remains after applying these techniques, go with the more concise choice. Once ungrammatical choices are eliminated, the correct choice will be the shortest one the vast majority of the time. Keep in mind, however, that the College Board would not consider a choice better simply because it was shorter than another; there is typically an unnecessarily wordy, awkward spot that contributes to the length.</p>

<p>Identifying Errors Questions</p>

<p>These questions test your ability to recognize usage errors and incorrect grammar. A sentence with four underlined words or phrases will be presented. If one of these four underlined portions contains an error, select it as the answer. If you think that there is more than one error, you have made a mistake. If there is no error, select (E) as the answer.</p>

<p>These questions are relatively straightforward and do not require a deep strategy; if you know your grammar (as I hope you do if you have gone through the previous posts), you will do very well. The only strategic thing I do is to mark each question that I think has no error. When I have finished, I return to the marked questions to ensure that there is truly no error. While there is no predetermined number of questions that will have no error, it is good to keep in mind that approximately 20% of the questions will have no error on any given test. But don't let this fact cause you to second-guess answers that you had been confident about.</p>

<p>Improving Paragraphs Questions</p>

<p>Compared to the rest of the Writing section, these questions have less to do with grammar and more to do with well-organized writing. Diction and clarity also come up.</p>

<p>Among other things, you'll be asked to provide better alternatives for sentences and phrases, to fix the syntax of a sentence, and to rearrange sentences within the paragraphs. For the most part, the questions are not as objective or straightforward as the rest of the Writing section, so your best preparation will be to work through the Improving Paragraphs questions from The Blue Book. Once you get a hang of these, however, they can become quite easy.</p>

<p>PRACTICE #5</p>

<p>Try these questions. The first eleven are Improving Sentences questions, the next eighteen are Identifying Errors questions, and the final six are Improving Paragraphs questions. (Answers and explanations appear below.)</p>

<p>1. By the beginning of 1755, events are reaching a stage that made war between Britain and France all but inevitable.</p>

<p>(A) No change
(B) will reach
(C) could reach
(D) having reached
(E) had reached</p>

<p>2. The chair of the school board announced a plan to build two new elementary schools during an interview with a local news reporter.</p>

<p>(A) No change
(B) The chair of the school board announced that two new elementary schools were planned to be built during an interview with a local news reporter.
(C) The chair of the school board, during an interview with a local news reporter, announced a plan building two new elementary schools.
(D) During an interview with a local news reporter, the chair of the school board announcing a plan to build two new elementary schools.
(E) During an interview with a local news reporter, the chair of the school board announced a plan to build two new elementary schools.</p>

<p>3. The new political science curriculum at some high schools in India, encouraging teachers to use cartoon and newspaper clipping to provoke classroom debate on contemporary issues.</p>

<p>(A) No change
(B) India, which encourages teachers to use cartoons and newspaper clippings, and provokes
(C) India is encouraging teachers to use cartoons and newspaper clipping and then provoking
(D) India encourages teachers to use cartoons and newspaper clippings to provoke
(E) India so encourages teachers to use cartoons and newspaper clippings as provoking</p>

<p>4. The museum experienced a greatly increased number of visitors in one year, and analysts cited the museum's expansion, free admission, and new family-oriented education center to be reasons for their appeal.</p>

<p>(A) No change
(B) to be a reason for their
(C) as being reasons for their
(D) as reasons for its
(E) as a reason for its</p>

<p>5. Critics often equate the popular appeal of a work of art with inferiority, forgetting that Shakespeare wrote his extraordinary plays primarily to please his audience.</p>

<p>(A) No change
(B) Critics often equate the popular appeal of a work of art with inferiority, they forget
(C) Critics, who often equate the popular appeal of a work of art with inferiority, forgetting
(D) Often equating the popular appeal of a work of art with inferiority are critics, they forget
(E) The popular appeal of a work of art often equated by critics as being the same as inferiority, they forget</p>

<p>6. The beaver is the largest rodent in North America, it has a large, flat, nearly hairless tail; webbed hind feet; and short front legs with hairy claws.</p>

<p>(A) No change
(B) The beaver being the largest rodent in North America, it
(C) The beaver, the largest rodent in North America, which
(D) The largest rodent in North America, the beaver
(E) The largest rodents in North America, the beaver</p>

<p>7. To persuade his parents to let him study abroad, Kenneth described other students' positive experiences, explains how foreign study would benefit his future career, and assured them that he could get financial aid.</p>

<p>(A) No change
(B) explained how foreign study would benefit his future career, and assured
(C) explaining how foreign study is beneficial to his future career, and assures
(D) he explained how foreign study would benefit his future career, and assuring
(E) in explaining how foreign study would benefit his future career, and he assures</p>

<p>8. The art classes at the village museum are more important for their social value than for their educational contributions.</p>

<p>(A) No change
(B) than in the contributions they make educationally
(C) rather than for the contributions they make educationally
(D) instead of for their educational contributions
(E) not the educational contributions they make</p>

<p>9. The vice president of the United States is also the president of the Senate, the vice president is not a senator and does not vote on Senate matters except to break a tie. </p>

<p>(A) No change
(B) the vice president, who is not
(C) however, the vice president, not being
(D) although the vice president is not
(E) and the vice president, who is not</p>

<p>10. Although numbered among the most technically demanding pieces ever created for piano, Frederic Chopin wrote compositions that emphasize nuance and expressive depth over mere technical display.</p>

<p>(A) No change
(B) Frederic Chopin wrote compositions emphasizing
(C) when Frederic Chopin wrote compositions, they emphasized
(D) Frederic Chopin's compositions that emphasized
(E) Frederic Chopin's compositions emphasize </p>

<p>11. By painting them this afternoon, the walls would be completely dry by tomorrow evening. </p>

<p>(A) No change
(B) If they would have been painted
(C) Were they to be painted
(D) After painting them
(E) They would have been painted</p>

<p>12. Learning a foreign language is difficult not only because most languages contain an enormous number of words and because people need to use a language often to become comfortable with it. No error</p>

<p>13. Nellie Lutcher did not achieve success quickly: she had been giving live performances for over a decade before she will record her first hit song. No error</p>

<p>14. Ken Alice N'doye, who earned a reputation as a caterer and then opened her own bakery, but first learned to cook by preparing food for her own family. No error</p>

<p>15. The introduction of paraffin wax in 1830 enabled candle makers to produce candles that burned more clean than those made with tallow or beeswax. No error</p>

<p>16. The sculptures of Michael Kapetan function as sundials, kept time by casting shadows that show the path of the Sun. No error</p>

<p>17. It is now generally agreed that the rings of the planet Saturn are composed of several billion small ice particles. No error</p>

<p>18. Cuban music was so popular in the Colombian city of Cali thus becoming the basis for the dance scene that predominated there during the 1940s. No error</p>

<p>19. The X chromosome was named "X" because researchers were baffled by its behavior, not because of its resemblance to the letter X. No error</p>

<p>20. A big vegetable salad is generally more nutritious than a low-fat pasta dish, but either meal would be good choices for the health-conscious eater. No error</p>

<p>21. Seventy-five percent of the apples sold in New York City come from the West Coast or overseas, even though New York State produces more than enough apples to meet the city's needs. No error</p>

<p>22. Despite the heavy rain, the television reporter, accompanied by her loyal film crew, were willing to wait outside the hotel until the delegates finished their meeting. No error</p>

<p>23. The number of travelers which reached the Americas, by accident or design, well before Columbus is enormous, if we are to believe every claim. No error</p>

<p>24. The people sitting behind me in the movie theater were talking throughout the film and would not keep their voice down even after being asked to do so. No error</p>

<p>25. Of the more than 50 entries in the high school science fair, Sarah's project was declared more innovative by the panel of six judges. No error</p>

<p>26. Perhaps the most extraordinary feature of the African elephant is their amazingly versatile trunk. No error</p>

<p>27. Langston Hughes may be best known for his poetry, but included among his many published works are a sizable a collection of short stories. No error</p>

<p>28. In 1988 a Soviet icebreaking ship helped free three gray whales that had become trapped in the Arctic ice after they had swam into the coastal waters of Alaska to feed. No error</p>

<p>29. The Bactrian camel is well adapted to the extreme climate of its native Mongolia, having thick fur and underwool that keeps it warm in winter and also insulate against summer heat. No error</p>

<p>Questions 30-35 refer to the following passage.</p>

<p><a href="1">b</a>** Over 5,000 years ago, the early Egyptians used the wind to power their sailing ships. <a href="2">b</a>** Windmills were invented in Persia in the ninth century, where their first use was to grind grains. <a href="3">b</a>** Windmills were later used to pump water and run sawmills. <a href="4">b</a>** Today, windmills, or wind turbines, are used primarily to generate electricity, especially in Europe. <a href="5">b</a>** Another renewable energy source with many useful applications is solar power.</p>

