This is a pretty common issue. Plenty of students get nervous when they see no-error questions, and begin to notice errors that don’t actually exist. Others choose “no error” too often because they miss errors that do exist.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula to overcome this problem. The best way to avoid it is to become really good at noticing the grammar mistakes that appear on the SAT. Fortunately, there aren’t many types of grammar mistakes – about thirteen, depending on how you count them – to keep track of. The Veritas Prep Writing 2400 curriculum covers all of them. Once you’re comfortable with all thirteen, you’ll be able to move through the writing section more decisively since you’ll never encounter a type of error you haven’t seen before.
After completing a lot of SAT practice tests, I began to develop a mental checklist of possible errors. Today, whenever I run into an Identifying Sentence Errors question that doesn’t have an easily noticeable error in it, I go through my checklist: Subject-verb issues? Awkwardness? Is it a complete sentence? Misplaced modifiers? Is there anything wrong with the pronouns? If I still can’t find an error, once I’ve finished my checklist, I circle “no error” and move on.
I’ve found that there are usually a few “no error” answers in each section, but that’s a very, very vague estimate. Some sections might have only one, and other sections might have more. Instead of keeping count of how many “no error’s” you’ve circled, just take an extra moment to double (and triple) check any question you’re tempted to circle “no error” for. If you still don’t find something, be confident enough in your abilities to choose “no error” and move on.
The key to this is practice, which will help you get good enough at the grammar concepts on the SAT to be able to (1) have a harder time convincing yourself of errors that don’t actually exist, and (2) be better at catching real errors when they appear.
Best of luck!
Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.