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How to Approach Identifying Sentence Errors Questions
Please Note:
The last administration of the SAT II Writing was on 1/22/05. Beginning 3/12/05, parts of the SAT II Writing test will be included in the New SAT. You should be studying the New SAT book. Go there!
How to Approach Identifying Sentence Errors Questions
1. Read the sentence and try to hear the mistake.
Sometimes all you have to do is read the sentence, and immediately you’ll hear the problem. If that happens, great.
2. If you don’t hear the mistake, eliminate underlined parts that are correct.
Sometimes, though, you’ll read the sentence without hearing a mistake. If your initial reading of the sentence doesn’t result in finding the answer, go through the underlined parts and eliminate those that are correct. Take a look at the example a few lines back. Say you read that sentence once and didn’t hear a problem. You would then go through the sentence again, crossing off underlined parts that are correct. Which—that might be wrong. You’re not sure, so keep the answer choice for now. Were—also could be wrong. There might be a subject-verb agreement problem. Keep it. Rowdy for—you feel sure there’s nothing wrong with that. Eliminate answer choice (C) by crossing it out in your test booklet. Audience—nothing wrong with that, either. A Broadway audience is a grammatically impeccable phrase. Cross out (D) in your test booklet. Now you’re down to (A) and (B), and it’s time to move to step 3. For the moment, since you’re not sure if an error exists, do not eliminate choice (E).
3. Check for errors in the remaining underlined parts.
The crowd,  which  clamored for the play to begin,  were  surprisingly
 A B 
 rowdy for  a Broadway  audience .  No error 
 C D E
Look at your two remaining choices, (A) and (B). Answer choice (A) is which. Sometimes which is mistakenly used instead of that, but here, which is the correct choice. (Quick rule: when there’s a comma, choose which; when there’s no comma, choose that.) You can eliminate (A). What about (B), were? Were is a verb. Subject-verb agreement problems are commonly tested on this section of the test. What is the subject of were? The crowd. Standing between the subject and the verb is an adjectival clause, which clamored for the play to begin. Get rid of the adjectival clause for the moment, so you can more easily see whether the subject matches up with the verb. When you eliminate the clause, you get the crowd were. That doesn’t match. The crowd is a singular subject, and were is a plural verb. (B) is the correct answer.
4. Trust yourself. If you can’t hear an error, and you can’t find an error, it’s probably an error-free sentence.
Remember, about 1/ 5 of the time the answer will be (E), no error. Sometimes you’ll read the sentence, eliminate the error-free underlined parts, and find that you’ve crossed out every single underlined part. If this happens, don’t second-guess yourself. Don’t force yourself to find an error where none exists.
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