<p><a href="6">b</a>** In recent years, wind power has demonstrated many advantages over conventional power source. <a href="7">b</a>** Because wind power is a renewable resource, it does not deplete Earth's natural resources.</p>

<p><a href="8">b</a>** Wind power may seem to offer a perfect solution to the world's increasing need for safe, clean energy sources. <a href="9">b</a>** Many people worry that birds, particularly birds of prey, may be harmed by wind turbines. <a href="10">b</a>** Some people are also concerned that large wind farms may interrupt birds' migratory patterns, although they counter that conventional electrical power lines pose much more of a threat to birds. <a href="11">b</a>** Also, you have the fields of large wind turbines that are typically placed on ridgelines in hilly or mountainous regions, where many people feel that they spoil the beauty of the natural landscape. <a href="12">b</a>** Finally, because wind is variable even in the windiest locations, maintaining a steady supply of wind-generated electricity poses a significant challenge.</p>

<p>30. Which of the following sentences would be best to place at the beginning of the passage—before sentence 1?</p>

<p>(A) People stopped building windmills when steam power replaced wind power as an economical way of generating energy.
(B) Since ancient times, people have produced flour by using stones to grind grain.
(C) Even in works of fiction, such as Don Quixote de la Mancha, windmills appear.
(D) Sailing ships operate on many of the same principles as windmills.
(E) The harnessing of the wind to generate power for human activity has ancient origins.</p>

<p>31. In context, which of the following is the best way to deal with sentence 5?</p>

<p>(A) Change "Another" to "An equally."
(B) Change "with" to "that is known to have."
(C) Change "many useful" to "widespread practical."
(D) Move it to the beginning of the next paragraph.
(E) Delete it from the passage.</p>

<p>32. In context, the second paragraph would be most improved by including</p>

<p>(A) a brief list of reasons that some people prefer conventional power sources to wind power
(B) information on how ancient windmills differed from modern ones
(C) additional examples of advantages that wind power has over conventional power
(D) a list of countries that depend on windmills to produce energy
(E) an account of how windmills are constructed </p>

<p>33. In context, which of the following is the best version of the underlined portion of sentence 10?</p>

<p>Some people are also concerned that large wind farms may interrupt birds' migratory patterns, although they counter that conventional electrical power lines pose much more of a threat to birds.</p>

<p>(A) they would like to argue
(B) their argument for wind power is
(C) the people who were for wind power argued
(D) people in favor of wind power argue
(E) to argue in favor of wind power means</p>

<p>34. In context, which of the following is the best version of the underlined portion of sentence 11?</p>

<p>Also, you have the fields of large wind turbines that are typically placed on ridgelines in hilly or mountainous regions, where many people feel that they spoil the beauty of the natural landscape.</p>

<p>(A) Fortunately, there are
(B) Granted, there are also
(C) In addition, not everyone welcomes
(D) In this case, the exception is
(E) Alternatively, this points to</p>

<p>35. In context, where should the following sentence be placed?</p>

<p>It presents problems of its own, however.</p>

<p>(A) Before sentence 2
(B) Before sentence 4
(C) Before sentence 8
(D) Before sentence 9
(E) Before sentence 12</p>


<p>1. E</p>

<p>Topic: Verb Tense
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>We see by, which is a trigger that lets us know that one of the perfect tenses should be used. Choice (E) is, then, the only possible answer. Additionally, the other choices' tenses are incorrect (we are speaking about 1755, which is in the past). </p>

<p>2. E</p>

<p>Topic: Ambiguous modification
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>Choices (A) and (B) are incorrect because during an interview with a local news reporter could be indicating when the announcement was made or when the schools will be built. Choice (C) is incorrect because the plan itself is not building schools. Choice (D) is incorrect because there is no conjugated verb. Choice (E) is correct because the modification is unambiguous; we know that the announcement was made during the interview.</p>

<p>3. D</p>

<p>Topic: Verbs
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>Choice (A) is incorrect because there is no conjugated verb. Choice (B) is incorrect because, if we disregard the independent clause, the sentence ungrammatically reads, "India...and provokes." Likewise, choice (C) reads, "India is encouraging...and then provoking." Choice (D) is correct. Choice (E) is incorrect because it does not follow the correct form of</p>

<p>4. D</p>

<p>Topic: Number Agreement, Correct Prepositions
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>The correct form is cited as. This leaves choices (D) and (E), only one of which is appropriately plural.</p>

<p>5. A</p>

<p>Topic: Comma Splices
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>Choice (B) connects two independent clauses without a coordinating conjunction; an ungrammatical comma splice results. Choice (C) has no independent clause. Choice (D) also has a comma splice, as does choice (E). </p>

<p>6. D</p>

<p>Topic: Comma Splices, Number Agreement, Participial Phrases
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>Choice (A) has a comma splice. Choice (B) does not use the participial phrase correctly; it could have been written as Being the largest rodent in North America, the beaver, however. Choice (C), when we omit the dependent clause, reads, "The beaver...which." Choice (E) does not employ proper agreement: rodents is plural, but beaver is singular.</p>

<p>7. B</p>

<p>Topic: Parallelism, Verb Tense
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>The verbs in a list such as this must be parallel in form and consistent in tense. Only choice (B) satisfies this requirement.</p>

<p>8. A</p>

<p>Topic: Parallel Comparisons
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>What follows than must be parallel with for their social value. </p>

<p>9. D</p>

<p>Topic: Comma Splices, Subordination
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>Choice (A) creates a comma splice. Choices (B), (C), and (D) are nonsensical syntactically. Choice (D) correctly subordinates the dependent clause. (This sentence was probably directed toward Sarah Palin.)</p>

<p>10. E</p>

<p>Topic: Participial Phrases
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>Recall that the subject of the clause that a participial phrase is adjacent to must be what that phrase is adjectively modifying. Choices (A) and (B) illogically indicate that Chopin is a musical work. Choice (D) has no independent clause.</p>

<p>11. C</p>

<p>Topic: Participial Phrases, Verb Tenses
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>Choices (A) and (D) create mis-modifying participial phrases: the walls did not paint themselves. Choice (B) has the incorrect tense (the sentence would have had to be reworded as If they would have been painted this afternoon, the walls would have been completely dry by tomorrow evening). Choice (E) creates a comma splice.</p>

<p>12. C</p>

<p>Topic: Correlative Conjunctions
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>Choice (C) is ungrammatical because the correct form is not only...but also. </p>

<p>13. D</p>

<p>Topic: Verb Tense
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>In context, it is illogical to use the future tense.</p>

<p>14. C</p>

<p>Topic: Coordination
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>When we omit the dependent clause, the sentence reads, "Ken Alice N'doye...but first learned."</p>

<p>15. C</p>

<p>Topic: Adverb-Adjective Confusion
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>more clean is modifying burned, a verb. Thus, the adjective clean should be the adverb cleanly. </p>

<p>16. B</p>

<p>Topic: Syntax
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Common sense suffices.

<p>The sentence makes no sense with the verb in its current location.</p>

<p>17. E</p>

<p>Topic: Dummy Pronouns
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>There is no error. Don't forget that some pronouns are not trying to refer to anything (informally called "dummy pronouns"); in this case, it is one of those pronouns.</p>

<p>18. B</p>

<p>Topic: Correlative Conjunctions
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>The correct form is so...that. </p>

<p>19. E</p>

<p>Topic: The Absence of a Topic
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>There is no error. </p>

<p>20. D</p>

<p>Topic: Number Agreement
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>either meal is singular, but good choices is plural. (D) is a good choice.</p>

<p>21. E</p>

<p>Topic: The Absence of a Topic
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>There is no error.</p>

<p>22. B</p>

<p>Topic: Subject-Verb Agreement
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>Recall that intervening phrases do not affect agreement, so the sentence incorrectly reads, "the television reporter...were willing."</p>

<p>23. A</p>

<p>Topic: Relative Pronouns
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>Recall that the relative pronoun which should not be used with people.</p>

<p>24. C</p>

<p>Topic: Number Agreement
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>More than one person will have one more than one voice.</p>

<p>25. D</p>

<p>Topic: Comparative-Superlative Errors
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>When we are comparing from among three or more entities, the superlative, not the comparative, form must be used. The superlative form of innovative is most innovative. </p>

<p>26. C</p>

<p>Topic: Number Agreement
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>their is plural (in the College Board's eyes, that is); elephant is singular.</p>

<p>27. D</p>

<p>Topic: Subject-Verb Agreement
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>Don't be fooled by the inverted construction; even though the subject comes after the verb, they must still agree. collection is singular; are is plural.</p>

<p>28. C</p>

<p>Topic: Past Participles
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>Recall that the past participle of swim is swum. </p>

<p>29. C</p>

<p>Topic: Subject-Verb Agreement
Could the answer be determined by using the grammar guide? Yes.

