While the SAT may have done away with a dedicated category of sentence error questions, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be asked to answer them. In this lesson, we see how to tackle these questions.
The New SAT and Sentence Errors
As you may have heard, the SAT has undergone some pretty big changes as of March 2016. However, that doesn’t mean that you get out of having to take the test if you want to go to college. Also, while questions on the writing and language skills test may now shift towards a passage-based format, with each question coming from a defined passage of writing, that doesn’t mean that sentence error questions will disappear. Instead, a fair number of the questions that you will encounter on the SAT are still measuring your ability to correct an error in an identified part of text. Now, you’ll have more context to help you do so. In this lesson, we’ll go over a few of the major types of question you can expect to see and some general strategies to help you do your best on this section of the test.
A few major categories of questions emerge when talking about sentence error questions.
First of all, the SAT will test your ability to effectively use language. In other words, the SAT will have questions to see if you are properly conjugating verbs and making sure that adjectives agree with nouns. While that sounds pretty straight-forward, you may find a few subjects of verbs clustered in different grammatical structures, meaning that you’ll have to go digging around to make sure that they agree with their verbs.Also, a major theme of the SAT is testing familiarity with the conventions of punctuation, making sure you can correctly use punctuation. If you are one of those people who is not comfortable with the placement of commas, semicolons, or colons, you may want to find time to review these skills before taking the test. I can guarantee you that they will be tested.
A favorite among SAT test writers, for example, is seeing if you know when to use a semicolon or a comma.
Before we get into the specific nature of sentence error questions, let’s take a few seconds to review a few basic hints for the new SAT. There is no longer a penalty for guessing, so make sure that all blanks are filled in. Also, because the questions are now based on passages, you may not be able to easily identify the type of question.
That’s no big deal. Simply look at the choices and ask yourself what the best option is.However, that said, sentence error questions still do stick out. As you read along in the passage, you’ll find that it is awkward if there is an error. Keep a lookout for that as you look through the material. Additionally, make sure that punctuation conventions are followed and that any verbs agree with their subjects.
That should enable you to find many errors with sentences. If you have to, look to other nearby sentences to help you identify the subjects of the verbs.
Like I said, you’ll find that the questions are drawn from works that you may have already read. As such, we’ll take the opening sentence of The Scarlet Letter and introduce a few errors:A throng of bearded men, in sad-colored garments and gray, steeple-crowned hats, intermixed with women, some wearing hoods, and others bareheaded were assembled in front of a wooden edifice, the door of which was heavily timbered with oak, and studded with iron spikes. Now let’s say that the section others bareheaded were was underlined. There will be four answer choices.
Letter A will always be the ‘no change’ choice. Here are your choices:A. others bareheaded wereB. others bareheaded, wereC. others bareheaded wasD.
others bareheaded, wasLet’s take a look at these choices. In answer A, ‘were’ is the verb, but what does it refer to? Here we may think it means hoods or even men, but we have to go back to the beginning of the sentence to see that the subject is ‘throng’. As throng is singular, it does not agree with ‘were’. Answer choice A is out. For the same reason, answer choice B is gone.
So that leaves us with the question of a comma. The description of the throng is a nonessential element, which means it has to be set off by commas. As a result, we have to have a comma to ‘close’ the nonessential element of text. That means that D is our best answer.
In this lesson, we learned about the way that sentence errors will now be tested on the new SAT.
Instead of being their own section, they will be assessed as part of the larger passages that make up the new Writing and Language Use section. The two important points tested are effectively use language, properly conjugating verbs and making sure that adjectives agree with nouns, and conventions of punctuation, correctly use punctuation.