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Writing Section


Title: New SAT: Usage Questions Author: CYNTHIA BLACKMON Last modified by: install Created Date: 1/31/2005 12:29:28 AM Document presentation format – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Writing Section

Writing Section
  • The Multiple-Choice Component

The Multiple-Choice Questions Include 3 Types
  1. Identifying sentence errors
  2. Improving sentences

Questions are arranged in order of difficulty
  • PLUS
  • Improving paragraphs

Questions are arranged in the order they occur
within the paragraph
  • Total of 49 Questions on Grammar and Usage
  • 35 Questions 25 Minute section w/ all 3 types
  • 14 Questions 10 Minute section w/ only Sentence
  • This part of the test
  • DOES assesses how well you use language
  • DOES assess your ability to improve a piece of
  • DOES NOT require you to define grammatical terms
    (i.e. noun, verb, pronoun, adjective, adverb)
  • DOES NOT test spelling or capitalization

Multiple Choice Questions Type 1
  • Called
  • Identifying Sentence Errors
  • or . . . Sentence Correction Questions
  • or . . . Usage Questions

What are usage questions?
  • All usage questions on the Writing section are
    the spot the mistake variety.
  • You are given a sentence with 4 words or phrases
  • One of the underlined fragments may (or may not)
    contain a grammar mistake.
  • If the sentence is mistake-free, your answer will
    be E (called no error).

Spot the Mistake Method
  • Read the whole sentence, listening for the
  • If you heard the mistake, check to see if it is
    indeed incorrect, and then youre done.
  • If not, read each underlined choice and eliminate
    choices that contain no errors.
  • If youre ABSOLUTELY SURE the sentence contains
    no errors, choose E.

Try this example
  • Although the number of firms declaring
  • A
  • bankruptcy keep growing, the mayor claims that
  • B
  • the city is thriving. No error.
  • D E

  • Lets look at the top 13 errors you need to watch
    out for. Once you are used to seeing these usage
    mistakes, youll have an easier time spotting
    them on
  • Test Day.

Common Mistake 1 Subject-Verb Agreement
  • In every independent clause the subject and verb
    must agree with each other.
  • Not so fast. There are several situations where
    subject/verb agreement is

Look out for clauses beginning with THERE
  • In certain situations, subject-verb agreement can
    be tricky because it is not so obvious what the
    subject of the sentence is.
  • Watch out especially when the subject comes after
    the verb, as it does in a clause beginning with
  • Despite an intensive campaign to
    encourage conservation, there is many people
    who have not accepted recycling as a way of

Look out for sentences where the subject appears
AFTER the verb
  • High above the Hudson River rises the gleaming
    skyscrapers of Manhattan.
  • This sentence is tricky because there is a
    singular noun, the Hudson River, before the verb
    rises. But the later noun skyscrapers is
    actually the subject. Think about it. Whats
    doing the rising?

Common Mistake 1 Practice
  • According to a noted meteorologist, there is
    various explanations for the accelerating rate of
    global warming.
  • Through the locks of Panama Canal passes more
    than fifty ships each day.
  • If there is competing proposals, your idea may
    not be acted upon until next week.

Now try these teasers . . .
  • Air pollution caused by industrial fumes has been
    studied for years, but only recently has the
    harmful effects of noise pollution become known.
  • The governors aides are convinced that the
    announcement of the investigation, coming just
    days before the filing deadline, were calculated
    to discourage the governor from running for

Look out for sentences when the subject and verb
are separated
  • The local congressman, a reliable representative
    of both community and statewide interests, are
    among the most respected persons in the public
  • The College Board has another way to complicate a
    simple thing like subject-verb agreement. They
    insert some additional information about the
    subject BEFORE the verb appears!

Dont let intervening phrases fool you!
  • Let the word of be a tip off!
  • For example
  • The collection of artwork entitled The Worlds
    Most Exquisite Paintings are one of the most
    widely traveled exhibits in recent years.
  • So . . . The true subject is singular
    (collection) and the verb should be is, not are.

