SAT Writing and Language | 5 Practical Strategies

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The SAT Writing and Language test is known to trick students with grammar rules. The good news is there are key strategies you can use that sidestep most of these tricks.

Here are 5 practical SAT Writing and Language section strategies that will help you avoid some of the common ways the test tries to trick you.

In addition to SAT Writing and Language, here are some tips to avoid mistakes on the SAT essay.

Subject-Verb Number Agreement

One of the first tips that will help you is subject-verb number agreement

The first thing you have to keep straight in sentences is the number agreement. Here’s what it means in a nutshell:

  • Singular with a singular
  • Plural with plural

If your sentence’s subject is singular (meaning one), then the verb has to be singular too. No exceptions to this rule whatsoever.

The same pattern applies to plural subjects. A plural verb must pair up with a plural subject. Again, never mix singular and plural together in one sentence.

If you see that combination on the test, then you immediately know something is up.

Collective Nouns Are Singular In Design

Collective nouns are used on the SAT Writing and Language test to mess with subject-verb agreement comprehension.

This is what that means: grouping words, used in context, referring to different individuals as singular subjects. Here are common collective nouns to watch out for:

  • Team
  • Group
  • Jury
  • Crowd
  • Class
  • Panel
  • Committee

If you see any of them used in a sentence, remember that they refer to multiple people. However, the collection is stated and understood as a singular subject.

In that case, a singular verb must be used too. If the noun refers to multiple collected groups, like “crowds”, then the verb needs to be plural too.”

Prepositional Phrases Don’t Influence Subject Number

Don’t use prepositions when determining if a subject is singular or plural.

To figure out if a subject is singular or plural in nature, go back and review the noun being modified. For example, “the group of friends are there” is incorrect. Why?

Because it’s assuming the preposition ‘of’ refers mainly to ‘friends’, so it uses ‘are’. The main verb being modified is “group”, which is singular.

The correct sentence reads “the group of friends is there.” The SAT uses a prepositional phrase like this to trick you and test your language understanding.

Always Check For Context

Every word in a sentence has to make sense in context.

The SAT removed its once-feared Vocabulary section, but it still tries to trick you with difficult words. The new SAT instead checks your comprehension of relatively difficult words in sentences.

You’ll see incorrect word choices thrown at you through homophones (words that sound similar but have different definitions) and words with various meanings.

One way to check vocabulary within a sentence is to analyze each word and make they all make sense in the context of the situation. If a word sounds like it’s correct, but it actually means something else then there’s a problem.

Context lets you separate out correct words from red herrings.

Watch Out For Dangling Modifiers

A common error SAT writing questions employ is using dangling modifiers.

Modifiers are words or phrases that modify an additional word to provide extra information and context. If you see a modifier followed by a comma in a sentence, check that it provides additional information about the word or phrase that immediately follows it.

If it doesn’t provide any extra clarity, then that modifier is referred to as ‘dangling’. It’s simply there without a purpose inside of that sentence.

This is another trick used on the SAT to confuse students and test their writing understanding.

Don’t Fall For Comma Splices

Comma splices are easy to do; however, they’re always wrong.

Comma splices happen when two complete, independent thoughts (or clauses) are separated by a comma alone. The most common comma splice you’ll see is a run-on sentence.

When you use a comma, you have to check that both connected thoughts cannot exist by themselves alone. If they can exist independently because they’re two complete thoughts, then you know there’s a splice.

In that case, a semicolon is the correct punctuation mark to use.

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