Breaking Down Sentence Error Questions
- Breaking Down Sentence Error Questions
- Subject/Verb Agreement
- Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement
- Verb Tenses
- Adjectives, Adverbs
- Parallel Structure
- Idiomatic Expressions in English
[edit section] Breaking Down Sentence Error Questions
The most common type of question on the SAT Writing section are Identifying Sentence Errors.
What's wrong with the above sentence?
If you guessed that the subject "type of question" and the verb "are" just don't jive, you are correct. And, you also just got an idea of exactly how an Identifying Sentence Errors (ISE) question on the SAT works. ISE questions are arguably among the simplest on the exam and are easy points on the Writing section. Unlike the Essay and Improving Sentences portions, the ISE portion is arguably totally objective and requires only a passing knowledge of a few widely-applied grammar rules. In this guide, we will try to aquaint you with some of the more common grammar rules so that you can apply the rules not only to the ISE portion, but to the entire Writing section.
One of the common misconceptions student have about the Writing section is that it "doesn't count." Because it is new, many students feel that the ISE portion can be "blown off." This is just not the case. Even though colleges have yet to be familiar with the Writing section, the score is still reported on a 200-800 point scale as a component of the real SAT Reasoning test. Furthermore, the Writing section is a reincarnation of an old vestige known as the SAT Writing Subject Test that many colleges used to require anyway.
Another misconception is that the much-feared Essay portion dominates the Writing exam. Again, not so. In fact, ISE questions comprise the largest component of your SAT Writing score - in other words, it would be to your advantage to master the ISE questions and corresponding grammar rules.
The most common misbelief, however, is that the ISE portion somehow tests your knowledge of conventions, punctuation, citation style, and the like. We have even seen SAT preparation courses that teach students comma and semicolon rules along with MLA Citation. While you should certainly know your comma rules, the fact of the matter is that the ISE portion, along with the rest of the Writing exam, does not generally test on your use of conventions. For this reason, you will never come across an ISE question that tests you on your knowledge of comma rules or conventions.
Before we delve into exactly what the ISE questions do test on, we must first give you a taste of a real ISE question, coupled with our four-step strategy:
Identify any error in the following sentence or mark "No Error" if there is no error.
Everyone are excited about the party next weekend, and I am definitely one of the people who are going. No Error
E) No Error
Now, you should approach this question from this four-step strategy:
1. Read the sentence and see if it "sounds right." If it doesn't, nine times out of ten you will be right in your suspicion.
2. Check the underlined choices and remove those that could not be incorrect
3. Apply your knowledge of grammar to the potential errors
4. If you cannot find an error, choose E
Let's apply the strategy here:
1. "Everyone are" does not sound quite right. Perhaps the end of the sentence is a bit fishy too: "I am definitely one of the people who are going."
2. "Are" sounded a little fishy in step (1), but there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with "about" or "and"
3. You have it between No Error, "are," and "who." Since you know that there is a Subject/Verb agreement error (discussed later), "Are" must be the correct error
Of course, your ability to answer ISE questions hinges on your knowledge of grammar rules. In the next seven lessons, we will discuss different grammar rules and their applications.
[edit section] Additional Resources