<p>At first glance, the dependent clause (i.e., that keeps it...) could be modifying either fur and underwool or underwool. If that were the case, keeps would be correct as either singular or plural. However, insulate is plural, so we know that the compound subject is being modified.</p>

<p>30. E</p>

<p>The first paragraph is talking about windmills and begins with a historical perspective. </p>

<p>31. E</p>

<p>None of the rest of the passage refers to solar power; to bring it up is going off topic*.</p>

<p>(* Did you notice the lack of parallelism? We can't mix gerunds and infinitives.)</p>

<p>32. C</p>

<p>A single example does not support the scope of the first sentence's claim.</p>

<p>33. D</p>

<p>Only choice (D) is unambiguous and in the correct tense.</p>

<p>34. C</p>

<p>The author is providing an additional objection.</p>

<p>35. D</p>

<p>The sentence most clearly contrasts with sentence 8, which is consistent with the semantic implication of the conjunctive adverb however.</p>

<p>The Essay</p>

<p>The SAT essay tests your ability to write in a superficially good way. That's right: the thoughtfulness and clarity of conception that ordinarily characterize effective writing apply much less on the SAT. The graders will spend about two minutes (at most) on each essay, and the result is a rather shallow and formulaic analysis of your writing. They do, after all, have to get through hundreds of thousands of essays within a couple weeks.</p>

<p>You will be presented with a prompt—one that has two justifiable sides. Your job is to select a side and support it with examples. Do not veer off topic (you will receive a score of 0) or attempt to find a middle ground; pick a side and stick with it. Pick whichever side you can more easily and cogently support.</p>

<p>There is no prescribed format for the essay. You don't need five paragraphs, your thesis need not be at the end of your first paragraph (though this is generally a good idea), and you don't need an elaborate introduction and conclusion. Try to shoot for around a three-sentence introduction and a two-to-three-sentence conclusion. It is commonly cited that three examples are necessary for a great score; this is false. A single, well-supported example is always preferable to three, scarcely-supported examples. Most people find that going with two examples works best for them.</p>

<p>Because of the time constraints, the essay graders will begin to notice correlations and use them to more efficiently assess the essays. One of these is length: longer essays, on average, tend to be better. As a result, graders will automatically associate length with quality. Again, there is no required length, but I highly recommend that you aim to fill up both pages. </p>

<p>Practicing the typical good writing habits is important. Vary your sentence types, employ descriptive and appropriate vocabulary when you feel comfortable doing so, and try to establish good fluidity (by smartly using conjunctive adverbs, for example). Avoiding salient grammatical errors is important, but the technical and rigorous approach to grammar that characterized my coverage of the rest of the Writing section is not relevant to the essay; minor mistakes will not affect your score and may even go unnoticed. </p>

<p>As for what examples are acceptable, just about anything will fly. However, historical and literary examples, as opposed to personal examples, tend to result in higher scores more often; but, again, any type of example can be successful if done well. And the point of the essay is to assess your writing skills, not your knowledge of literature or history, so carefully and plausibly fabricating some historical details or books is not a bad idea. (Stay away from citing very specific statistics, though; they are almost never believable.)</p>

<p>It is impossible to ensure that you will receive a 12 on the essay (each grader's score between 0-6 is summed). Indeed, because of the great inherent subjectivity and graders' hesitancy to hand out 6's, 12's are quite rare (each grader would have to give a 6). Indicative of the randomness of the grading are the facts that 11's are about three times as common as 12's (meaning that the graders gave different scores) and that about 4% of essays are sent to a third, supervisory grader (meaning that the graders' scores varied by two or more on a six-point scale). Moreover, 9's are nearly twice as common as 10's. These statistics do not reflect favorably on the College Board. However, it is possible to consistently score 10 or higher; a great essay will almost always receive at least 5 from each grader. </p>

<p>Luckily, you won't need a 12 to score well on the Writing section of the SAT. In fact, on every administration (so far, at least) you can receive 800 with a 10 as long as you do not miss any multiple choice questions. If you do manage to get 12 on the essay, you can usually miss up to two questions on the multiple choice and still pull off a "perfect" score overall.</p>


<p>To calculate your raw score on one of the three sections, assign one point to correct answers and deduct a quarter of a point for each incorrect answer to a multiple choice question (that is, this deduction does not apply to free-response Math questions). Omitted questions do not directly affect your raw score, though the opportunity cost is still one point. The deduction for incorrect, as opposed to omitted, questions is designed to compensate for random guessing.</p>

<p>Once you have completed that tallying, round your score to the nearest integer value; .5 rounds up (which is in your favor). So incorrectly answering two questions is essentially the same as omitting two questions, but a third missed question can cause a significant drop. I explained some of the implications of this in my earlier discussion of when deciding whether to guess or omit. </p>

<p>The raw score can then be converted to the scaled score (out of 800). It is in this conversion that the curve of the test comes into play. This curve is not, as some people believe, an artificial adjustment of the average that is applied occasionally if students' performance on the test was below average. Instead, the curve is inherent in the conversion; there is no predetermined, "normal" scaled score to which a given raw score converts. The College Board employs a multifaceted approach to determining the appropriate curve, including consideration of a sample group's performance on the test prior to the regular administration and the test-taking group's performance on the unscored, experimental sections. Rest assured: variations in difficulty among the tests are compensated for. This means that it does not really matter which month you take the test as long as you are well-prepared.</p>

<p>See [here[/url</a>] for selected historical curves. Note, though, that the curves as of late have in general been slightly less forgiving than they used to be, most notably on the Math section. The reason for this is not clear.</p>

<p>The PSAT</p>

<p>The Preliminary SAT (PSAT) is offered each October. The test is most commonly taken by juniors, but some high schools encourage sophomores and freshmen to take it as well. Unlike the SAT, which is scored out of 2400, the PSAT is scored out of 240; each section is still worth one-third of the total composite score, however. Beyond the PSAT's being shorter (just over two hours) and its not having an essay component, the test is very similar to the SAT in content and style of questioning.</p>

<p>Some people have reported that they found the PSAT to be easier. However, I did not find this to be case. Also, the PSAT Math section supposedly covers even more basic concepts than the SAT Math section does, but again I noticed no difference. In any case the tests are very similar. For this reason preparing for either test will benefit you on the other. So preparing for the PSAT as you would the SAT (a process that I explained earlier) is probably your best bet. Just make sure to try at least one PSAT practice test so that you are familiar with the format.</p>

<p>The determination of raw scores and scaled scores works on the PSAT as it does on the SAT. The only difference is that the PSAT, as a result of its having fewer questions, tends to have even less-forgiving curves. </p>

<p>Luckily, however, having an ultra-high PSAT score is not important. The primary reason that students take the PSAT (aside from being occasionally forced to by their schools) is to qualify for some sort of honor from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. Only students' junior-year scores can qualify them for these honors, which I explain below:</p>

<p>[ul][<em>]Around April of a student's junior year, he or she may be notified of having a PSAT score that puts him or her among the top 50,000 high-school juniors who took the PSAT. This is approximately the 96.5th percentile.
[</em>]In early senior year, those 50,000 students are notified about whether they are Semifinalists (the top 16,000) or Commended (the next 34,000). Students' scores determine which they qualify for, and neither Semifinalist nor Commended status confers a monetary value in itself. (Some schools do, however, give scholarships that are dependent on these honors.)
[li]Semifinalists are asked to produce additional application materials, such as an SAT score, a high-school transcript, and an essay. The SAT score must be high enough to affirm, in the eyes of National Merit, a student's PSAT score. The minimum acceptable SAT score is rumored to be around 1900-2000. As long as a student sends in these materials and meets the SAT-score threshold, he or she will be become a Finalist. About 15,000 students become Finalists.</p>[/li]
<p>[li]Based on an assessment of the additional materials sent in (the PSAT score is now irrelevant), 8,000 National Merit Scholars are chosen. These students each receive $2,500 (significantly more if the colleges that they attend give scholarships for this honor).[/ul][/li]The Commended score cutoff is a national threshold; it applies similarly to all students. It typically hovers between 201 and 205. The Semifinalist score cutoffs, on the other hand, vary from state to state. Here are the most recent cutoffs:</p>

<p>Alabama 208
Alaska 211
Arizona 210
Arkansas 203
California 218
Colorado 215
Connecticut 218
Delaware 219
District of Columbia 221
Florida 211
Georgia 214
Hawaii 214
Idaho 209
Illinois 214
Indiana 211
Iowa 209
Kansas 211
Kentucky 209
Louisiana 207
Maine 213
Maryland 221
Massachusetts 221
Michigan 209
Minnesota 215
Mississippi 203
Missouri 211
Montana 204
Nebraska 207
Nevada 202
New Hampshire 213
New Jersey 221
New Mexico 208
New York 218
North Carolina 214
North Dakota 202
Ohio 211
Oklahoma 207
Oregon 213
Pennsylvania 214
Rhode Island 217
South Carolina 211
South Dakota 205
Tennessee 213
Texas 216
Utah 206
Vermont 213
Virginia 218
Washington 217
West Virginia 203
Wisconsin 207
Wyoming 201
New England/Mid Atlantic Boarding Schools 221</p>

<p>If your parents work for a participating company, you could receive significant scholarship money at lower thresholds. Additionally, there are other distinction programs that National Merit runs. National Hispanic Recognition Program recognizes 5,000 Hispanic students year. Specifically (from [url=<a href=""&gt;]here](&lt;a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

To qualify for this program, you must be at least one-quarter Hispanic/Latino. Hispanic/Latino is an ethnic category, not a racial category, and you may be of any race. For purposes of the NHRP, you must be from a family whose ancestors came from at least one of these countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay, or Venezuela.


