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Question

Dear Mitch,

I'm taking the SAT test for the first time this coming May 1st, and that's only like a week away!!  I'm also registered to take it on June 5th, and that's only like another few weeks away!!!, but what I'm really hoping for is to not have to take it all over again in June, and so I'm seriously studying my brains off.

So, anyway, right now I'm feeling pretty confident about the math section (and for that I owe YOU and your website a really big thank you, especially for all the great tips you have that make perfect sense to the point of being almost obvious AFTER I read them on your site (especially when it's some kind of hint or trick that's not in any of the famous review books that my grandmother had Amazon.com send me in a big stack in a huge box of for my birthday at the beginning of the school year).  I also am scoring pretty high (or high enough) on the reading comprehension parts, probably because I'm always reading for fun anyway, like one of those nerds you see at the beach (that's me!!), BUT the part that I could definitely use more hints on is the writing part.  Not so much the part where you have to write an essay, that doesn't worry me, but the other part, where they give you a sentence and you have to pick out the multiple choice that you think is better, or if you think the original sentence is good the way they have it before the bunch of choices that say the same basic thing but use a different grammar rule or something like that, but only if you think the choice is better than the way they have it to start.

But I'd bet anything that you know all this, I mean you definitely know the kind of stuff the writing part has on it.  Oh Lord, I just realized how much of your time I probably wasted making you read all my long blah-blah-blah, so I'm going to stop now and just ask one more time:  Do you have any tricks or ideas for the part of the writing section that they call "sentence correction" or something like that, where they give you multiple choice questions that you have to pick either a better way of saying what they just said or pick the answer that says you think it's perfect the way it is?

Thanks a lot.  Oh, and wish me luck, because I'm really studying my brains out!

Stay the awesomest,

Marabelle at the Beach

Answer

Dear Marabelle at the Beach,

Well, before I even get to the part you really want to read, there's something I'd like to tell you:  You know how you said you're not  worried about the part where you have to write an essay? Well, guess what?  I'm not worried about that part for you either.  And I think you could probably guess why I say that... because words flow freely from your mind and land on the paper (or screen) in pretty good form.  Your grammar in your question is pretty good, your spelling is very good, and even though in the  middle you did sort of ramble a little more than I would recommend doing on the test, you do have a nice, natural style of written expression, and even with the small pieces of repetitious rambling, you come back to the right part of the path you need to find to continue building your idea and , somehow, it works!  So, just try doing a few practice essays from one of the review books your grandmother was kind enough to send you, and make sure to set a timer, even if it's a timer on a microwave oven (if your family has a microwave oven), or try to get one of those windup cooking timers you can usually find for around five dollars.

Okay, now, for the part of the writing section that they refer to as "sentence correction."...

Oh YES, when it comes to the sentence correction part, I do have a few 'hints' or 'tricks' or whatever you'd like to call them. In fact, to be honest, I think I could say I actually have amassed a collection that amounts to more than a few -- a LOT more.  On a recent afternoon, a former student of mine was scheduled to meet with me to see if  I could help him figure out which colleges might be right for him.  But the meeting was precluded from happening, as Mother Nature had a plan that was so much stronger than ours that I could almost hear the skies laughing at my student and me and our big schedule! Instead, we had a major rainstorm that flooded streets between his house and mine, and the main  road he needed to take was closed off by the police and fire department after someone tried to drive through it and almost ended up getting lost forever under water!  Anyway, the reason for my mentioning this event (which I guess you could say is my form of rambling before getting to the point), is that after listening to the radio long enough to get the report that everyone would be fine if they either go back home  or just stay home and not venture out, I found myself with one of the first free afternoons I had had in weeks.  So. . .

I bet by now you could probably figure out what I did in the quiet of my  office softened by the sound of the winds and rain...

YUP!, I took out  a pad and began to write out a bunch of "hints", "tips", and "tricks" for the multiple choice part of the SAT writing section called "sentence correction".

And before I even realized I'd been turning  pages faster than usual, I was surprised to discover that I'd filled up more than half the pad!  But listen: it wasn't very hard to do that because the test almost always focuses on the same basic concepts that students are supposed to know but often don't.  To be fair, I've noticed that most people do come to master the concepts I'm thiking of, but for some reason they often don't get that good at it until a year or two AFTER they have to take the test.  The good news is that they can easily learn the concepts BEFORE they take the SAT; all it takes is being shown the correct way that certain statements should be written even though most of us usually hear them in one of their many incorrect forms -- and after hearing something stated incorrectly so many times for so long, they start to seem and sound and feel correct.  Or almost correct.  So, the idea is to learn which types of phrases they are, memorize a few VERY simple rules, and take a few practice versions of this section in one of the review books. Or, if you are really fortunate, it's often more effective to learn these types of things from a teacher who can help you grasp them in more lively ways than most books can by using examples that you've heard or used a hundred or more times yourself over the years.

Okay, now, believe it or not, MY rambling build-up turned out to be so long -- or, at least longer than usual -- that in this post I am just going to present a few examples of the type of grammatical things you are likely to encounter on the SAT, and that should whet your appetite for more.  Then, tomorrow, I will put up a big bunch of  them.  If I put up a big bunch now, right here, most readers would be less likely to absorb them, because by now almost anyone's attention span would be waning.

So:  To give you a preview of 'upcoming attractions', as they say in Hollywood, here's a couple of SAT favorites: 

1) Everyone in the school thinks they are the 'best-dressed' student the teachers have ever seen.

(And to keep these 'upcoming attractions' shorter and easier to get through than the kind of full duplicates of real test questions you'll see on this website tomorrow, instead of multiple choice, all you have to do is decide whether there is an error or not, and if there is, then try to figure out where in the sentence the error is).

2) The big group (which had over fifty members) got on the earliest bus they could find.

3) If I was you, I would get your seatbelt back on and refrain from making any more of your stupid comments until we arrive at the hotel.

 

O.K.  Now, the answers:

There is an important error in sentence number 1.

There is an important error in sentence number 2.

There is an important  error in sentence number 3.

......................What? Where? Why?.....................

Tune in tomorrow for complete explanations of these important and common SAT-question errors, as well as  an explanation of how you will know for sure which of the multiple  choice selections you and your #2 pencil should embrace.

Until then, I hope you found this interesting, and I hope that by the time we complete the topic of sentence errors, you will discover how much easier most of these are to get right than you probably ever imagined!

Mathematically yours,

Mitch