More Subject-Verb Practice
  • Multipurpose vehicles, which can be very useful
    on rough terrain, (is/are) now banned in many
  • The level of chemicals and other air pollutants
    (is/are) now monitored in many offices.
  • A community as diverse as Los Angeles
    (attract/attracts) immigrants from many countries.

And for a tough one . . .
  • The late presidents numerous memoirs now
  • A
  • about to be published promises to be of
  • B C
  • special historical interest. No error.
  • D E

Also, look out for subject-verb agreement when
the subject seems plural (but . . . is really
  • Sometimes the sentence includes what appears to
    be, but in fact is not, a plural subject.
    Tricky, eh?

Heres an example . . .
  • Neither the cat nor the dog has been outside
  • This sentence is tough because it has 2 subjects,
    but these two singular subjects do NOT add up to
    a plural subject.
  • BUT . . .
  • Maria or the twins take us to the movies once a
  • If one or more singular subjects (Maria) are
    joined to one or more plural subjects (twins) by
    or or nor, the subject closest to the verb
    determines the agreement of the verb.

Compare to this one . . .
  • Del Rio and San Angelo are two Texas cities that
    have names of Spanish origin.
  • In this sentence the compound subject Del Rio
    and San Angelo is plural, so it takes a plural

More Subject-Verb Practice
  • The fishing industry, along with railroad safety
    issues, (is/are) of great concern to the state
  • Either the manager or one of his coaches usually
    (remove/removes) a pitcher from the mound.
  • Both the word scuba and the word radar (is/are)

Common Mistake 2 Noun-Pronoun Agreement (or . .
. Pronoun/Ant. Agreement)
  • Singular subjects take singular pronouns plural
    subjects take plural pronouns.
  • Not too difficult . . .

Memorize this list!
  • Each, every, either, neither, one, no one,
    everyone, everybody, someone, somebody, anyone,
    anybody, and nobody.
  • Each of these words takes a singular pronoun.
    Whenever one of the words on this list is the
    SUBJECT, the pronoun that refers to that word HAS
    to be singular.

What makes that so hard?
  • This is a hard rule to hear because so many
    people break this rule.
  • Were used to hearing it the wrong way.
  • Not one of the boys read their SAT guide.
  • Not one of the boys read HIS SAT guide.

Another example
  • Each of the girls ate their lunch.
  • Isolate the subject Each (singular)
  • Then, you will see that Each is singular and
    does not agree with the plural girls.
  • PS Try replacing the of the girls part with
    one and you should see why the pronoun her sounds

Common Mistake 2 Practice
  • There is no one who denies that they work
  • hard to make a good living.
  • Everyone should learn to manage their money.
  • Both of the male soloists pronounced his words
  • If anyone gets lost while exploring Salt Lake
    City, they should use the street maps available
    from the tour guide.

More Pronoun Practice
  • The appreciation shown to the dance troupe was a
    symbol of the schools gratitude for their hard
  • The mayor welcomed the foreign delegation by
    presenting them with a key to the city.
  • Crowds of tennis fans love his style of play
    because the tennis star frequently appeals to it
    for support.
  • One of those cars has their own factory-installed

Now try a tougher one
  • The quality of multivitamin tablets

  • is determined by how long its potency
  • A B C
  • can be protected by the manufacturers coating
  • D
  • material. No error
  • E

Common Mistake 3 Pronouns as Subjects and
Objects . . . Or . . . Pronoun/Case Agreement
  • You must know when to use pronouns in their
    subject forms as opposed to their object
  • Teachers call this point knowing when to use the
    correct case of the pronoun.