<p>Here are the most recent qualifying scores:</p>

<p>Region 1 - New England - 184
Region 2 - Mid Atlantic - 184
Region 3 - South - 193
Region 4 - Southwest - 182
Region 5 - Midwest - 193
Region 6 - West - 184</p>

<p>A 3.5 GPA (on a 4-point scale) is also required; this can be weighted or unweighted. There is no directly associated monetary award, but, again, some colleges will award scholarships to qualifiers.</p>

<p>National Merit offers a program for African-American students as well, called the National Achievement Scholarship Program. Approximately 700 students are chosen to receive $2,500 scholarships.</p>

<p>When National Merit Semifinalists are chosen, they are given an opportunity to select two "first-choice" schools, which will be notified of this selection. In doing so, it is best to pick schools that award scholarships based on the honor or that consider demonstrated interest in making admissions decisions (the latter fact can be found by searching a school's Common Data Set). Don't just select a top school because you think that it will make you stand out; a significant number of top schools' applicants are Semifinalists.</p>

<p>SAT Subject Tests</p>

<p>SAT Subject Tests (formerly called the SAT II) test your knowledge and skills in specific subjects. There are twenty different Subject Tests that are offered. Here is some commentary about each of them. </p>

<p>Literature: Poses interpretation questions based on passages and poetry from various eras. In some ways, it is a more difficult version of the Critical Reading section of the SAT. Some basic knowledge of literature terms is required. Getting a score of 800 is very difficult. Because of the number of practice tests that it contains, [this[/url</a>] book is a good preparatory resource. <a href="800%20is%20the%2099th%20percentile;%20790%20is%20the%2099th%20percentile.%20%20Around%2059/61%20(raw%20score)%20is%20required%20for%20800.">i</a>*</p>

<p>United States History: Supposed to be slightly more detail-oriented than the AP US History exam. The curve is rather generous, however. Though designed for the AP test, [url=<a href=""&gt;]this[/url&lt;/a&gt;] book is an excellent resource for the Subject Test and has sufficient but well-presented detail. <a href="800%20is%20the%2098th%20percentile;%20790%20is%20the%2097th%20percentile.%20%20Around%2079/90%20(raw%20score)%20is%20required%20for%20800.">i</a>*</p>

<p>World History: The test's difficulty is largely mitigated by its very generous curve. <a href="800%20is%20the%2097th%20percentile;%20790%20is%20the%2096th%20percentile.%20%20Around%2078/95%20(raw%20score)%20is%20required%20for%20800.">i</a>*</p>

<p>Math Level 1: Although this test does not go in-depth as Math Level 2 does, the questions require slightly more problem-solving skills. Moreover, the curve is very unforgiving. I recommend against taking this test unless you have not taken pre-calculus yet. Note as well that some schools do not accept this test (such as the University of California system). <a href="800%20is%20the%2099th%20percentile;%20790%20is%20the%2099th%20percentile.%20%20Around%2049/50%20(raw%20score)%20is%20required%20for%20800.">i</a>*</p>

<p>Math Level 2: The test covers some pre-calculus topics, but the questions are fairly straightforward. If you are looking for very rigorous practice tests, check out [url=<a href="'s%5B/url"&gt;]Barron's[/url&lt;/a&gt;]. For more realistic and efficient preparation, [url=<a href=""&gt;]Princeton&lt;/a> Review](<a href=""&gt; has accurate tests. Sparknotes also has some decent practice</a> tests; plus, they're free (they have some for a few other subjects as well). <a href="800%20is%20the%2089th%20percentile;%20790%20is%20the%2086th%20percentile.%20%20Around%2043-44/50%20(raw%20score)%20is%20required%20for%20800.">i</a>*</p>

<p>Biology: There are two versions of this test: Ecological and Molecular. All Biology test-takers will take the same first sixty questions, but the next twenty will focus on one of those two areas. The test is known to be somewhat difficult and has a relatively unforgiving curve. Princeton</a> Review is generally considered to be a solid book for this test. <a href="800%20is%20around%2098th%20percentile;%20790%20is%20around%2096th%20percentile.%20%20Around%2077/80%20(raw%20score)%20is%20required%20for%20800.">i</a>*</p>

<p>Chemistry: This test goes beyond the material of the typical introductory chemistry class but does not get as in-depth as AP Chemistry does. Princeton</a> Review and [Barron's[/url</a>] have pretty good review sections, although Barron's may cover more than you need for the test. <a href="800%20is%20the%2093rd%20percentile;%20790%20is%20the%2091st%20percentile.%20%20Around%2082/85%20(raw%20score)%20is%20required%20for%20800.">i</a>*</p>

<p>Physics: Like the Chemistry test, the Physics Subject Test is not as in-depth as its AP counterpart (i.e., AP Physics B). There are a few topics that appear on the Subject Test, however, that are not in the Physics B or C curricula. Therefore, students enrolled in either of those classes should consider flipping through a review book to familiarize themselves with those topics, especially if they are in Physics C without having taken B. [url=<a href=""&gt;]Princeton&lt;/a> Review](<a href="'s%5B/url"&gt; is often cited as the best preparatory book. No calculus appears on the exam, and the curve is generous. <a href="800%20is%20around%2090th%20percentile;%20790%20is%20around%2088th%20percentile.%20%20Around%2059/75%20(raw%20score)%20is%20required%20for%20800.">i</a>*</p>

<p>The remaining Subject Tests are language exams. They tend to have harsh curves, and the percentiles are less meaningful because of the significant self-selection that characterizes their test-taking populations. The offered languages are:</p>

<p>Chinese (Listening)
French (Listening or Reading)
German (Listening or Reading)
Japanese (Listening)
Korean (Listening)
Spanish (Listening or Reading)
Modern Hebrew (Reading)
Latin (Reading)
Italian (Reading)</p>

<p>The College Board publishes its own [book[/url</a>] for all the Subject Tests; there is one practice test for each. The College Board also offers a [url=<a href=""&gt;]book[/url&lt;/a&gt;] for their math Subject Tests. That book says that there are four tests—two for each level—but only two of these are different from the test in their general guide. The story is the same for their [url=<a href=""&gt;]guide[/url&lt;/a&gt;] for the history Subject Tests.</p>

<p>Although it is worth it to pick up any relevant official materials for the practice tests, you will likely have to turn to other preparatory sources (such as those that I mentioned above) for more practice, as well as review of the material. Luckily, though, using official practice tests is not as important with the Subject Tests as it is with the SAT Reasoning Test.</p>

<p>In order to supplement my rather superficial coverage of the Subject Tests thus far, I have asked CCer christiansoldier to offer his thoughts on the tests. Here is the product of his gracious agreement:</p>

Math I: Math I is often neglected by top students, and with good
reason. Math I presumes only that you have successfully completed
Algebra II. It will test basic trigonometric functions, but you will
probably remember seeing these in your geometry class. Some people take
Math I because it requires virtually no preparation. If you have done
well in your high school math classes and are a solid test-taker, you
should have no trouble getting a high score in Math I. The trouble is
that getting an 800 requires precision; you are often permitted to miss
only one question (or no questions). The curve remains steep, and
missing only a few questions will be detrimental to your score.<br>
Furthermore, most top colleges prefer Math II, which has a much more
forgiving curve and is therefore widely considered the “easier” test.<br>
In general, taking Math I is not recommended.</p>

<p>Math II: Whereas Math I is often neglected, the majority of top students
take Math II. Unlike Math I, Math II has a very generous curve. If it
were a test in school, getting an A would usually be enough to get an
800. Students who have done well in high school math through
pre-calculus and are strong test-takers will find this a manageable
test. It is especially appealing because it requires relatively little
preparation. You might have to review some of the finer points
such as matrices, but there is usually very little - if any - material
that you haven’t seen before. Of course, you should practice, but you
probably will not need a lot of review.</p>

