SAT Prep - Improving Sentences

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This presentation was created to go along with a lecture about the section of the SAT called "Improving Sentences."

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SAT Prep - Improving Sentences

  1. 2. The following sentences test correctness and effectiveness of expression. In choosing answers, follow the requirements of standard written English; that is, pay attention to grammar; choice of words, sentence construction, and punctuation. In each of the following sentences, part of the sentence or the entire sentence is underlined. Beneath each sentence you will find five ways of phrasing the underlined part. Choice A repeats the original; the other four are different. Choose the answer that best expresses the meaning of the original sentence. If you think the original is better than any of the alternatives, choose it; otherwise choose one of the others. Your choice should produce the most effective sentence – clear and precise, without awkwardness or ambiguity.
  2. 3. This is what an “Improving Sentences” question should look like: Jenna was awarded the medal not for her academic success or her skill on the soccer field, but for her being a participant in gym class. (E) but for her participation in gym class. See Jenna Flip (D) but for her being participation-willing in gym class. (C) the reason was her participating in gym class. (B) the reason being for her participation in gym class. (A) but for her being a participant in gym class. See Jenna Flip Away
  3. 4. Step 1: Read the sentence and try to hear the problem. Step 2: If you find an error, eliminate choice A. Step 3: Before you look at the answer choices, figure out how to fix the error. Step 4: Find the correction that most closely matches yours. Step 5: If no correction matches, eliminate answers that repeat the error or contain new errors. Step 6: If you’re still stumped, reach into your bag of tricks (more on these soon). Step 7: Plug your answer back into the sentence to check it. Step 8: If you’re still stumped – cut, guess, and run.
  4. 5. <ul><li>Here is the example problem, again. We will solve step-by-step, using the eight-step strategy: </li></ul><ul><li>Jenna was awarded the medal not for her academic success or her skill on the soccer field, but for her being a participant in gym class. </li></ul><ul><li>but for her being a participant in gym class. </li></ul><ul><li>the reason being for her participation in gym class. </li></ul><ul><li>the reason was her participating in gym class. </li></ul><ul><li>but for her being participation-willing in gym class. </li></ul><ul><li>but for her participation in gym class. </li></ul>
  5. 6. Relying on your “that just doesn’t sound right” or “that sounds OK” ears will lead you astray. What sounds right and what is right are two different things. This is because what sounds right is usually based on spoken English – but the SAT tests your knowledge on written English. It is important to remember the rules of standard written English. If you know the rules, then you can ignore your “that sounds right” ear. In the example question: there are two things very wrong with the underlined portion – wordiness and faulty parallelism. Basically, it needs to be written in a more compact form and the different parts of the sentence should be written in the same manner. Even if you do not know the words to describe what is wrong with the sentence, the knowledge that the sentence is wrong will go a long way – remember, if you know it is wrong, you can automatically eliminate choice “A.”
  6. 7. Even if you are not sure exactly how to fix it, finding an error in the underlined part of the sentence increases your chance of getting the question right. This is because you can automatically eliminate choice “A” – because choice “A” always repeats the underlined part of the sentence, word for word. Hey, face it – sometimes you are going to have to guess. It’s that way in life – it’s that way on the SAT. The difference: there is no penalty for guessing on the SAT. The more answers you can eliminate, the more your chance of guessing right increases.
  7. 8. These questions are made to trick you. By saying similar phrases repeatedly, your brain begins to mush them all together and they all start to sound weird. Reading through the answer choices blindly is going to leave you feeling like you are reading something like “the pickle is in the shoe.” Always go into “Improving Sentences” questions with a plan. Have a solution to the problem going into the situation – it will make your life (at least during the testing time) a lot easier!
  8. 9. After you have come up with a solution to the problem in your head, scan the answers and look for the answer choice that most closely resembles your changes. Very rarely will you find an exact match to the solution that you came up with inside your head, but you will usually find something close enough to be your answer’s twin. Kudos to you if you find an exact match, though! For the example problem: Let’s pretend that the solution in your head is “Jenna was awarded the medal not for her academic success or her skill on the soccer field, but for participating in gym class.” Out of all of the answer choices, “E” is the only one that is similar enough to be your answers twin – “for participating” is replaced by “her participation.”
  9. 10. Believe it or not, you will usually find a few answer choices that repeat the original mistake . Most fix the original mistake, but add a whole new slew of errors to the mix. Get rid of all of them! For the example problem: If you were unsure about the answer “E,” you could look through the other answer choices and start eliminating – “B” is also wordy, “C” the word participating is a gerund but should be a noun, “D” repeats the mistakes of the original sentence and introduces a new problem by using the strange phrase “participation-willing.”
