Grammar points tested for on the SAT

The Educaitonal Testing Service, the body responsible for writing the SAT exams, avoids grammar points that are disputed or questionable. Still, there is some disagreement about some of these. In general, one can expect to see a representative cross section of these on any give SAT.

  1. Subject/verb agreement. See who/whom playsheet and the singular/plural playsheet.
  2. Noun/pronoun or noun/noun agreement, including synesis in anaphoric references. (a construction in which an expected grammatical agreement in form is replaced by an agreement in meaning, as in The crowd rose to their feet, where a plural pronoun is used to refer to a singular noun.) Such usages are regarded as mistakes on the SAT but this decision has been questioned by many academics. See Critical Commentary on SAT questions. Synesis occurs regularly in academic lectures by highly qualified scholars.  For example, two synesis errors are committed In Stephen Wolfram’s 90 minute lecture on A New Kind of Science at MIT in 2003.
  3. Pronoun case. Correct use of I/me, he/him, who/whom. See Pronoun Declention and Pronoun Case.
  4. Pronoun reference problems and ambiguity. See Grammar Playsheet 2.
  5. Verb tense. Consistent and appropriate tenses are required by the context. This can be tricky. See Verb Tenses.
  6. Verb voice. Passive voice is simply to be avoided on the SAT. Use active voice even when passive is better.
  7. Clauses: run-ons and sentence fragments. The comma splice.
  8. Idiomatic usages. Usually a case of choosing the correct preposition. See the Preposition Matching Playsheet.
  9. Parallelism. Parallel constructions which aren’t really parallel are not always easy to spot. See the Parallelism Playsheet.
  10. Misplaced Modifiers. Usually an ambiguous reference to something or a reference to something that isn’t there at all. See the Ambiguous and Missing Antecedents Playsheet and the Reference Problem Playsheet.
  11. Parallelism in comparisons. The apples and orange comparison: “I like Bronte much better than the novels of Austen.”
  12. Confused words. illusion, allusion — that lot. See the Misused Words Playsheet.