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Practice with Identifying Sentence Errors for the SAT

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  • 0:00 Things to Remember…
  • 1:23 An Easy Example
  • 3:13 A Tougher Example
  • 4:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Once you've learned what the identifying sentence errors questions are, watch this video to get some practice figuring them out for yourself. Explanations are included in case you get stuck.

Things to Remember with Sentence Errors

As you've probably heard, the SAT or Scholastic Achievement Test, has undergone some big changes as of March 2016. It's now shifting to a format where the writing and language skills sections ask questions taken from longer passages. However, don't think that the SAT is getting rid of the idea of testing you on your ability to spot and correct sentence errors. Far from it. In fact, the new format gives the SAT more leeway to figure out just how good you are at finding and fixing sentence errors. Of course, you also get the added benefit of having more information to use when figuring out if you're choosing the best answer choice.

However, there are a few quick things to keep in mind before we go on to practice with some sample sentence error questions. First of all, don't get too caught up in ascertaining if a question is a sentence error, sentence improvement, or paragraph improvement question. Frankly, if it is a sentence error question, the choices will have plenty of different options that feature different verb conjugations, different punctuation, and other forms of differing agreement. Speaking of which, if you have time to only brush up on one part of your grammar, make it a review of punctuation. The SAT test makers love this sort of question.

Beyond punctuation, make sure that you've reviewed how subjects and verbs agree, as well as how pronouns and their antecedents need to agree.

An Easy Example

Let's start with a pretty easy example. Since many of the new passages of the SAT come from history, we'll use a great speech here as well.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting, and proper that we should do this.

Of course, this text is part of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. However, I made a change. Let's say that the text of altogether fitting, and proper was underlined, meaning the SAT wants you to see if there is an error there or any way to improve the text. Here are your choices:

A. altogether fitting, and proper
B. altogether, fitting and proper
C. altogether fitting; and proper
D. altogether fitting and proper

So, let's go through them. Looking at how the answers all deal with a punctuation mark, chances are that this question is about a sentence error. Remember that choice A is always the same as in the text. Now, is there a real purpose to that comma after 'fitting'? Not really. Choice B gives us an even more random comma, so it's clearly wrong. Choice C, on the other hand, makes us contend with a semicolon. However, there's no reason to have a semicolon here, so get rid of it! That leaves us with just choice D. Is there any reason for a comma to be in the underlined passage at all? Of course not. As such, choice D is the correct answer.

A Tougher Example

Okay, let's try a harder one now. Keeping in the theme of Honest Abe, we'll look at the next sentence from the Gettysburg Address. Again, I'll introduce changes to the text.

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