3 Tips for Improving Sentences on the SAT

Improving Sentences questions are especially challenging because they can feel like you just have to “know” which sentence is best. Keep in mind that out of 5 sentences, 4 of them MUST have an error.

Even a subtle style error, such as passive voice or redundancy, is enough to disqualify an answer choice. Here’s a process to keep you focused on these questions!

 

  1. Determine if there is an error. If the sentence sounds correct to you, put a star (*) next to it, and check the answer choices anyway. Don’t assume that there is no error simply because you didn’t spot one on your first read. Go through each answer choice carefully, looking for a better option. If B, C, D, and E each have an error, then the correct answer is (A). Choice (A) will always repeat the sentence.
  2. Circle what sounds funny. What is it about the sentence that sounds like an error? Is there an incorrect idiom, a misplaced modifier, a pronoun with no clear antecedent? Circle the error and make a prediction for how you would fix it. For example, if the sentence is a run-on, you might think of adding a semicolon or making one clause dependent.
  3. Watch out for new errors! More than one sentence may correct the error. To use our run-on example again, let’s say choice (B) adds a semicolon, and choice (D) makes one clause dependent. Which is correct? There is probably a secondary error hiding in one of those two choices. It’s not good enough just to fix the main error; the correct answer must be 100% error-free!

Try a quick Improving Sentences question on your own!

Question #1:

Relying on its news, MSNBC is a television station many people watch.

(A) Relying on its news, MSNBC is a television station many people watch.
(B) Relying on its news, the television station MSNBC is the one many people watch.
(C) A television station watched by many people relying on its news is MSNBC.
(D) Relying on its news, many people watch the television station MSNBC.
(E) Many people, relying on MSNBC, and watching it.

It’s important that modifying clauses refer to logical things. As written, the sentence tells us that MSNBC relies on its own news. (D) gives the introductory phrase a logical object (“many people”) without introducing new errors. Choice (C) is in passive voice and choice (E) creates a sentence fragment.

The answer here is (D).

Make sure you use your pencil to circle errors as you come across them and cross-off answer choices. Practice your step-by-step process until it becomes second nature. A high-scoring student is an organized, methodical student!

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Vivian Kerr is a regular contributor to the Veritas Prep blog, providing advice to help students better prepare for the GMAT and the SAT. 

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