Learn this list understand this list!
  • Subject form Object form
  • I vs. me
  • he vs. him
  • she vs. her
  • they vs. them
  • we vs. us
  • who vs. whom

Using pronouns as subjects and as objects
  • I like hot dogs, but hot dogs dont like me.
  • He tickled Susie, so Susie kicked him.
  • She is good enough for Grape-Nuts, but are
    Grape-Nuts good enough for her?
  • We all hate the ETS because the ETS hates us.
  • Who killed Bozo? Bozo killed whom?

More advice
  • Erin and him built a scale model of the Pyramid
    of the Magician.
  • Always simplify these sentences.
  • Does Him built a scale model sound correct?
  • No.
  • It should read, He built a scale model.
  • So . . .
  • Erin and he built a scale model of the Pyramid of
    the Magician.

Try that again . . .
  • When Zelda and him were first married, they lived
    in New York.
  • The boss invited she and her family to dinner.
  • Come to the park with Jose and I.
  • The best line dancers are them.
  • The composer of the sonata is her.

Now for some tougher ones
  • The report Alexander is discussing, a report
    prepared jointly by he and the committee, does
    not take into account the socioeconomic status of
    those interviewed.
  • Apparently impressed with our plans, the
    foundation awarded Carlos and I a grant to
    establish a network of community centers
    throughout the city.

And the one you will DEFINITELY see!
  • Between you and I, I think that the new football
    coach of the Spartans does not know enough about
    the game to build a winning team.
  • This morning saw another conflict between my
    sister and I.
  • It is ALWAYS between you and me!

Now try a tough one
  • The point at issue was whether the dock
  • A
  • workers, whom were an extremely vocal group,
  • B
  • would decide to return to work. No error.
  • D

Common Mistake 4 Pronoun consistency
  • Pronouns should be consistent throughout a
  • OR . . . Put another way . . .
  • When one starts with a particular pronoun, one
    should continue to use that pronoun, or a pronoun
    that is consistent with it, throughout ones
    whole sentence!

Common Mistake 4 Practice
  • If we had known about the ozone layer, you could
    have banned aerosol sprays years ago.
  • When one first sees a painting by Georgia
    OKeefe, you sense power and stillness.
  • Todays athlete may feel such great pressure to
    succeed at every level of competition that they
    begin taking drugs at an early age.

More Practice with Pronouns
  • When we gather during the Thanksgiving holidays,
    you cannot help appreciating family and friends.
  • One cannot gauge the immensity of the Empire
    State Building until you stand atop the building.
  • As you arrive in New York Citys Grand Central
    Terminal, one can easily imagine that station as
    the most elaborate in all the United States.

Common Mistake 5 Using the Correct Tense of Verbs
  • Make sure the time of an action is consistent.
    Look for key time words such as when, while,
    as, after, and so forth. Then, make sure the
    tenses make sense.

  • After he ate the newt and brushed his teeth, I
    will kiss him.
  • Whats the problem? (Other than the obvious!)
  • The problem here is that the verbs ate and
    brushed happened in the past, whereas will kiss
    is going to happen in the future.
  • So . . . Change it to either of these

  • After he eats the newt and brushes his teeth, I
    will kiss him.
  • OR
  • After he ate the newt and brushed his teeth,
  • I kissed him.

Some sentences may have two verbs . . .
  • Many superb tennis players turn professional at
    an alarmingly early age, but because of their
    lack of physical stamina, suffered early in their
  • Study the relationship between the two verbs and
    determine whether it is logical as presented.

Common Mistake 5 Practice
  • My interest in a political career would satisfy
    my desire for public service.
  • Keep your eye on the ball and you should bend
    your knees.
  • Two youths approached me and I was asked for my

Time to test your skills . . .
  • The recent establishment of Crime Busters,
  • A B
  • officially sanctioned neighborhood block-
  • watching groups, have dramatically improved
  • C
  • relations between citizens and police. No error
  • D

And another . . .
  • Every one of the shops in the town were closed

  • A
  • on Thursday because of the ten-inch rainfall
  • B
  • that had fallen during the day. No error
  • D E

And one more . . .
  • To have reached a verdict so quickly, the
  • A
  • members of the jury would have to make up

  • C
  • their minds before leaving the courtroom.
  • D
  • No error.
  • E

Common Mistake 6 Double Negative
  • Dont use no double negatives on the Writing
    Section! Get it?
  • In standard written English, it is incorrect to
    use two negatives together unless one is intended
    to cancel out the other.

