Common Idioms You Should Know for the SAT

In addition to other grammar rules and sentence construction elements, the SAT Writing Multiple Choice section also tests you on some common idioms.  Idioms, by definition, are simply the accepted way of saying something.  The idioms on the SAT are not to be mistaken for colloquial expressions such as “as time goes by”, “he broke up with her”, or “they fell asleep.”  The idioms tested on the SAT are exclusively tested in the context of verb + preposition such as “attribute to” and “advocate for.”

Often, there will be an idiom error in a Sentence Completion answer choice or in an underlined portion of an Identifying Sentence Errors problem.  Most native English speakers should be able to spot an idiom error right away since it will sound “off” to them, but for non-native English speakers, the idioms have to be learned and memorized as there are no well-defined rules for most idiom-construction in English.

To help our students study for idioms, we examined several past SAT tests and official practice tests and constructed a list of idioms that have appeared on the SAT in the past.  The following is a list of some examples of the most common idioms you will find on the SAT.


Worry about

Complain about

Wonder about

Curious about

Think about

Bring about

To be particular about



Protect against

Defend against



Succeed at

Adept at



Confused by

Followed by

Predate by

Puzzled by

Perplexed by

Impressed by

Amazed by

Awed by

Surprised by

Stunned by

Shocked by

Outraged by

Encouraged by

Accompanied by



Named for

Recognized for

Known for

Famous for

Celebrated for

Have a tolerance for

Strive for

Compensate for

Responsible for

Watch for

Look out for

Wait for

Last for

Endure for

Prized for

Necessary for

Criticize for

Blame for

Advocate for



Protect from

Defend from

Far from

Different from

Refrain from

Apparent from

Prevent x from doing y

Opposite from



Enter into

Have insight into



Interested in

Succeed in

Have confidence in

Engage in

Take pride in

In x as in y



Based on

Draw on

Insist on

Focus on

Rely on

Reflect on

Dwell on



Have power over

Have control over

Mull over



Have an appreciation of

Suspicious of

A mastery of

A command of

Capable of

Incapable of

In recognition of

Devoid of

A proponent of

A source of

An offer of

An understanding of

A knowledge of

Approve of

Disapprove of

In awe of

Take advantage of

Composed of

Comprised of

Consist of

Convinced of

Characteristic of

Typical of

In the hopes of

A variety of

A plethora of

An abundance of

To be a native of

On the verge of

Combination of x and y



Recommend to

Listen to

Try to – not try and

Prefer something
to something else

Devoted to

In contrast to

In opposition to

A threat to

Central to

Unique to

Similar to

Parallel to

As an alternative to

Inured to

Be native to

Put questions to

In addition to

As opposed to



Biased toward

A tendency toward



Familiar with

Unfamiliar with

Identify with

Correlate with

Sympathize with

Consistent with

Inconsistent with

Preoccupied with

Cope with/Coping with


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By Jason Sun