  10. 11. The bag of tricks will be explained at the end of the chapter, in the section titled “Cheap Tricks.” For the example problem: Since we already are pretty much certain that choice “E” is the correct answer, we do not need to complete step 6.
  11. 12. Read the sentence to yourself with the answer replacing the incorrect underlined portion. If it sounds good – you are good to go! For the example problem: The sentence now reads: “ Jenna was awarded the medal not for her academic success or her skill on the soccer field, but for her participation in gym class.” Sounds good!
  12. 13. If you can eliminate answer choices, than at this point, just pick one of the remaining answers and move on. If you have no clue if the sentence has a mistake and you don’t know which answer choice is right, skip the question and move on. For the example problem: We are almost completely certain (at this point) that the answer is choice “E,” so we do not need to cut, guess, or run.
  13. 14. Error 1: Passive Voice Error 2: Run-on sentences Error 3: Misplaced modifiers Error 4: Parallelism Error 5: Wordiness All five of these grammar problems will be discussed in more detail.
  14. 15. Sentences written in the passive voice leave you wondering, “Who does this verb belong to? Is there a specific subject at all? Does the subject wait to appear until the end of the sentence?” An example would be: A bunch of grass was eaten. This kind of sentence is wordy and weak. If you think you might be dealing with a sentence that is in the passive voice, look for the words “is, was, were, are, or any other variation of the verb be . ” Then, look for the preposition “by.” If you have both of these, you probably have a sentence written in the passive voice.
  15. 16. After Timothy dropped his filthy socks in the hamper, the offensive garment was washed by his long-suffering father. (A) the offensive garment was washed by his long-suffering father. (B) his long-suffering father washed the offensive garment. (C)the washing of the offensive garment took place by his long-suffering father. (D) long-suffering, the offensive garment was washed by his father. (E) he left the offensive garment for his long-suffering father who washed it. Not in this lifetime!
  16. 17. Here, we have passive voice at its worst. There’s a was, a by, and the fact that you don’t know until the last word of the sentence who washed Timmy’s stinky socks. To fix it, the performer of the action must be identified early in the statement . Both answers “B” and “E” fix the passive voice problems, but “E” is wordy and redundant, so the answer must be “B.”
  17. 18. A run-on sentence is when two complete sentences get jammed together without correct punctuation. They kind of sound like an excited child telling a story quickly. The best way to test if a sentence is a run-on sentence is to separate it into two separate sentences and see if they can function on their own. I walked into the pet store and asked the clerk if she had any talking parrots, this made her roll her eyes. I walked into the pet store and asked the clerk if she had any talking parrots. This made her roll her eyes. Since both of these sentences are complete separately, they cannot be separated by just a comma. Something will have to be done to fix this run-on sentence.
  18. 19. In “Improving Sentences” questions on the SAT, correcting a run-on sentence by making two separate sentences is not an option, because they want you to correct it while keeping it one sentence. There are three methods for correcting run-on sentences in an “Improving Sentences” question on the SAT: Method 1 : Use a semi-colon Method 2 : Add a conjunction Method 3 : Make the clauses relate clearly
  19. 20. Using a semi-colon is one of the most common remedies that you will see on the SAT: Adding a conjunction can fix a run-on sentence. Take this run-on sentence, for example: I walked into the pet store and asked the clerk if she had any talking parrots; this made her roll her eyes. In her incredible eagerness to cheer her team to victory, Amy the cheerleader has lost her voice, therefore her performances at the games is a silent one. Here is the solution: In her incredible eagerness to cheer her team to victory, Amy the cheerleader has lost her voice, and therefore her performances at the games is a silent one.
  20. 21. A clause is a unit of grammatical organization just below the sentence in rank and in traditional grammar said to consist of a subject and predicate. Sometimes sentences contain strange relationships among clauses that can obscure the meaning of the sentence. Here is an example: The student council attempted to lure people to the dance with free food, most people attended the field hockey game. By adding one word, we can clear up the relationship between these two sections: Although the student council attempted to lure people to the dance with free food, most people attended the field hockey game.
  21. 22. Let’s look at a real “Improving Sentences” question: The police reprimanded everyone at the graduation party, they didn’t seem very sympathetic to the fact that it was our senior year. (A) at the graduation party, they didn’t seem very sympathetic to the fact that it was our senior year. (B) at the graduation party, seemingly the fact that it was our senior year did not make them sympathetic. (C) at the graduation party without being sympathetic to the fact that it was our senior year. (D) at the graduation party they didn’t, despite the fact that it was our senior year, seem very sympathetic. (E) at the graduation party; they didn’t seem very sympathetic to the fact that it was our senior year. Never!