Notice the two negatives . . .
  • James easily passed the biology exam without
    hardly studying his lab notes.
  • Without is a negative. Hardly is a less familiar
    negative. But, both are negatives.

Locate the double negatives . . .
  • Until Copernicus proposed his theory, scarcely no
    one believed that the sun was the center of the
  • The decline of outmoded industries has resulted
    in an unstable economy, since no easy way of
    retraining workers has never been found.
  • Practically no big-time college football team has
    enjoyed success on the gridiron without
    increasing overall athletic department revenues.
  • When the tall, cloaked figure had finished his
    bleak pronouncement about the strange destiny of
    the twins, he vanished without hardly a trace.
  • Diabetes can strike anyone, irregardless of age
    nevertheless, many people still make the mistake
    of considering it a geriatric disease.

Common Mistake 7 Adjectives and Adverbs
  • Remember the difference between an adjective and
    an adverb? If not, your sixth-grade teacher will
    hunt you down and pinch you!
  • Seriously, the ETS likes to mix these two up.

Look at the difference
  • Christian Okezie looked angry.
  • He looked angrily at the referee.
  • Use adjectives after linking verbs
  • Use adverbs to modify verbs, adjectives,
    and adverbs

Good and well Bad and badly
  • He plays the trumpet (good/well) and the trombone
  • The clams tasted (bad/badly).
  • In her first recital, the soprano sang (bad/badly)

Using comparatives and superlatives
  • Many adjectives and adverbs have two other forms,
    the comparative and superlative.
  • The comparative is used to compare two things
    tall and taller
  • The superlative is used to compare three or more
    fast, faster, and fastest
  • PS You cant have a smallest twin
  • or a taller triplet!

Common Mistake 7 Practice
  • Global warming would increase more
    (gradual/gradually) if solar energy sources were
    more fully exploited.
  • Although many people feel that parapsychology,
    the study of psychic phenomena, is completely
    frivolous, others take it very (serious/seriously)
  • We chose the (earlier/earliest) of the four

Now try a tougher one
  • The research study reveals startling proof of a
  • A
  • constant changing seafloor that comprises the
  • B
  • major part of the underwater landscape.
  • D
  • No error.
  • E

And another tough one
  • The more scientists learn about subatomic
  • particles, the more closely they come to being
  • A
  • able to describe the ways in which the universe
  • C
  • operates. No error.
  • D E

Common Mistake 8 Parallel Construction
  • Ideas that are parallel (related) should be
    expressed in the same way.
  • OR
  • It is important to place equal ideas in the same
    grammatical form.

Examples of Parallelism
  • Three factors influenced this decision to seek
    new employment his desire to relocate, his need
    for greater responsibility, and his
    dissatisfaction with his current job.
  • Roosevelt represented the United States, and
    Churchill represented Great Britain.
  • Ask not what your country can do for you ask
    what you can do for your country.

Revising Faulty Parallelism
  • Look carefully at the parallel elements in this
  • Many people in developing countries suffer
    because the countries lack sufficient housing to
    accommodate them, sufficient food to feed them,
    and their health-care facilities are inadequate.
  • How can this sentence be corrected?

Common Mistake 8 Practice
  • I look forward to hearing from you and to have an
    opportunity to tell you more about myself.
  • Computerization has helped industry by not
    allowing labor costs to skyrocket, increasing the
    speed of production, and improving efficiency.
  • Richard Wright and James Baldwin chose to live in
    Paris rather than remaining in the United States.

