Writing Multiple-Choice Questions
Clause Organization
A clause is a group of words that has a subject and a predicate. Sentences can have one clause or many clauses. You won’t often see a sentence with more than three clauses in the SAT Writing section. You will see a good number of SAT items that test clause organization.
The following sentence has three clauses, each of which is underlined:
  Bob Dylan stunned many of his fans  when  he appeared in a lingerie commercial in 2004 
 Clause 1 Clause 2 
because  much of his career had been devoted to debunking empty commercialism. 
 Clause 3
The words that are not underlined are the all-important connections between the clauses. They guide the reader from clause to clause, and the SAT will test your ability to choose these words appropriately. Appropriate connections—technically known as conjunctions and connectives—require that you follow logic, as well as grammar.
In the sentence above, when lets the reader know that the trigger for Dylan’s fans’ surprise is coming. Since when is a temporal word, it indicates that something specific happened at some specific point in time, and you’re about to be told what that was. Because indicates that the reason why some of his fans were so stunned is about to be revealed.
English has many such guide words and phrases. Individual SAT tests will not include them all, but here’s a handy list of some common ones:
also consequently nevertheless still
although despite no less than therfore
and even or though
as well as for otherwise thus
because however since yet
but moreover so
The Weak And
One commonly tested feature of clause organization could be called “the weak and.” And is pretty much the word-version of the + symbol and denotes addition or the mere presence of two equivalent things at the same time or in the same place:

Bill likes ketchup and John likes mustard.

“Big deal,” you say, but the and here doesn’t serve as much of a guide word. The SAT tests whether you can recognize this type of weak and. Look at this sentence:

Bob Dylan’s appearance in a lingerie commercial stunned many of his fans and much of his career had been devoted to debunking empty commercialism.

Huh? This sentence just cries out for causation. Substitute because for and to make this sentence be all that it can be:

Bob Dylan’s appearance in a lingerie commercial stunned many of his fans because much of his career had been devoted to debunking empty commercialism.

Commas, Semicolons, and Colons
A related and much-tested concept concerns commas, semicolons, and colons. These punctuation marks act as connection-words: they are shorthand for certain types of connections between clauses.
If a period is a “full stop,” and a comma is a “pause,” then a semicolon is somewhere in between, but closer to a full stop. Use it to separate two clauses that could stand alone as sentences:

To err is human; some of us are more human than others are.

To err is human. Some of us are more human than others are.

Use a colon either to “announce” a list or to magnify or exemplify what preceded the colon:

You forgot to pack three key items: a flashlight, a first aid kit, and a pair of sunglasses.

Most of the troublemakers in my class are actually gifted students: Kim, for example, consistently receives high scores on aptitude tests.

Like semicolons, colons can separate clauses that can stand alone. However, a colon stresses that the clause after the colon follows sequentially from the phrase that precedes the colon:

To err is human; some of us are more human than others are.

To err is human: some of us are more human than others are.

The first sentence indicates that all people make mistakes, but, as an almost statistical point, some of us tend to make more mistakes than others do. The second sentence places more emphasis on the fact that certain people make more mistakes than most do.
That vs. Which
Commas are the hardest of all punctuation marks to master. Luckily the SAT tests a few key mistakes, such as the Montagues and the Capulets of the pronoun world, that and which. Read the following two sentences:

The car that I had repaired is in the driveway.

The car, which I had to have repaired, is in the driveway.

The first sentence tells you which car is in the driveway: that I had repaired is a modifier of the car. It performs the same function that “red” or “blue” would if either was substituted for that I had repaired. It’s a response to the question, Where did you park the car you had repaired? The second sentence reports the repair of the car as incidental. Which is used, and the which-clause is set off with commas. It’s a response to the question, Where is the car? If you see a which-clause, make sure that commas set it off. Often the SAT will omit one of the commas.
Comma Splice
Another commonly tested error is the comma splice. Don’t use a comma where a period or semicolon is required:

To err is human, some of us are more human than others are.

This is a comma splice, pal, which is a type of fused sentence, also known as a run-on sentence. Fix them with a semicolon or period. The SAT loves this concept!
Sentence Fragments
Watch out for sentence fragments too. A fragment occurs when a poor, insecure, dependent clause that cannot stand on its own is forced to do so. These clauses often contain gerunds (-ing constructions) or infinitives:

Swelling to twice its size.

To reach your target score on the SAT.

Fragments make you want to grab that poor lonely clause by the collar and yell, “Where’s the payoff? Don’t leave me hanging!” Resist the temptation. Understand that a happy sentence needs both a subject and a predicate. Dependent clauses need a more self-sufficient clause for support. Fragments show up quite a bit in Paragraph Improvement.
Help | Feedback | Make a request | Report an error