  22. 23. Very much a run-on. These two sentences could definitely stand alone: The police reprimanded everyone at the party. They didn’t seem very sympathetic to the fact that it was our senior year. There are a few ways that this sentence could be fixed. One that does not appear in the answers: turning the second half into a subordinate clause (a clause that cannot exist without an independent clause). Here is an example: Since they reprimanded everyone at the graduation party, the police didn’t seem very sympathetic to the fact that it was our senior year. “ And” could also be inserted between the two clauses: The police reprimanded everyone at the party, and they didn’t seem very sympathetic to the fact that it was our senior year.
  23. 24. The problem does not give an answer with either one of those solutions, so we must look at what we have and choose the best one. If we look at our methods of correcting run-ons, we see that we haven’t tried the first one – inserting a semi-colon. The police reprimanded everyone at the party; they didn’t seem very sympathetic to the fact that it was our senior year. If we look over the answers given, we can see that this solution is shown in choice “E;” therefore, choice “E” is our answer.
  24. 25. A modifying phrase is a phrase that explains or describes a word. In standard written English, they usually are placed right next to the word that they are modifying. &quot;One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I'll never know.&quot; (Groucho Marx) When modifiers are placed somewhere else (not next to the word they are modifying), the sentence becomes unclear, because the reader does not know which word the phrase is supposed to be describing. This can sometimes be quite comical, but it is always wrong. Here is a quote that shows this mistake:
  25. 26. We will now break down another example of a misplaced modifier: Eating six cheeseburgers, nausea overwhelmed Jane. We can logically deduce that Jane is the one eating six cheeseburgers, but because the modifying phrase is so far away from the word it is intended to modify (Jane), it would seem as though the nausea is eating six cheeseburgers. When you see a modifier followed by a comma, make sure the word that the modifier describes comes right after the comma. A corrected version is as follows: After eating six cheeseburgers, Jane was overwhelmed with nausea. Another way to correct this sentence: Nausea overwhelmed Jane after she ate six cheeseburgers.
  26. 27. Let’s look at a real “Improving Sentences” question: Having a bargain price, Marcel snatched up the designer jeans right away. (A) Having a bargain price, Marcel snatched up the designer jeans (B) Marcel who has a bargain price, snatched up the designer jeans (C) The jeans’ bargain price led to Marcel’s snatching them up (D) Due to their bargain price, Marcel snatched up the designer jeans (E) Based on their bargain price, the jeans were snatched up right away by Marcel Not a chance!
  27. 28. It is obvious that there is a misplaced modifier in this sentence, since it sounds like Marcel is the one with the bargain price, so we can eliminate choice “A” right off of the bat. Choice “B” also makes it appear that Marcel is the one with the bargain price. Choice “C” is incorrect because it uses the possessive awkwardly and uses the word “them” incorrectly to refer to the bargain price. Choice “E” puts the word “jeans” right after the modifying phrase, “based on their bargain price;” however, we see the passive voice here, as well as a repeat of the phrase “right away.”
  28. 29. In every sentence, all of the different components must start, continue, and end in the same, or parallel, way. The most common sentences that have parallelism issues are sentences that list things. An example of one of these mistakes is below: This sentence is an obvious parallelism problem – the first two forbidden pool activities end in –ing (-ing words are called gerunds), and because of that, the third forbidden thing must also end in –ing. Here is a better version of the sentence: In the pool area, there is no spitting, no running, and don’t toss your half-eaten candy bars in the water. In the pool area, there is no spitting, no running, and no tossing your half-eaten candy bars in the water.
  29. 30. Let’s look at a real “Improving Sentences” question: The unlimited shopping spree allowed Rachel to raid the department store and she could eat everything in the cafe. (A) and she could eat (B) as well as eating (C) so she could eat (D) and a meal (E) and to eat What do you think? Of course not!
  30. 31. The first part of the sentence uses an infinitive – “to raid.” Therefore, the other side of the “and” there should be another infinitive. However, the other part of the sentence says “she could eat” instead of an infinitive. The only option which balances this infinitive is choice “E,” which makes the final sentence: The unlimited shopping spree allowed Rachel to raid the department store and to eat everything in the café.
  31. 32. Wordiness is using more words than is absolutely necessary. This usually results in redundance. Wordiness often comes hand in hand with the passive voice, and other times it shows up by itself. Here is an example where wordiness comes with the passive voice: “ The history of nineteenth-century France is one marked by great periods of continuity and change.”
  32. 33. Let’s look at a real “Improving Sentences” question: Pierre observed the diners and motels of middle America, and these are sights that are depicted in his trendy paintings. (A) these are sights that are depicted (B) the depiction of these sights is (C) these sights having been depicted (D) his depiction of these sights (E) depicted these sights I think not!