More Parallel Practice
  • Those interested in stage acting can either join
    the drama club or the community theater.
  • The team both felt the satisfaction of victory
    and the disappointment of defeat.
  • Before the meeting, I talked with the secretary
    and treasurer.
  • The old diaries revealed more about that era in
    history than the man who wrote them.

Now a tough one
  • Social scientists agree that a system for
  • A
  • exchanging goods and services is not only
  • B
  • present but also of necessity in all societies.
  • D
  • No error.
  • E

Common Mistake 9 Wrong Word . . . or . . .
Fixing Messed-Up Expressions
  • The English language contains many pairs of words
    that sound alike but are spelled differently and
    have different meanings.
  • Expect to encounter one or two usage questions
    that test your ability to distinguish between
    these problematic word pairs.

Here are some examples . . .

And some more examples . . .

Common Mistake 9 Practice
  • The soldier was (accepted/excepted) from combat
    duty because he had poor field vision.
  • Fred tried to (adapt/adopt) his Volkswagen for
    use as a submarine by gluing the windows shut.
  • The (eminent/imminent) archeologist Dr. Wong has
    identified the artifact as prehistoric in origin.

Now a tough one
  • Mr. Websters paper is highly imaginary and
  • A
  • very creative, but lacking in cogency. No error.
  • B C D

And another tough one
  • The few surviving writings of Greek
  • A
  • philosophers before Plato are not only brief and
  • B C
  • obscure, they can be figurative, too. No error.
  • D

Common Mistake 10 Non-Idiomatic Preposition
  • The Writing Section also tests your recognition
    of prepositions that combine idiomatically with
    certain verbs.
  • More simply stated, We just dont say it that

Commonly Tested Verbs and Matching Prepositions
  • abide by differ with stop from
  • accuse of dream about subscribe to
  • agree with excel in substitute for
  • apologize for forgive for succeed in
  • arrive at hope for thank for
  • believe in object to vote for
  • compare to pray for wait for
  • complain about stare at worry about

Now try these
  • City Council members frequently meet until the
    early morning hours in order to work in their
  • The singers new CD was frowned at by many
    parents because of its violent lyrics.

And a tougher one
  • Quick to take advantage of Melanie Johnsons
  • A B
  • preoccupation in the history of the Johnson
  • C
  • family, the genealogist proposed investigating
  • that history for a large fee. No error.
  • D

Common Mistake 11 Number Agreement Problems
  • Writing section tests a particular error of
    modification involving number.
  • Fortunately, you do not need to be able to
    EXPLAIN the grammar involved you just need to be
    able to spot this type of mistake.

Heres an example . . .
  • The advertisement in the newspaper requested
    that only persons with a high school diploma
    apply for the position.
  • The noun in question is persons however, the
    noun diploma is singular.
  • The phrase should read with high school diplomas.

Heres another example . . .
  • The economies of Romania and Albania are
    considered by many to be a symbol of the failure
    of the command market structure.
  • The subject of the sentence, economies
    corresponds to a symbol. Both economies cannot
    be a single symbol.

Common Mistake Practice 11
  • Rising stock value and capital liquidity are
    considered by financiers to be a requirement for
    healthy investment.
  • The two-piece bathing suit is considered by many
    to be throwbacks to the 1960s.
  • Students in a college t-shirt will be admitted to
    the concert for free.
  • Many question the validity of laws that do not
    allow people with a child to rent certain

And more practice . . .
  • The Internal Revenue Service is annually derided
    by critics who claim that their instruction
    manuals for filing taxes are too cryptic.
  • Investors who lost money in the stock market
    crash generally recouped his losses over the next
    18 months.
  • The committee asserts that the venture capitalist
    has not proven quite as philanthropic as their
    public relations campaign suggests.

