Thursday, January 3, 2013

Get a Top Score on the SAT. I Share Some Tips.

I have long been putting off writing a book about my SAT prep and other hints for School/World Domination (joking--I mean, doing your best in academia and in life), but here's a tiny taste of what's to come. 

For me, this is somewhat tedious work because it's all in my head. Putting fingers to keyboard, when I am so insanely busy, is hard. But I know this is a public service.

Here goes (a brief taste, only):

Essential Grammar Skills that are tested on P/SAT

in Writing multiple-choice section

By Elizabeth Collins

Keep in mind that the CollegeBoard has a limited bag of tricks when it comes to grammar issues that are tested on the SAT. Scores go way, way up on writing multiple choice (that means, not the essay, which only counts for 30%) when students prepare in the following ways:

Subject-Verb agreement
ALWAYS put an S over the subject and a V over the verb in order to force yourself to pay attention to these important sentence components. It might seem very fifth grade, but the P/SAT tries to distract you with a long, rambling comment in between s and v. Put a pencil line through the distractor. Make sure subject and verb agree! This is mostly a singular/plural issue (or vice versa). It counts for about a third of all the questions, maybe 25%

The P/SAT tries about four different ways to “get” you on pronouns, and this subject, too, is worth about a third on writing m/c. Let us count the ways the P/SAT tries to test you when it comes to pronouns:
1) Pronoun agreement. Just as you will now mark S and V over subjects and verbs, you will now make it your routine to CIRCLE pronouns; then, go back and check the subject. It is singular or plural? Is it singular that seems plural, or vice versa? Do not be fooled! Check for trap words such as “Each” or “Everybody” that demand a singular pronoun in the sentence!
2) Make sure pronoun and antecedent agree.
3) Pay attention to pronoun case. You need to know that “This is she” is correct when you are answering the phone, for example, and you need to understand when to use “me” instead of “I.” Also, understand what the deal is with the pronoun “one.” Hint: the key is an almost absurd consistency!
4) Beware the Vague Pronoun! If the pronoun doesn’t have a clear antecedent, it is incorrect.

Verb Tenses
These can get tricky when the tenses change in a sentence. If the tenses are meant to change, there will be clues in the sentence (example, “Last year…”) Pay attention to verbs and make sure the tense works!

Easy to Hear Errors
You will feel good because you’ll just know most of these things are incorrect. Don’t get complacent, however. The P/SAT still has a bunch of evil tricks in store for you.

  • ·      Misplaced modifiers
  • ·      Dangling Participles and Misplaced Participles. No, you don’t even need to know what the problem is; you just need to know that there is a problem. Don’t panic. These are pretty obvious.
  • ·      Parallelism—all verbs must be of same format or the last one that is different does not fit. Example: “My favorite sports are running, skating, and I like to swim.” NO! That last part should be “swimming.”

Slightly Tougher—good readers are rewarded here!
  • Incorrect words (homophones, homonyms, irregular verbs used incorrectly). There are literally long lists of all the words people regularly mix up on the P/SAT and in real life.  Print them out. Make sure you are familiar with them!
  • Idioms (always prepositional—be sure you know what just doesn’t sound right). This is a tough skill to teach; you either grow up with it or you don’t—generally speaking.

The Toughest (in my opinion):
  • Faulty comparisons.  Some of these are just super hard because they make sense to us subconsciously, and because we don’t want to be all stodgy Warriner’s types ,and we worry that our sentence would be repetitive if we actually wrote it correctly.

Example:  I like the sound of the piano more than the cello.
This is incorrect, because it should read: I like the sound of the piano more than the sound of the cello. Be careful when anything is being compared; ensure that the comparison is both parallel and very clear. Other ways comparisons are tested:
  • ·      Fewer/less.  A warning: when the P/SAT uses “less” it’s supposed to be “fewer.”
  • ·      More/Most.  Use the former when comparing two things or people; use the latter when you are talking about more than two.
  • ·      Better/Best  two/more (same as above)

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