The SAT writing section can be extremely confusing especially for those people more familiar with spoken rather than written English, as the SAT writing section tests your abilities on that written English. The thing about written English is that it can be extremely particular, and generally, you’re creating some grammar errors every time you speak! Thus, you’ll need to really understand your grammar rules to ace the SAT writing section. That’s what TP’s here for!
Now for the grammar rules!
1. Subject-Verb Agreement. This grammar rule is important and often the one most frequently tested. This rule essentially says that the subject and the verb of a sentence must agree in number. Singular subjects need singular verbs and plural subjects need plural verbs! You’re probably already used to this, but in some sentences, it can get confusing about the real number that the subject is. For instance, some indefinite pronouns, such as all or some, are singular or plural depending on the thing to which it is referring. For instance, if you say “some water” the verb is singular, but “some blankets” is plural. Everyone, everybody, and each are also problematic pronouns, since they often feel plural but all of them require singular verbs. Neither and either are also singular verbs. Additionally, when a word is compounded, like “the father and his sons,” the verb is plural, but if the words are connected another way, such as “the father as well as his sons,” the verb is singular. When “or” or “nor” joins two words, the noun closest to the verb determines the number of the verb. The most confusing way subject-verb agreement is convoluted is via modifiers that get between the subject and he verb. The best way to get around it is to isolate the subject and verb and then determine if the verb is in the correct form. Also, collective nouns are singular when they seem plural and require a singular verb.
2. Subject-Pronoun Agreement. Also known as pronoun-antecedent (the word the pronoun refers to) agreement. A pronoun must always have a clear antecedent, and if it does not, the sentence is incorrect. Indefinite pronouns (anyone, anybody, everyone, etc) are always singular. Form more help, check this link.
3. Parallelism. In parallel construction, the items or phrases in the list have to be in the same form, whether it’s a noun, verb or preposition. Faulty paralelism is when these phrases are not in the same form; for example, saying “in spring, in summer, or winter” is faulty since winter does not also have the “in.” Correcting this would make it so that it said “in spring, summer, or winter.” Parallelism gets confusing with phrases, which all need to be the same as well.
4. Subject/Object Form. The form of the subject or object in a sentence must also always be correct. For instance, in “Jessica and me went to the store,” “Jessica and me” is an incorrect formation, since me is always an object. What would be correct is “Jessica and I.”
5. Consistent Verb Tense. SAT sentences are often long and convoluted, and by the end of it you might not even remember what you read. They do this on purpose, often to confuse you about what the tense of the verb is. The tense of a verb has to be consistent throughout a sentence. A correct sentence uses the same verb tense. For instance, from an SAT question, “The three coaches decided not to pick the team right after practice that day, but they do talk on the phone and made the final decisions that night,” do is the error. “Do” is in the present tense, while “decided” is in the past tense; thus, “do” should be replaced with “did.”
6. Incorrect Comparisons. This occurs when two things are being compared in a sentence with the comparison being incorrect. People can only be compared to people, and things can only be compared to things. Better is used when comparing two things, and best and most is only with three or more things. Incorrect sentence: The novels of Patrick O’Brian, which take place during the Napoleonic era, are more realistic than CS Forester.” This is incorrect because novels are being compared to a person. This is corrected by saying “The novels of Patrick O’Brian, which take place during the Napoleonic era, are more realistic than those of CS Forester.”
7. Comparative/Superlative Adjectives. Using the correct form of adjectives is important as well. When comparing two things, use the comparative form of adjectives such as “more,” “smarter,” or “better.” When comparing more than two, use the superlative, “most” or words that end in -est.
8. Diction Error. This is an error in the choice of words. This is often used in slang expressions, such as “decide quick” instead of the correct form “decide quickly” since an adverb, not an adjective, must modify a verb. It is usually just using a word that sounds similar to the correct word but does not sound right in context.
9. Passive Voice. Passive voice is not allowed on the SAT when fixing sentences. Passive voice is when the verb comes before the subject. Make sure to keep the subject first!
10. Wordiness/Redundancy. In the SAT, wordiness is not permitted when fixing sentences; often, the shortest answer is correct, as long as there are no grammar errors. Also, being repetitive is also not allowed; for example, the SAT would not call someone “pretty and beautiful” since those mean the same thing.
11. Run-Ons/Fragments. These are two incomplete sentences. Fragments are sentences that do not have either a subject or a predicate. A run-on is one that has too much information, with two independent clauses improperly combined.
12. Idioms. Idioms are expressions that are common to the English language, often difficult for non-English speakers to understand. These include things such as “neither… nor” and “either…or” as well as idioms of which preposition to use with a verb such as “interested in” rather than another preposition. Common idioms are shown here.
These grammar rules should help you ace the multiple choice writing section of the SAT! Don’t forget to take some practice tests to test your skills! Good luck!