<p>Chemistry: Chemistry is a very popular test among the hordes of
math/science-inclined top students. Unlike Math II, it is not a
particularly easy test to score well on. The curve is less forgiving
than, say, physics. This test’s popularity can best be attributed to
ambitious sophomores fresh out of AP Chemistry. The material covered in
SAT II Chemistry is similar to the material covered in AP Chemistry, but
I recommend you review some even if you are fresh off the AP test. A
lot of the material you crammed in April/May has probably left you.<br>
Scoring very high will require not only a solid grasp of the concepts,
but also knowledge of the details. The true false questions, which are
unique to chemistry, are especially unforgiving, since all of your usual
multiple choice reasoning does not apply. Also note that if you have
prepped for Chemistry Olympiad, this test should be a breeze.</p>

<p>Biology: Biology comes in two flavors, Ecological and Molecular. The
difference between Bio-E and Bio-M is the last 20 questions. The first
60 are the same for both tests. Much of what can be said of SAT II
Chemistry can also be said of SAT II Biology: the material is similar to
the AP test, but you should still review because SAT II allows for finer
differentiation of high scores than the AP tests do. I will therefore
focus my discussion on whether you should take E or M. Bio-E tends to
have a slightly easier curve, but the difference is so small that you
should simply choose which subject you like better. More people tend to
choose Bio M, simply because most people with a strong enough interest
in Bio to even take the test are pre-med types and M is more relevant to
their interests. However, ecology comes late in the Bio curriculum and
accordingly might be fresher.</p>

<p>Physics: Physics is fundamentally different from Biology and Chemistry
because the curve is so much more forgiving. While students strong in
Chem or Bio are occasionally screwed by esoteric or poorly worded
questions, students who are strong in Physics succeed consistently. The
generous curve allows you to miss a few “off” questions, so scoring an
800 is easier. If you did well on the AP Physics B multiple choice, you
shouldn’t have much of a problem with SAT II physics. However, if you
just completed AP Physics C, you should probably review pretty
thoroughly. You would be surprised how much simple algebra you can
forget during your calculus-based odyssey in Physics C.</p>

<p>Literature: Literature, besides a non-native foreign language, is
appropriately considered the most difficult SAT II. The curve is
harsh. The questions can be weird. And it can be frustrating for the
literary-minded to conform their thinking to the demands of a multiple
choice test. This isn’t SAT I Critical Reading. The passages are far
more difficult, and the depth of analysis called for is much greater.<br>
Unlike the other tests, the corresponding AP, AP Literature, is often
taken senior year - too late to help you unless you are crazy enough to
take if after college admissions season. Many choose to take Literature
without preparing at all; they look at it as more of an IQ test than
anything else, and therefore find it appealing. Indeed, if you have an
analytical mind well suited to the purpose of divining the College
Board’s way of thinking, you can do well on this test without any
additional preparation. If not, you can expect this to be a hard test.<br>
Fluency in pre-20th century English is a huge asset.</p>

<p>World History: The history tests present an interesting conundrum.<br>
While they tend to have more generous curves than the science tests,
they are longer and it is virtually impossible for any review book to
contain every possible fact that College Board might decide to test.<br>
Sometimes the questions can be downright random. I remember distinctly
that my US History test asked “Which President’s cabinet was popularly
referred to as Camelot?” King Arthur was not a choice. Anyhow, for
those of you who get queasy at the sight of numbers not followed by
“A.D.,” the history test might be your best bet. While AP World History
tests your knowledge of broad trends and change, SAT II World History
focuses much more on discrete facts. Preparation is a must. Background
knowledge acquired outside of the classroom is also helpful. A lot of
the time, you will find yourself looking at a multiple choice question
and saying “Well who WOULD do that.” The general characteristics of
civilizations and time periods you learned in AP will be invaluable in
your multiple choice reasoning.</p>

<p>U.S. History: Not much can be said of U.S. History that I have not
already said of World. AP US History tends to focus more on facts than
AP World does, so that is helpful. However, SAT II US History questions
can be more esoteric, so it’s really a wash.</p>

<p>Languages: College Board faces a dilemma with its language tests. On
the one hand, it wants to make a test that serves as a meaningful
indicator of language development for those students who speak a foreign
language at home. Do they only know how to shoot the bull with family
and friends, or are they genuinely proficient in the language? Against
that interest, College Board does not want to make the test impossibly
difficult for those who picked up the language in school. College Board
has managed to fail on all counts. The majority of native-speakers get
800s, while those who learned the language in school usually find the
test exceedingly difficult. With preparation, you can probably manage
the verb tenses and be able to get most of the passages enough to answer
the questions. Unfortunately, unless you have an exceptional high school
program or have lived abroad for a while, you will run into a fair chunk
of idioms and vocabulary that you just don’t know. However, a good
score on a language test is probably the most impressive and meaningful
as far as colleges are concerned. If your ear is well trained to your
language (especially if you have lived abroad), it would be to your
advantage to take the listening test to score some easy points. If your
school program is not so good and you are responsible for most of your
own preparation, you would probably do better to take the Reading test.


<p>AP Tests</p>

<p>By doing well on AP tests, students may be eligible for credit in the corresponding introductory classes at the college level. For his thoughts on preparatory materials and on many of the tests themselves, I again defer to christiansoldier:</p>

Which review book should I get?</p>

<p>As a person who literally owns a closet full of review books, I can tell you that most review books are not very good. Barrons and REA tend to be loaded with extraneous details and riddled with incorrect answers to practice questions. Princeton Review focuses too much on the mumbo jumbo of studying the test rather than the material that is tested (Studying the material IS studying the test!). Kaplan and McGraw Hill are often too simplified and easy, and the independently-published books can be unreliable and few and far in between. You want the secret to review books? Get a lot of them, and read them. In very few cases is there one review book you can study from and guarantee you will be ready for the test (unless you had a good class), but there are even fewer cases where you can study from multiple books and fail to do well. One book's strength will cover another's weaknesses, and you will come out on top for it.</p>

<p>Moving along,</p>


<p>World History: I will discuss the generalities of all history APs (World, Euro, and US) here and then discuss the particulars of each one in its given section. The history APs are, by and large, a test of memory. If you keep up on your reading and retain it in at least the mid-term, you will recognize the majority of the material on any given history AP. If you have a lot of background knowledge from outside reading, you will be able to figure out most of the ones you don’t know for sure. The essays do not require incisive analysis; you will usually be able to arrive at a correct response without formulating any ideas of your own. The DBQ, if you have practiced, should be free points. World History in particular tends to focus on trends and general characteristics of civilizations and time periods. Some are intimidated by the test’s breadth, but you shouldn’t be, because you aren’t expected to know more than the most important points of each civilization.

<p>European History: While World History focuses on the generalities, European History focuses on the particulars. The most important trends - the disintegration of the Middle Ages world order and the emergence of the nation-state and the like - are in there, but you are expected to understand them in greater detail. The DBQ is just like any other history DBQ, but European History allows you a greater choice in which essay you write. You will be given two sets of three prompts, and you must choose one prompt from each set. This is good because, unlike in World History, you can pick a prompt you know a lot about. However, the prompts are very specific, and you will either need a large reserve of background knowledge or excellent historical analysis skills to give a thorough answer.

<p>United States History: US History strikes a balance between Euro and World, and is accordingly probably the easiest history AP. The questions are not so detail-oriented as Euro’s, but the subject matter is not so broad as World’s. The DBQ is just like the other tests’. You are given three essay prompts, and must choose two of them. This gives you more freedom of movement than World with less specific prompts than Euro’s. A lot of people find this test the easiest simply because they are the most familiar with American history and are therefore able to retain new facts more readily.

<p>Art History: Like the other history tests, Art History is memory-based. There, the similarities end. I’ve heard people recommend Art History for self-study. Unless you have a phenomenal memory, I would advise against self-studying this test. There is a vast bank of artworks that you simply must memorize. Not only do you have to be able to correctly identify them in multiple choice, but you will also have to be prepared to discuss them on free-response. There are a whole bunch of the free response questions too. Ironically, the long essays where you get to choose whatever artworks you want to discuss are much easier. If you have a ton of time (like you’re a freshman), self-studying is possible. Otherwise, this will be a huge time-investment. The bright side is that it requires virtually no artistic inclination. The students I know who were in it for the history did much better than the students who were in it for the art.

<p>Human Geography: Human Geography is a weird one. On the one hand, the material covered is pretty straight-forward. There are very few things you will need to read twice. On the other hand, unless you have a penchant for memorizing long lists of statistics, there are going to be oddball questions that you just don’t know. As in the histories, you can often reason out the answer if you have a solid base of geography knowledge. The free response questions are like the Government FRQs, or the Biology/Chemistry FRQs for that matter. Simple regurgitation of knowledge in a point-by-point fashion, sometimes followed by examples.

<p>U.S. Government: U.S. Government is exactly what it sounds like. You must be familiar with both the institutions of American government and American political history. Background knowledge is helpful, but the history-type questions are very predictable, so you can probably pick them up from your textbook or a review book. FRQs are like Human Geo’s: you simply explain concepts and give examples.