Now try a tough one
  • The doctor recommended that young athletes
  • with a history of severe asthma take particular
  • A
    B C
  • care not to exercise alone. No error.
  • D E

Common Mistake 12 Pronoun with Ambiguous
  • There are two ways the Writing section might test
    your ability to recognize ambiguous pronoun
  • First, a sentence might be given in which it is
    impossible to determine to what noun the pronoun

Take a look at this example . . .
  • The United States entered into warmer relations
    with China after its compliance with recent
    weapons agreements.
  • To which country does the pronoun its refer??

Or . . .
  • Pronoun reference can also be ambiguous if the
    pronouns antecedent is not explicitly stated in
    the sentence. Remember Do not ASSUME anything!

Take a look at this example . . .
  • After the derailment last month, they are
    inspecting trains for safety more often than ever
  • The question to ask about this sentence is Who
    is they?

Wheres the ambiguity?
  • The company chairman contacted the marketing
    director after he failed to attend the sales
  • Temporary loss of hearing is a common occurrence
    at rock concerts where they sit too close to the
    mammoth speakers.
  • The small claims court lawyer won the case for
    the defendant once she proved her innocence with
    legal documents.

Common Mistake 13 Faulty Comparison
  • Most faulty comparisons happen when two things
    that logically cannot be compared, are compared.
  • A comparison can be faulty either logically or

Look for the faulty comparison
  • A Nobel Peace Prize winner and the author of
    several respected novels, Elie Wiesels name is
    still less well known than last years Heisman
    Trophy winner.
  • Elie Wiesels name is being compared to last
    years Heisman Trophy winner. This comparison is
    faulty because a persons name is compared to
    another person.

Try to find it again . . .
  • To lash back at ones adversaries is a less
    courageous course than attempting to bring about
    reconciliation with them.
  • Yes, two actions are being compared. But, the
    problem lies in the grammatical form of the words
    compared to lash versus attempting.

In other words. . .
  • Check all comparisons for logic and grammatical

  • Usage questions test your knowledge of
  • Basic grammar
  • Sentence structure
  • Word choice
  • Can you list the 13 usage mistakes
  • the SAT likes to test?

Multiple-Choice Questions Type 2
  • Improving Sentences

Common errors include
  • Verbs
  • Incorrect comparisons
  • Pronoun reference
  • Standard English Usage
  • Sentence Fragments
  • Run-on sentences
  • Confusing sentences

These are the same errors found in the
Identifying Sentence Errors section
Plus, you may find these additional errors in
sentence structure
Either a portion of the sentence or the whole
sentence is underlined.
  • What to do
  • Carefully read the entire sentence
  • Note any errors or parts that do not sound
  • Read each choice along with the entire sentence
    is always the same as the original sentence
  • Choose the most effective revision for that

  • Consumers are beginning to take notice of
    electric cars because they are quiet, cause no
    air pollution, and gasoline is not used.
  • cause no air pollution, and gasoline is not used
  • air pollution is not caused, and gasoline is not
  • cause no air pollution, and use no gasoline
  • causing no air pollution and using no gasoline
  • air pollution is not caused, and no gasoline is

The Correct Answer is C
Multiple-Choice Questions Type 3
  • Improving Paragraphs

  • You will receive unedited drafts of students
  • Each essay is followed by a series of questions
    about changes that might improve the essay.
  • Choose the answer that most clearly effectively
    expresses the writers intended meaning.

  • Know the directions!
  • Try these and see which works best for you
  • Read the questions first
  • Read the essay thoroughly
  • Do not linger over errors (remember, the essay is
    meant to be a draft)
  • Try to get a sense of the essays organization
  • Ask yourself What is the thesis of the essay?
  • Answer the questions
  • Reread the essay or parts as needed

Types of questions
  • Which sentence contains the thesis statement of
    this essay?
  • What is the best revision of sentence 3 for
    clarity and style?
  • What is the best way to revise and combine
    sentences 5, 6, and 7?
  • Which revision of sentence 13 is the best for
    increasing coherence?
  • What organizational method does this essay
  • Which sentence would be most appropriate to
    follow sentence 12?
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