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Demystifying the SAT Writing Section

The SAT writing section stresses everyone out. It uses convoluted, archaic language and grammar. Every question seems like it’s trying to trick you. But, the reality is the test only uses a handful of grammar rules. If you know those and can spot them easily, you will ace the SAT writing section!

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I want to share with you the top 5 grammar rules you need to learn to get the best possible score. Use these as part of your overall study program.

1. Noun-Verb Agreement

We all know the proper grammar is “she runs” and “I run,” but when there’s a bunch of words in between it gets really confusing. The trick I want you to use is to circle the subject and cross out everything between it and the verb. Then you can easily figure out the agreement. You want to practice identifying where to use this technique. If you see that the verb of the sentence is underlined, that’s a good indicator.


2. Preposition Errors

This is a tricky one. The best way to figure out the correct preposition to use is reading the sentence out loud. Obviously in a real testing environment you can’t do this, but you can mimic it by reading the sentence in your head. Practice using prepositions like “where,” “which,” and “in which.” If you see a preposition underlined, read it in your head to confirm that it makes sense.


3. Semicolons

Whenever you see a semicolon (sometimes it will be in the answer choices), I want you to look at the sentence before the semicolon and the sentence after. If they are two separate thoughts that could be sentences on their own, you need a semicolon.

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4. Parallel Structure

This is a very popular one. You will see several questions that focus on this grammar rule. It’s also something to watch out for in your own writing on the essay. It’s a super easy mistake to make so keep an eye out. When you see a list of actions or a conjunction, make sure the tenses match. This is a really easy one to look out for. Just remember it! For example, “running, was jumping, and skipped” should be “running, jumping, and skipping.” Keep this in mind even if the verbs are separated by other words like prepositional phrases. Use the trick of crossing out everything in between to confirm that your verbs are in agreement.


5. Tense

Check all your verbs! The SAT loves to mix up verb tenses on you. Unless there is reference to different time frames (“Four years ago she had gotten braces, but now her teeth are crooked.”), the verb tenses should match throughout the sentence. This is a very common error in writing in general. I want you to make sure you don’t fall into that trap when writing your essay. When in doubt, keep tense consistent.

Now I want you to go through your practice exam and books keeping these 5 grammar rules in mind. Start prepping today for the SAT! The earlier you start, the better.

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