<p>Comparative Government: It has “Government” in the name, and it is appropriately similar to the American Government test. However, most find Comparative Government a somewhat more difficult test. First of all, most are less familiar with the political institutions of a country like Nigeria than they are with their American counterparts. Furthermore, unlike U.S. Gov, where you only have to remember if something is true, you must remember if a statement is true for a given country. For U.S. Gov, you only need to remember that we have a bicameral legislature. For Comp Gov, you must remember that Mexico has a bicameral legislature while China does not. Luckily, the bulk of Comp Gov assumes that students look at American government as “normal,” and focus on the effects of American-style institutions (or the lack thereof). You essentially see how American institutions in other countries lead to different outcomes, or how the lack of American-style institutions are tailored to each country’s unique characteristics. Comparative Government includes a Short Definition section, which unsurprisingly asks you to define given key terms. Simple stuff.

<p>Macroeconomics/Macroeconomics: I will discuss both Micro- and Macroeconomics together because, unlike any other two tests (with the exception of the two Physics Cs) there is no effective difference between the two except the obvious one. Macroeconomics tests the economy as a whole; Microeconomics tests the firm. Both tests test theory primarily, with some simple applications that will require a little arithmetic and a few relatively well-known historical examples. However, these are not memory tests like AP US History. Economics wants you to not only be able to regurgitate the theory, but also apply it to new (relatively basic) situations. The FRQs, which work a lot like the US Government ones, are very similar from year to year, so you should be sure to check them out on the CB website.

<p>Psychology: Psychology is, like the history APs, a memory test. Unlike the history tests, you can study from your textbook and the review books and expect to know just about everything on the test. This is arguably the easiest AP. If you were to self-study one AP, I would say go with either this or Environmental Science. The FRQs are straightforward, much like Human Geo’s.

<p>English Language: The English Language free response is quite simply a writing test. You have two plain-and-simple essays and one DBQ-like essay. The multiple choice is basically SAT CR on crack. For those with good analytical minds who are naturally gifted at expository writing, this test is a cinch. You can probably 5 it with absolutely no preparation outside of reading the rubric for the DBQ-like essay. For those of you who are not naturally gifted writers, YOU MUST TAKE THIS CLASS. Now I don’t mean you must take this class to pass the AP test. I mean you must take this class, period. It develops your expository writing skills, which are essential. A well taught AP English Lang & Comp class is an enormous asset for those who need to work on their writing.

<p>English Literature: Finally, those literature analysis skills you have been working on for years come into AP play. AP English Lit’s multiple choice is almost exactly like SAT II Literature. It can be frustrating trying to figure out not what the passages mean to you, but what they mean to the test writers. Luckily for you English-minded people who despise literature interpretation multiple choice, the AP Lit essays give you a chance to shine. You will be given works to analyze for two of the essays and will get to use works of your choice for the final essay. Well, not really works of your choice. Works of literary merit. In some cases, the line of literary merit is clear. The Great Gatsby and Hamlet are works of literary merit. Harry Potter and Cujo are not. There is a gray area in between, but it’s safest to read off the suggested works list in past AP prompts so you have a bank of works that are assuredly of literary merit. This one I advise self-studying against, unless you are an especially gifted analyzer of fiction. You really do need to practice for these essays.

<p>Chemistry: Unlike Bio or any of the social sciences, Chemistry is a concept-based test in the spirit of Physics, Calc, and English. Yes, I realize it is weird to say Chem has more in common with English or Calc than its fellow sciences Bio and EnviroSci, but it really does. There actually isn’t a lot of information to AP Chemistry. I could probably condense Chem into a glossary of ten pages. I won’t, but I could. However, you have to not only memorize what those concepts are, but also understand how to apply them. You learn what properties make a substance have a lower boiling point and the properties of elements separately. You may well never hear in your class that methane has a lower boiling point than water, but you will learn everything you need to know in order to deduce that. Chem is a manageable test, but I would not recommend self-studying it. I mean, I’m sure you could, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It tends to be easier for people to pick up facts on their own than it is to thoroughly understand concepts.

<p>Biology: As far as AP is concerned, biology is the science of facts. Lots and lots of facts. More than any test with the possible exception of Art History, biology demands an excellent memory (or a very good work ethic and patience for memorization). Besides Punnet Squares, which are laughably easy, you will not have to do anything except regurgitate information you learned in your textbook. For some, this is easy. You don’t even have to think. For others, this sounds like a nightmare. You have to do the opposite of think; you have to study. But since there are no especially difficult concepts, this one should be a relatively simple (if laborious) self-study if that’s what you want to do.

<p>Environmental Science: Along with AP Psych, AP EnviroSci is considered one of the easiest AP tests. In terms of the types and emphases of questions, it is more like Human Geography and Psychology than it is like any other science. You must understand a healthy mix of facts and concepts, but if the facts were the size of a pool of water and the concepts were the depth, EnviroSci would be both small and shallow. You can easily pick up everything you need to know for the test from reading a couple review books. In fact, I would go so far as to say that you not only don’t need a class, but that unless the class is well-taught by a dynamic teacher, a class is a waste of time.

<p>Physics B: Physics B, like Chem, is a concept test. With more math. Physics B won’t require anything above algebra and a little basic trigonometry, so most questions won’t be too bad. Unfortunately, the test (especially the Free Response) loves to occasionally string these simple operations together so that it is easy to slip. There are two approaches to Physics B. You can either thoroughly understand the concepts and therefore see how any given problem fits together, or you can practice the hell out of the test until there are very few things you haven’t seen before. A healthy mix of both would, of course, be best. Since it is hard to teach yourself the concepts so thoroughly (the review books are not sufficient for that purpose) and also demanding to practice like crazy, I would recommend against self-studying against this one.

<p>Physics C: Physics C is a lot like Physics B, only it has calculus. Very insightful of me, huh? Well, most of the questions will be simple plug-and-chug or concept-based. Then there’s those rough ones that want you to put twelve ideas together to get an answer. Total pain. Mathy, thrill-seeking types (conventionally “lame” thrill-seeking, at that) absolutely love this test, even more than they love Calc BC. It is applied calculus! How fun is that? From experience, I can tell you to not self-study this one. The review books available to you are either too simple (PR and McGraw Hill, that means you) or frustratingly complex but off-topic (Barrons).<br>

<p>Calculus AB: Calculus AB is just math. There really isn’t anything about it to distinguish it from the rest of the classes in your math sequence, except there are fewer adults who have taken it to tell you horror stories about it. The Calc in AB is pretty straightforward. If you understand the concepts and have practiced some, you will find very few curveballs in the AP test. Accordingly, if you must self-study, this isn’t so bad a choice. Chances are you won’t be able to pick up everything just by reading it, but with a little practice, it shouldn’t be extraordinarily difficult.

<p>Calculus BC: Calculus AB and Calculus BC share both “Calculus” and the B. There’s a lot more in that than you might think. A fair share of the Calculus BC curriculum is really the second half of Calc AB; you even get an AB subscore to see how you did on the AB-based portion. The C stands for curve-ball, because the BC test throws you some weird ones that AB doesn’t. Parametrics aren’t too bad, but polar coordinates require you to adopt a new way of looking at the coordinate plane, which can be tough (especially if you are trying to teach yourself). The C part of the curriculum is decidedly harder than the A part you leave behind, but you’re also older, smarter and more practiced in math. Hence the ultra-high 5 rate. If you have taken AB, self-studying BC should be manageable.

<p>Statistics: Statistics is math, supposedly. The idea that Stats is the “third math test” is misleading. I would give that title to Physics C, and call AP Stats “AP Reading Carefully, Knowing Rules, Using Your Calculator, and Explaining Yourself.” There is nothing hard about what you learn in AP Stats. You can use calculus, but you don’t need anything past Algebra II. Nonetheless, Stats can be a tremendous pain. You get your TI-89 for the entire test, which is nice (imagine the possibilities…), but you also have to read every question carefully and write. A ton. I had to write so much for my Stats class, my Stats folder was just as thick as my Literature folder. If you are not good at math, you still might be able to do well on this test since it is really about rule-following more than anything else.<br>


<p>See [url=<a href=""&gt;]here[/url&lt;/a&gt;] for discussion of which books are best.</p>

<p>An Alternative: The ACT</p>

<p>Everyone should try both the SAT and ACT—whether you're from Indiana or New Jersey. Well, almost everyone: if you are completely satisfied with your performance on one of these metrics, there is usually no point in taking the other test. (In my situation, for example, I have 36 and 2400 only because taking the ACT was state-mandated.) </p>

