SAT Tips for Improving Sentences

college-board-sat-scoresWe know from our recent article, SAT vs. ACT: What’s the Difference that the SAT tests on several sections of reading, writing, and math skills to measure a student’s apptitude in problem-solving skills.  With the SAT weighing in heavily on a student’s English ability, SAT Preparation Group thinks it is important to share SAT Tips on reading and writing as often as possible.  Today we want to share tips on the improving sentences section of the SAT.

Improving sentences is a section of the SAT that tends to be a found in both the reading and writing sections of the SAT.  While some grammar-centered questions will be listed in the improving sentences section, other sections will be based on a student’s reading comprehension by having the student answer a variety of questions derived from a given story or article.  These reading comprehension questions are based on logical inference and the main idea(s) of the story.

To help students with improving sentences and reading comprehension, SAT Preparation Group asks a weekly sample SAT question across their Facebook or Google+ profile.  Students are given two days to answer the question before SAT Preparation Group displays the answer, offerring explaination to any student who may have the wrong answer.

Let’s look at a sample of one of these questions:

Part or all of the following sentence is underlined; beneath the sentence are five ways of phrasing the underlined material. Select the option that produces the best sentence. If you think the original phrasing produces a better sentence than any of the alternatives, select choice A.  

Like machinery was integral to the development of industrial capitalism, so the rapid transfer of information is the force driving modern business.


A question like this can be listed independently as part of the improving sentences section of the SAT, or a question like this can be given after a reading passage, quoting a particular sentence from the passage and asking how to improve it.  Either way, all the information that is needed to answer this question exists within the sentence given.  A student can ignore the rest of the passage, for now, to focus on improving this sentence.

The sentence explains that the transfer of information is as important to the economy as machinery once was.  Choice (D) is correct. It avoids the error of the original by replacing the preposition “Like” with the conjunction “as.” In this sentence, two clauses, “machinery was integral to the development of industrial capitalism” and “the rapid transfer of information is the force driving modern business” are being compared, so a conjunction is required to link them. A preposition cannot link clauses. The adverb “Just” here completes the correlative construction “Just as…. so….” and adds emphasis to the similarity between the two statements being compared.

Another example SAT question is:

Choose the word or set of words that, when inserted in the sentence, best fits the meaning of the sentence as a whole. 

It was difficult to believe that the sophisticated piece of technology had ——- through the centuries from such ——- and rudimentary apparatus.

While this question is also focused on a single sentence, it is not a grammar question.  A student will likely need to read and re-read the sentences to consider the flow of ideas and the most appropriate words to fit into the sentence.  A student will need to be familiar with each of the answers as vocabulary words they have studied for the SAT.

A question like this is often found as part of a reading comprehension exercise.  While this sentence may exist within the story or article being questioned, student’s will need to read the context of the sentence to understand if the sentence can be improved upon.

Don’t make the mistake of answering this question without understanding the context of the sentence.  While this question may seem like it can be answered independently just as the first samle question we discussed, these questions are often posed to trick a student into answering without understanding the context of the paragraph the sentence was derived from.

As an overall rule of thumb, remember that if a question asks about grammar or fixing an existing aspect of the sentence, the student will not need to read the entire article or story given in order to answer a given grammar question.  However, if the question appears after a reading comprehension exercise, context is always key.

Are you taking the SAT soon?  SAT Prepartion Group averages a 323.5 point increase for students taking the SAT.  Score BIG with SAT Preparation Group and sign up for one of our SAT Courses today.

[Sample question taken from an offical practice test]

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