  33. 34. One could eliminate words from the underlined portion of the sentence, without changing the meaning. Therefore, the sentence is far too wordy – which eliminates choice “A.” The sentence is also in the passive voice. The underlined phrase does not make it clear that Pierre depicted the sights. The phrase “sights that are depicted” makes it sound like a disembodied hand put paint on canvas. Both choice “B” and “C” repeat both mistakes – wordiness and passiveness. Pierre observed the diners and motels of middle America, and his depiction of these sights in his trendy paintings. Choice “D” looks much better – there is no wordiness and no hint of the passive voice. Let’s plug it back into the sentence to see how it looks: This obviously is not right! That only leaves the correct answer – choice “E.”
  34. 35. Error 1: Conjunctions Error 2: Fragments Error 3: Coordination and subordination All three of these grammar problems will be discussed in more detail.
  35. 36. Conjunctions are connecting words such as and, but, that, and or . They help link two parts of a sentence together “ Improving Sentences” questions test you on conjunctions by including sentences in which the conjunction makes the sentence illogical or clunky.
  36. 37. Let’s look at a real “Improving Sentences” question: Nick wrote a novel and it depicts the life of a somewhat inspiring record store clerk. (A) and it depicts (B) being the depiction of (C) it depicts (D) that depicts (E) and depicting in it Choice “D” is much better. The conjunction “that” expresses the function of the novel more smoothly than the clunky phrase “and it” does. Uh…Duh! Absolutely not!
  37. 38. Fragments are almost the opposite of run-on sentences. Run-on sentences have clauses squashed together and joined incorrectly. Fragments have no independent clause and therefore are incomplete sentences.
  38. 39. Let’s look at a real “Improving Sentences” question: The hunchback vice principal growling at the students in the main office. (A) The hunchback vice principal growling (B) The hunchback vice principal having growled (C) Growling, the hunchback vice principal (D) It is the hunchback vice-principal (E) The hunchback vice principal growls The clause lacks a proper verb for the subject. The answer choice, “E,” solves the problem by making the subject “vice-principal” and the verb “growls.” Are any of these examples correct?
  39. 40. Bad coordination in a sentence happens when two clauses are joined together with a word that makes their relationship confusing. Subordination problems happen when there are two subordinate clauses and no main clause – in other words, a sentence contains more than one conjunction. Noncontrast Conjunctions: and, because, since, so, thus, and therefore Contrast Conjunctions: but, though, although, while, rather, instead, unless, despite, however, nevertheless, notwithstanding
  40. 41. Let’s look at a real “Improving Sentences” question: John made T-shirts for the swim team, but he designed the logos himself. (A) but he designed the logos himself. (B) however, he designed the logos himself. (C) and he designed the logos himself. (D) since he designed the logos himself. (E) and yet, he designed the logos himself. The word “but” suggests contrast, but this sentence does not call for contrast. Choice “C” is the only answer choice that does not suggest contrast. No….again.
  41. 42. Let’s look at a real “Improving Sentences” question: Because Teddy thought his first date with Maria went well, so that he called her every day for the next week. (A) so that he called her every day for the next week. (B) although he called her every day for the next week. (C) because he called her every day for the next week. (D) he called her every day for the next week. (E) and he called her every day for the next week. The word “because” is a conjunction, so there should not be any more conjunctions in the sentence. Answer choice “D” is the only one that does not contain a conjunction. Nope.
  42. 43. Trick 1: Go with the shortest answer. Trick 2: Cut answer choices that change the meaning of the sentence. Trick 3: Cut answer choices that begin with words ending in –ing. Trick 4: Get your A in gear. These tricks should only be used in cases of desperation. Only two reasons merit being considered cases of desperation: Case of Desperation 1: You can’t eliminate even one answer choice. Case of Desperation 2: You’ve eliminated all but two answer choices and find yourself wasting time agonizing over which answer choice is correct.
  43. 44. Let’s look at a real “Improving Sentences” question: Brent’s cowboy hat looks pretty silly, seeing as how he lives in New York City. (A) seeing as how he lives in New York City. (B) since he lives in New York City. (C) considering him living in New York City. (D) seeing that he lives in New York City. (E) after all he doesn’t live in the West. The sentence might sound kind of funny, but it could be right. Going through the eight steps, we still are left with choices “B,” “C,” and “E” looking like possibilities.
  44. 45. The first trick tells us to go with the shortest answer, which would be choice “B.” The second trick tells us to eliminate answers that change the meaning of the sentence. The only choice that does this is choice “E,” so that is not the right answer. The third trick tells us to cut answers that begin with –ing words. The only answer that does this is choice “C,” so that is not the answer. It’s worth reiterating that about one-fifth of the answers on this section will be “A.” Students freak out when they can’t find an error and choose one of the other choices. Choice “A” is not your enemy. In fact, it can be very helpful – cutting “A” tips the guessing odds in your favor. That means that if you’re not sure how to fix the error in a sentence, but you’re certain it contains some error, you can always cut “A” and guess with confidence.

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