<p>Some people (perhaps most) believe that the ACT is easier than the SAT. They, additionally, consider the ACT to be a better, more straightforward measure of the kinds of skills that are needed in college; in essence, they hold that the SAT seems to be trying to trick them (I find this claim unfounded, however), whereas the ACT is more like the tests that they see in school. This perception is attributable to the natures of the exams: the SAT is foremost an aptitude test, whereas the ACT is primarily an achievement test. What this means in theory is that the SAT tries to test your potential to learn and that the ACT tries to test what you have learned. Understandably, however, these things are significantly positively intercorrelated.</p>

<p>In any case, despite the fact that SAT scores and ACT scores tend to correlate strongly with each other, some people do better on one test than the other. This is why trying both is a very good idea. Do a couple practice tests with each and see where you are; then focus on the test on which you feel that you have the greatest potential.</p>

<p>Here are the SAT-ACT score conversions, as estimated by the makers of the ACT:</p>

<p>36 - 2390
35 - 2330
34 - 2250
33 - 2180
32 - 2120
31 - 2060
30 - 2000
29 - 1940
28 - 1880
27 - 1820
26 - 1770
25 - 1710
24 - 1650
23 - 1590
22 - 1530
21 - 1470
20 - 1410
19 - 1350
18 - 1290
17 - 1230
16 - 1170
15 - 1100
14 - 1020<br>
13 - 950
12 - 870
11 - 780</p>

<p>As you likely inferred from the fact that 36 does not quite correspond to 2400, 36's are more common than 2400's (by a bit more than a factor of two). This is most likely a product of the way in which the scores are calculated: the ACT determines the composite score by averaging the four sections' scores, whereas the SAT additively arrives at 2400, thereby reducing the margin for error. </p>

<p>Here are the four sections of the ACT and some brief thoughts that I had right after I took the ACT (I add a couple clarifying notes now in brackets):</p>

English: The ACT was far more punctuation-focused than I had expected, and they had more subjective questions about the passage as a whole than I had anticipated. </p>

<p>Math: I felt much more crunched for time on the ACT, which was mostly a product of my lack of preparation. The questions were certainly different in style from those of the SAT: they were indeed more straightforward application of concepts than the SAT's more reasoning-dependent questions. [It is worth noting that the Math section of the ACT covers more advanced concepts than the SAT Math section does, so in that way it is more similar to the Math Level 2 Subject Test.]</p>

<p>Reading: The names of these sections [that is, Reading versus Critical Reading] are more appropriate than I realized. The SAT truly does require test-takers to synthesize and interpret much more than does the ACT. To my surprise, there were quite a few questions that were mere paraphrases of the original text. I think that the SAT does a better job of walking the fine line between straight-from-the-text answers and overly subjective and unsupportable answers. The vocabulary section from the SAT wasn't missed much, though.</p>

<p>Science: I'm not quite sure yet how I feel about whether this section should be on the test. Although I am sure I could improve my efficiency with preparation, seven passages felt like too much for the time allotted.


<p>I suppose that I am still undecided about the Science section. It does tend to polarize people quite a bit; try it out and see how you do on it. </p>

<p>Because I did not prepare for the ACT, I cannot comment specifically about any preparatory methods or resources. However, I have heard very positive things about [url=<a href=""&gt;]Princeton&lt;/a> Review](<a href=""&gt; for the ACT (supposedly, official resources are less important for the ACT). You'll want probably the official [url=<a href=""&gt;]book[/url&lt;/a&gt;], though. I imagine that many of the tips that I offered earlier in this guide (especially the content in the grammar guide) would prove helpful on the ACT as well.</p>

<p>College Admissions</p>

<p>At some public universities, there are formulas that prospective applicants can, by inputting their GPAs and test scores, use to calculate whether they will be admitted. The transparency and objectivity of such systems lead to a straightforward route to acceptance at those colleges: if I earn good grades and do decently on that annoying standardized test, I will get in. This is not the case at many colleges, however—especially at the most selective private colleges, on whose admissions practices I will focus.</p>

<p>Many people believe that intelligent students just end up at top schools, that the best math student in a given high school will inevitably be accepted to MIT, for example. This is false. Also common is the idea that students who score very well on standardized tests are ensured acceptance at top schools. I mean, what top college would deny someone who has a perfect SAT score? The answer: any of them. Some people (including many on College Confidential) support this reality by claiming that there are just too many people who are perfect on paper these days (“If Harvard wanted only people with perfect numbers, they could still fill their class several times over”). This, too, is false; Harvard could accept all the perfect scorers and have plenty of spots left over. Less than .01 percent of those in each graduating high-school class have perfect scores on the SAT, and even fewer have perfect GPAs and Subject Tests as well. Nonetheless, the implication of those posters’ claim is valid: great scores (even perfect scores) do not ensure acceptance to any top college. </p>

<p>I could go through each of the other factors that are involved in admissions and delineate how none of them alone or collectively will ensure admission, and that would be true. But the most effective way of tersely summarizing the basic nature of competitive college admissions is to explain what colleges mean when they label their admissions with the true but clich</p>

<p>Subjective Factors and Other Issues</p>

<p>Upon hearing that numbers don't guarantee anything, you might expect that there are some important subjective elements at play—you would be right. </p>

<p>- Do I need extracurricular activities to get into a top college?</p>

<p>Essentially, yes.</p>

<p>- How many do I need?</p>

<p>There is no specific number; quality is decidedly more important than quantity.</p>

<p>- What counts as an extracurricular activity?</p>

<p>Anything you do that is not part of your curriculum. Truly, though: ECs need not be clubs or anything of that sort. Indeed, anything you spend time on outside of your classes (besides homework) is an EC. Colleges want students who are involved in things; this indicates the capacity to contribute to their campuses in a not-necessarily-academic way. What those things are is not especially important. </p>

<p>- Does it matter how long I've done an activity or how much time I spend on it?</p>

<p>Yes. Demonstrating dedication to a few select activities is enormously preferable to having a long list of things in which you dabbled. Also, joining a bunch of activities during your junior year is not a good indication that you are truly interested in those things; it, instead, comes across as a ploy to get into college. Admissions officers don't like that. </p>

<p>- Do I need leadership positions?</p>

<p>They aren't necessary, but they serve two helpful functions: demonstrating, of course, your ability to lead (or at least, they seem to; many schools' club leadership positions these days are little more than a title), and indicating your greater involvement in that EC.</p>

<p>- Is it true that I have to be passionate about something? What if I just am not at this point?</p>

<p>passion is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot on CC. In part, admissions officers are to blame; they repeatedly say that they love applicants who are passionate about something. But, in reality, there aren't many high-school students who are genuinely passionate about something, nor can I imagine that admissions officers are very accurate in their ability to gauge passion. Somewhat diverging from his peers at other top schools, a Stanford admissions officer expressed a similar sentiment.</p>

<p>So I guess that I would sum up the extracurricular side to things by saying that you should have a few activities in which you are interested and have invested great time as well as couple leadership positions. Are your ECs especially interesting and unique? Even better. Do your ECs demonstrate a clear focus while still indicating the breadth of your interests? Even better.</p>

<p>- I assume that volunteering is good to do as well, right?</p>


<p>- What should I do during the summer?</p>

<p>Anything that shows that your summer was meaningful. There are many ways of doing this (e.g., volunteering, other ECs, summer classes, summer camps).</p>

<p>- What about work experience: is it helpful?</p>

<p>Yeah, though it's certainly not necessary. </p>

<p>- I have a regular family commitment that precludes my being able to actively participate in extracurricular activities or volunteering. Does this ruin my chances?</p>

<p>Part of the holistically reviewing mentality of top schools is their empathetic consideration of applicants' circumstances. That is, the commitment would compensate to some extent for your relatively weak ECs. However, it is does not appear that colleges fully compensate—they can't merely assume that everyone with extenuating circumstances would have outstanding ECs if given the opportunity. But don't forget: even that family commitment could count as an EC.</p>

<p>- I don't have any awards. Does that hurt my chance?</p>

<p>I'm going to pull "an admissions officer" and say no but that having awards will help. Lacking awards is not a glaring absence or detriment to your application. Nonetheless, succeeding in well-known competitions can be highly beneficial. Here are some of the most prominent ones (for some reason they tend to be math- and science-related):</p>

<p>- International Mathematical Olympiad: All interested students may take the open AMC (American Mathematics Competitions) test. There are a few versions of it: AMC 8, AMC 10, and AMC 12 (these numbers are intended to correspond to a student's grade, but you can take a higher test if you wish). High-scorers on AMC 10 and AMC 12 can take the AIME (American Invitational Mathematics Examination). 500 of these people will be invited to participate in either USAMO (USA Mathematical Olympiad) or the USAJMO (USA Junior Mathematical Olympiad); see [here[/url</a>] for details on selection and on what the tests are like (i.e., difficult). High-scorers on USAMO will be invited to attend a summer study camp. The six students who best succeed there will be invited to participate in IMO (International Mathematical Olympiad). </p>

<p>Qualifying for USAMO is a great achievement, and admissions officers recognize this. As such, doing so will provide a sizable boost to your chances, especially at a science- and math-minded school like Caltech. Qualifying for the summer study camp affords an even greater boost; historically, an extremely high percentage of these students end up attending top schools. If you make it to IMO and score well, you come about as close as you can to having ensured acceptances at top schools, as long as the rest of your application is somewhat strong.</p>

<p>The [url=<a href=""&gt;]*Art&lt;/a> of Problem Solving*](<a href=""&gt; series is widely considered a good resource for these competitions.</p>

<p>- International Biology Olympiad: All students may take the open USABO (USA Biology Olympiad) exam. Those who well (top ten percent) on that exam become Semifinalists and may take a second exam. The twenty highest-scorers on the Semifinalist exam are deemed USABO Finalists and are invited to a summer study camp. The most successful students from there participate in IBO (International Biology Olympiad). </p>

<p>Qualifying as a Semifinalist is a good accomplishment, though it is not as influential in admissions as qualifying for USAMO. Finalists, however, enjoy a great boost in their chances. As is the case with IMO, those receiving medals at IBO generally have their pick among the top colleges. (It is worth noting, though, that students who do well in these difficult competitions do so not out of wanting to improve their applications, but by leveraging their natural talent via determination.)</p>

<p>Understanding everything in [url=<a href=""&gt;]this[/url&lt;/a&gt;] textbook is your best preparation method. But once you see the book, you'll realize that this is no easy task.</p>

<p>- International Chemistry Olympiad: All students may participate in their local sections' open exams. The 900 highest-scorers on that exam (usually top 9-10%) are invited to take the National Exam and are deemed USNCO (US National Chemistry Olympiad) Finalists. The twenty highest-scorers on the National Exam are invited to the summer study camp. Students may then progress to IChO (International Chemistry Olympiad).</p>

<p>National Finalists are afforded a small boost in admissions. For those who earn Honors (top 150) or High Honors (top 50) on the National Exam, the boost is more significant. </p>

<p>Doing well on your local exam is usually manageable if you have a solid understanding of the AP Chemistry material. The National Exam, however, is substantially more difficult. [url=<a href=""&gt;]This[/url&lt;/a&gt;] textbook is often recommended for doing well on that exam. Those who succeed at the study camp and, eventually, IChO have generally completed organic chemistry and physical chemistry at local universities.</p>

<p>- What do you mean when you say "unhooked"?</p>

<p>Whereas some people use the term to refer to the strongest, most compelling part of an application, hook, to me, refers to something inherent about an applicant or his or her status. Here are the common hooks, as I conceptualize the term:</p>

<p>- First-generation applicant: This refers to students whose parents did not attend college. The admissions boost that results is modest at best. </p>

<p>- Legacy applicant: This refers to students whose parent or parents attended, as undergraduates, the school that you are applying to. Some colleges give a greater boost to legacy applicants than do others, but in general the boost is likewise modest, unless the parents are big donors. Some non-parental relationships with alumni, such as having a sibling attend, may result in a hook-like boost at some schools. </p>

<p>- Developmental applicants: This refers to students whose parents are very rich and have donated large amounts of money (usually in the millions) to the college that they are applying to. In such cases, the admissions boost is enormous; colleges need money. </p>

<p>- Recruited athletes: Being a good athlete is a solid EC to have, but being officially recruited by a college for sports is especially helpful. If the coach makes a strong pitch for you to the admissions officers and you are academically qualified in their minds, it's tough for them to say no (especially if the school is sports-oriented).</p>

<p>- Being famous: Self-explanatory.</p>

<p>- Being an under-represented minority: As it applies to college admissions, Affirmative Action aims to diversify college campuses (with respect to race and ethnicity). This practice is decidedly controversial, but I won't get into the issue here. See [url=<a href=""&gt;]this[/url&lt;/a&gt;] thread for what turned into a heated and interesting debate about the merits and drawbacks of Affirmative Action. (But don't bump it please!) </p>

<p>The commonly referenced under-represented minority (URM) groups are Hispanic (with the usual exception of Spain), African American, and Native American, though the last group is actually significantly over-represented for the most part (I don't think colleges realize this, for whatever reason). African Americans are generally regarded as receiving a slightly larger boost via Affirmative Action than Hispanics. Despite Affirmative Action, URMs need to be strong applicants; like all other applicants, they must demonstrate convincingly that they are academically qualified for the school. More than ever, colleges are faced with far too many qualified URM applicants to be forced to compromise for the sake of diversity. Nonetheless, Affirmative Action remains a strong force in admissions today.</p>

<p>- I'm Asian. Do I stand a chance? </p>

<p>Yes. Asians may face a road that is slightly more difficult than that for Whites (though I don't see significant evidence of this), but plenty still manage to get accepted (and in disproportionately high numbers). Consider these data. At Harvard, Asian applicants are over-represented by about 300%; White applicants have about 60% of what their proportional representation would be. At MIT, Asian applicants are over-represented by about 550%; White applicants have about 48% of what their proportional representation would be. Clearly, it is quite possible to get accepted, no matter your race. </p>

<p>- Is a certain gender at an advantage in admissions?</p>

<p>In general, no. Girls tend to have higher GPAs; guys tend to have higher test scores. It balances out for the most part. At engineering- and science-oriented schools like MIT, though, female applicants may be at a small advantage: female applicants there have historically had a chance that is 160% greater than that for male applicants. MIT claims that this is merely the result of greater self-selection among the female applicants. However, I question whether that can fully compensate for the significant gap. At liberal arts colleges, males may be at a slight advantage.</p>

<p>- Will selecting a less-common major help my chances?</p>

<p>For top schools, your choice of major is largely irrelevant. The sole exception to this may occur for applicants who select an uncommon major and have shown great interest in that field throughout high school (e.g., a prospective classics major who has regularly done well in Latin competitions).</p>

<p>- I got caught for cheating at school and was disciplined. Will this hurt my chances?</p>

<p>Yes. Top schools receive too many great applicants to accept those about which they have integrity concerns. </p>

<p>- I am an international applicant. How does this affect my chances?</p>

<p>Negatively, for the most part. International applicants hailing from well-represented countries (e.g., China, India, and England) face especially difficult paths. Many such applicants who are admitted have international recognitions. </p>

<p>- Does where I live in the United States make a difference if I am a US citizen?</p>

<p>It can. Students from over-represented states (e.g., New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut) may have a harder time, whereas students from under-represented states (e.g., many southern states and those with very small populations) will be given an extra look by admissions officers. It won't make a huge difference, though.</p>

<p>- Is it true that a college won't accept more than one student from a single high school?</p>

<p>Some top high schools send dozens of students to top colleges each year; most high schools send none. Colleges have no quotas, but the best indication of how many a college will accept from your high school is historical data. That is, if a top college hasn't accepted a student from your high school in ten years, you and your three friends don't stand a great chance at all being accepted.</p>

<p>- I got a brochure from a top college. Does that mean that I would probably be accepted I apply?</p>

<p>No. Marketing materials from colleges mean, most likely, that the college got your name from a College Board list based on PSAT scores. It is not an indication of your chance. </p>

<p>- I got a "likely letter" from a school that I applied to. Does that mean that I will be accepted when decisions come out?</p>

<p>Likely letters are usually given to recruited athletes a couple months before official decisions come out. Some colleges also give them out to students for academic reasons in rare cases. If you receive a likely letter, you will be accepted unless you mess up big before decisions are released. </p>

<p>- I used to have all straight A's until I got two B's my second semester of senior year. Will I be rescinded?</p>

<p>No. Very few applicants get rescinded. It's going to take some D's and F's to get rescinded, and even then you might be able to explain your way out of it. Nonetheless, don't take the risk; try to not let your grades fall too much at the end of senior year. (The University of California system is an exception in that its requirements for keeping one’s acceptance are relatively unforgiving.)</p>

<p>- I think I bombed my AP tests. Will I get rescinded?</p>


<p>- How much will a bad essay hurt me?</p>

<p>Significantly. Admissions officers care a lot about students' essays, and they tend to feel very confident about their ability to accurately assess applicants' personalities based on those essays. </p>

<p>- How much do typos in the essay hurt me?</p>

<p>It depends on the nature of the error. A small typographical mistake may go unnoticed and will likely be unimportant if it is isolated. But if you accidentally write the wrong school's name, it just shows carelessness. Similarly, a mistake-littered essay will reflect very poorly on you. It is worthwhile to proofread your essays (and your entire application) several times. </p>

<p>- What should I write about in my essay?</p>

<p>Your goal should be to write a compelling and interesting essay that reveals something about you that would make a school want you as a student. Also, admissions officers have read a lot of essays; avoiding clich</p>

<p>Oh. My. That was kind of amazing. </p>

<p>Seriously, publish this. It would make a KILLER EC :).</p>

<p>How long have you spent making this?</p>